How To Work From Home With A Demanding Cat

* Originally written by William O’Brien for ProtectaPet

In recent times, the act of working remotely from home has become a massive trend, especially during and after the lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A lot of us find it much easier and less restricting than having to go into the office five days a week, and we get to work from the comforts of our own home. 

However, where there are pros to working from home, there are all sorts of unique challenges that arise in these new working environments, especially for owners of demanding pets. For us cat owners, working from home can mean more quality time spent with our feline friends but it can also present challenges that you need to overcome in order to establish a healthy balance of work time and play time.

If your cat is particularly demanding, giving them access to the outdoors whilst being protected from the usual risks can help your cat to exert that additional energy. ProtectaPet offers a range of Cat Fencing solutions to keep your cat safe outdoors, available for DIY or installation.

Set Boundaries

Most of us will know that cats do as they please and when they want. They stroll up and down their palace corridors deciding where they want to sleep, eat and relax. A lot of us have transitioned into working from home either on a flexible or permanent basis, so setting some boundaries between you and your cats might be the best option for you.

If you’re cat is particularly needy and you are struggling to help them be more independent, check out this article by Noots. 

If you’re trying to have an important meeting, or if you are working towards a big deadline then you might need to think about not allowing your cat into the office or training your cat to not climb up onto your laptop and sit on your keyboard. Cats have a reputation for doing what they want, especially for love and attention, so training your cat might be the best option for you, as just shutting the door on them might cause some distress. Training them will take time, but it will be worth it when your cat stops knocking over a hot coffee onto some important documents! 

Set a Routine for You and Your Cat

Just because working from home can be a comforting way to work, we still need downtime and who better to do this with than with our cute cat companions. Also, setting aside time for you and your cats will ensure that you are giving them enough love and attention so that you can go back to work undisturbed, leaving your cat satisfied. Ensure that you are the one to initiate the playtime, so that they can learn that you are the decider when it comes to when the work ends and when the fun starts. 

Cats also respond well to routine, so setting up a daily schedule for you and your cat might be the best option if you live with a demanding one. Make sure they have their own safe space, with their own scratch posts, fresh water, toys and a comfy bed. 

Cat-Proof the Office

If you are letting your cats into your home office, you need to make sure that there aren’t any items lying around on the surfaces or the floor which your cat could potentially swallow or knock over. Make sure to never leave your pet in your office unattended so that they can’t damage anything or hurt themselves. Also ensure that there are no cables lying all over the floor because they have been known to chew through these, so keep this in mind too.

Over time your cat will hopefully become accustomed to the do’s and don’ts of the home office workspace and naturally will avoid causing too much destruction or annoyance during stressful work times. 

Be Flexible and Patient

Creating and maintaining a harmonious relationship with your feline friends whilst you’re working from home may seem like a challenging prospect now, but with time and patience you will be rewarded with an even better understanding and deeper love for your cats.

Understand that they are an animal with intuition and instinctive behaviour and although successfully training a cat might seem impossible, it is achievable. There might be setbacks but in the end they are extremely smart creatures that with your love, patience and flexibility, they will learn to understand your needs as well as you understand theirs.

Cat-Safe Christmas

* Adapted from International Cat Care

Most of us look forward to the festive period; the food, the guests, the tree and decorations. However, for cats, Christmas may be a time of stress and risk of injury. As a species they enjoy routine and are sensitive to changes in their environment, making the celebrations challenging. In addition, the season means certain toxic plants and food may be accessible to curious cats. At International Cat Care we have consulted our veterinary members to ask them what injuries they see at this time of year. Based on this information and with the input of the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) this article offers advice on what to keep out of reach and what to do to minimise the disruption to keep our cats happy this Christmas.

Poisonous pants and food

  • Poinsettia, mistletoe, holly, ivy and Christmas cherry can cause a tummy upset and should be kept away from inquisitive cats.
  • Chocolate is not just toxic to dogs, it is also toxic to cats, although the amount a cat needs to eat to make them ill is a lot higher than for dogs. Signs of chocolate poisoning including being sick and passing diarrhoea, drinking a lot, appearing drunk, trembling or even having a fit.
  • Similarly, grapes and raisins, known for causing kidney damage in dogs, may affect cats but poisoning is much less common.
  • A little left-over turkey will be enjoyed by the majority of cats without harm, excessive treats and human food could make a cat poorly so do try and stick to their normal feeding routine this time of year; they won’t know they are missing out!
  • Another hazard can be cooked poultry bones – they are hard for cats to digest and can get stuck in the digestive system so make sure your cats can’t raid the bin after the Christmas lunch.

