How to care for your new cat during and after lockdown - follow The New York Times
First outdoor day
With everyone home, many people are becoming first-time pet owners during the coronavirus pandemic. Adoption and foster rates are up all over the country. The ASPCA has seen a nearly 70 percent increase in animals going into foster care through the organization’s New York City and Los Angeles foster programs, compared with the same period in 2019. Best Friends Animal Society has also seen a surge in the number of fosters and adoptions nationwide because sheltering in place has allowed people the time to tend to a new cat.
“When the pandemic first hit, unprecedented numbers of people signed up to foster animals,” said Julie Castle, the chief executive of Best Friends Animal Society. “Some shelters completely emptied their kennels for the first time ever. In the middle of a crisis, many groups saved more lives than they ever had before. As we start to open up our communities, there is no reason we cannot keep these positive gains we made during the pandemic.”
“It’s a great time to adopt because you can really get to know the pets’ needs before returning to a more normal routine,” Ms. Castle added.
“Many first time adopters who have been working from home with their new pets for the last few weeks have discovered the secret reality of what cats really do all day: They mostly sleep, with a bit of eating and playing mixed in.”
If this is your first time adopting an animal, here are a few things you should do now to ensure you can keep providing your new pet with a good home well after this pandemic ends.
Pet-Proof Your Home
Make sure there are no hanging cords from blinds that can get wrapped around your pet’s neck. Put vases and other knickknacks out of reach. Cats love to climb and can make a game of knocking things over.
Get rid of toxic plants like African violets, certain types of daisies and lilies, daffodils, and other potted plants, and cut flowers. Cats can become ill if they chew on them.
Socializing Your New Pet
According to Becky Robinson, the president and founder of Alley Cat Allies, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Bethesda, Md., “cats need a routine and they need to get to know you and your family.”
“Having more time at home now could make it even easier to bring in a new kitty,” she said.
Kitten playing with its mommy
She recommends adopting two cats, but only if they’re bonded — they can keep each other company when you’re not home. “But some cats prefer to be alone and may even be happy when they have the place to themselves after you leave,” Ms. Robinson said.
It’s unusually quiet in many cities these days, but it’s still important to get your pet used to outdoor sounds. Play sound bites of traffic, crowds, and other animal noises. “Turn them on right before your puppy enjoys mealtime, treats, or a fun play session,” Ms. Mahaley said. “Start with the volume at a low level, increasing it just a little every day. You can also dance, sing, cheer and clap in your home so they get used to these experiences, too. And make sure to also get your pup used to the sounds of electrical appliances, washers, vacuum cleaners and hair dryers typically used in your home.”
Some cats may have already received their vaccinations from animal shelters. If not, check with a local veterinarian about annual vaccines, boosters, and spaying and neutering. If your new pet gets ill and needs to see a veterinarian, locate the nearest emergency veterinary clinic.
Many veterinarians are practicing social distancing. You may need to sit in your car outside the veterinary practice and wait for an attendant to come and get your cat. Buy a carrying case and a good leash for your cats. Some veterinarians offer telemedicine services, too.
Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about appropriate foods to feed your new companion. Many brands offer kitten, adult, puppy, and senior varieties. Though you may be tempted to spoil your pet, limit treats and don’t overfeed it.
Ms. Robinson suggests establishing a feeding schedule before you go back to work.
Exercise and Entertainment
“Boredom and excess energy are two common reasons for undesirable behavior in pets,” Ms. Mahaley said.
Cats love to play in cardboard boxes and paper shopping bags with the handles cut off. They also enjoy chasing laser lights but don’t shine the light into their eyes. “If you give them the chance, cats will entertain themselves and get plenty of exercises even while you’re away,” Ms. Robinson said. “This is especially true for younger cats who have more energy. Create a cat jungle or cat tree with places to climb and jump.”
Cats often groom themselves. However, brushing them once a day is a great way to bond with your cat. You’ll want to make sure your cat’s claws are trimmed; ask your veterinarian how to trim nails or watch an online tutorial. Some cat sitters will clip them for you. Cat scratching posts help trim sharp claws and will help save your furniture.
Prevent Separation Anxiety
Downtime allows us to bond with our pets and to prepare them for when we return to our regular work and school routines. “Your new cat may be confused and lonely once everyone is rushing out the door instead of spending time at home,” Ms. Mahaley said. “While you and your family are home, start to prepare your pet now and designate time for them to spend an enjoyable time alone throughout the day.”
Ms. Mahaley suggests taking strolls outside without your pet so you can make sure it is comfortable when you’re away.
Before leaving the house, she recommends creating a cozy, inviting place for your cat to nap. Make sure it’s away from all the activities of remote work and school. You can put on some TV for auditory and visual stimulation or turn on the radio. “Cats, in particular, really enjoy watching TV shows that feature animals,” she said.
You can also keep your cat busy with interactive food-puzzles or other toys.
Call an Expert
Schedule virtual training sessions early to curb undesirable behaviors. “The trainer or behaviorist can provide you with tips for helping your new pet adjust to your home,” Ms. Mahaley said.
Now is a good time to interview pet sitters remotely. Once the lockdown is lifted, you can meet before you go out of town.