September is Happy Healthy Cat Month! As cat parents and children head back to work and school, separation anxiety can become an issue for cats in many households. However, with a commitment to quality time with your favorite feline, some enrichment tips, and catio stimulation, you can keep your cat happy and your home harmonious with life changes. It’s also the purr-fect time to share the love stories of two devoted cat moms and the cats entwined within their lives.
Max and Qudsiah, a Pandemic Love Story
One month before the pandemic lockdown, my client Qudsiah met Max at The Whole Cat and Kaboodle rescue cat café in Redmond, WA. He stood out with his beautiful tuxedo coat and an adorable pink and black nose.
Just a day after coming home, while other cats might still be cautiously getting used to their new surroundings, Max jumped up into Qudsiah’s lap and took a nap! That’s when she knew they were the perfect match for one another.
The two bonded closely over the year and a half that Qudsiah worked from home during the pandemic. In her birth country, Pakistan, cats were outdoor pets. Qudsiah knew she wanted Max safely indoors, but she also wanted him to have a happy and enriched life. She realized she had the perfect place for a catio – a spacious second-floor covered deck, where they could enjoy the beautiful birds-eye view of Lake Washington together.
When Catio Spaces completed the deck catio, Qudsiah and Max had a beautiful outdoor area to enjoy together. Painted to match the exterior of the building, the catio blends in perfectly and meets the standards of her homeowner’s association.
Max now loves to spend most of the day in his catio and even prefers eating his meals alresco on a spacious triangle corner shelf. Cat-safe plants, a bubbling water fountain, and a catio litter box bench provide Max with everything he needs without ever having to leave his outdoor sky haven.
Qudsiah says that the litter box bench was the perfect addition, serving as a litter box for Max and a soft sitting spot for them both.
After Max finishes dining in his catio, Qudsiah removes his dinner bowl (to avoid tempting wildlife and critters) and then snuggles with him as they watch the sunset.
At night she keeps an eye on Max with a security camera. She enjoys watching his bug chasing escapades and says Max has become the neighborhood “watch cat” surveying his territory from the command post in his catio!
Back-to-Work Blues: Avoiding Separation Anxiety
Now that September is here, Qudsiah will be back at her work office for half the day. It will be the first time she and Max will be separated since January 2020, and she worried that Max would feel abandoned if she abruptly left him home alone every day.
Marci Koski of Feline Behavior Solutions advises a few proactive steps that will help prepare a cat from becoming too anxious when they are going to be left alone for the first time. She has three tips to help you do just that.
- Get your kitties on a schedule for play and meals. If you can play with them at the same time every day (use a good wand toy like Da Bird or the Dezi & Roo Wiggly Wand) and follow up play sessions with a meal, you’ll initiate the hunt-eat-groom-sleep sequence. This will help reduce your cat’s stress.
- Leave the house for short and then longer periods of time. This will help your cat get used to you going away and coming back. Don’t make a fuss when you leave — the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed the kitties will be. Calming music at a low volume may also be helpful.
- Teach your cats that good things can happen when you leave. Give them a special treat or toy to play with as you’re headed out the door.
Qudsiah observed Max’s daily sleeping, eating, and playing habits, and was able to plan her new work schedule to smooth Max’s transition to an independent kitty. She leaves for work in the morning when Max likes to nap, and then returns home in the afternoon when he’s awake and looking for company. She had to admit — it wasn’t just Max’s separation anxiety she was worried about, she was going to miss him, too!
A Cat Behaviorist’s Catios for her Clan
As a cat behaviorist, Marci Koski knows what’s essential to keep a cat both healthy and happy. Enrichment is key, so Marci’s own four cats, Samantha, Oliver, Momo, and Abby don’t have just one catio—they have two! One graces a large window of the downstairs of her home (a modified Window Box DIY Catio) and another for Marci’s office window upstairs.
Marci knew that building catios for her cats would add a whole new element to their lives. She added fresh cat grass for them to munch on and a tall birdfeeder and birdbath close by. She even has planter boxes with flowers and veggies, so bees and butterflies visit, too. Her clan of cats has a world of sights, sounds, tastes, and new territory to enjoy.
Each of Marci’s cats enjoys the catio in a slightly different way. Samantha’s favorite pastime is to soak in the sun and watch the birds play in the shrubs next to the catio. Oliver likes to climb up to the second floor of the catio to watch the birds from up high. Shy Momo shuns the uncouth outdoors – she’s a skittish kitty who enjoys the comforts of couches and plush beds. Even Abbey, who loves the upstairs of the house, ventures downstairs to poke her nose out into the fresh air.
Marci’s cats are also seniors and spend less time leaping after toys, so the catio is especially important for enrichment. Pet steps lead up to their catio entrance, enabling her cats to relax and enjoy the outdoors no matter how old they are. Now the glory of outside living is only a paw step away!
Marci has always loved cats and their wild nature.
“They’re barely domesticated, and let’s face it – humans didn’t domesticate them; cats did that on their own. Cats have a bit of mystery, and that is reflected in the relationship we have with them. Cats do what pleases them, and when that includes us, that’s a huge compliment! It also doesn’t hurt that cats are adorable, beautiful, and so majestic”.
As a cat behavior consultant, Marci loves seeing the results of her work and helping cats and their people directly.
The Key to a Happy and Healthy Cat
The number one thing Marci advises to keep your cats happy and healthy is to play with them every day using an interactive wand toy. This will give your kitty an opportunity to express her natural instincts; your cat is first and foremost a predator, after all! When cats aren’t given the opportunity to express natural behaviors, they can get bored and stressed. Cats love to explore, move, run, hide and hunt. Active playtime and other enrichment activities can make sure that stress levels and boredom are kept in check.
Marci loves that people are starting to give catios to their cats – even a small one provides a vast amount of enrichment for kitties. There’s a lot to see, smell, and hear. A catio engages all five senses in a more natural setting and can help with giving cats the opportunity to express natural behaviors. It’s a win for everyone!
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Tags: Free Catio Tips