Christmas decorations

  • Be careful with candles! As elevated locations are still accessible to most cats, candles should be kept where you can keep an eye on them.
  • Keep your cat away from tinsel, lametta (the long decorative strips of tinsel), ribbons and string (around meat or used to hang decorations).
  • Many cat owners have had the experience of their cat climbing the Christmas tree and it falling over. (My childhood cat did this one year!) Your cat can get injured during the fall, but is more likely to get injured by pieces of glass from broken baubles.
    Dirk loves the shiny baubles so I put matt ones on the lower branches of my tree as he’s less likely to bat those.
  • Chewing lights and wires can be a problem for some cats, especially for nosy kittens.
How to make Christmas less stressful for cats

This time of year means lots of changes to a home, and for cats who often thrive on predictability, routine and the perceived safety of their territory (their home and garden), this can be distressing. The furniture is often moved around to accommodate extra guests, the tree is brought in, lights and decorations are put up, music is played, all making their home look, sound and smell different.  In addition, unfamiliar people, and worse still unfamiliar dogs may visit the house or even stay for several days, again at variable times, interrupting the normal routine. In order to minimise distress during this season consider the following:

  • Ensure your cat has several safe and comfortable places to hide and get away from the noise and hustle and bustle. A cardboard box or igloo bed above the wardrobe or under the bed can provide security. If new beds are added to the home at this time, make them smell familiar by adding bedding already used by your cat.
  • Advise visitors not to approach the cat if it is in its bed, but only to stroke the cat if it initiates contact. Visiting children may be keen to see and cuddle the cat but gentle stroking on the cat’s initiation must be insisted upon.
  • Guests can be given cat treats and toys to help teach the cat positive associations with the new people.
  • Ensure there is always an open door to allow the cat to get away from any noisy parties or dinners to a quieter part of the home.
  • Consider plugging in a ‘Feliway’ diffuser into the room the cats spends most time several days before the festivities begin. This product (available from your vet) contains feline pheromones which can help the cat feel more secure. Ensure it is switched on continually throughout the festive season.
  • If visitors are sleeping in one of the rooms the cat usually uses, for example, for sleeping, eating or toileting, be sure to provide the required resources (beds, food or litter tray) in other quieter parts of the house and ideally, before the visitors arrive so that changes occur gradually and the cat is comfortable with the new location.
  • If the cat’s litter tray is positioned in a place that will mean more people traffic or noise during the Christmas period, it is good practice to provide an additional litter tray in a quieter part of the home.
  • If the cat is particularly sound sensitive, avoid crackers and party poppers.
  • If a dog is visiting it may be helpful to restrict its access to the cats retreat areas using for example baby gates on the stairs.

No tummy rubs, thank you

Research by Finka et al (2022) has demonstrated that many ‘cat people’ tend to pet their cats in areas the cat does not like. Their tummy being one such example. I know a cat’s tummy is soft and it is tempting to give them a tummy rub, but the vast majority of cats do not like this and will scratch you. When they lie on their backs it is a sign of trust, not an invitation to pet them. In fact, petting the tummy could be perceived as a betrayal of that trust.

From the researchers:

“Tactile interactions with cats are considered to have therapeutic benefits to humans and are increasingly included within interventional contexts to improve human wellbeing. However, cats are not considered an inherently social or highly tactile species and may have specific preferences for the ways in which they like to be touched and interacted with. Despite this, the common occurrence of human-directed aggression during interactions suggests humans’ understanding of cat behaviour and appropriate styles of interactions with cats may be limited. To address this, in a recent study, we incorporated expert understanding of ‘best practice’ styles of interactions with cats into an educational intervention for humans to use during unstructured social interactions with cats. By encouraging humans to engage in styles of interactions with cats which provided the cat with greater levels of autonomy and also emphasised focusing on the cat’s behaviour and comfort, cats responded with increased human-directed affiliative and positively-valanced behaviour, in addition to decreased rates of human-directed aggression and signs of negative affect.”

Slow blinking to bond with your cat

Reasearch by Humphrey et al (2020) has confirmed what many cat owners already suspected: narrowing your eyes is the best way to build a rapport with cats.

Their study found that “cats respond to a human giving a slow blink stimulus by producing eye narrowing movements of their own”.

“Firstly, cats deliver more eye narrowing movements when their owners slow blink at them than when the owner is present in the room but not delivering this stimulus.”

“Secondly, when an unfamiliar experimenter gives the slow blink stimulus compared to adopting a neutral face, cats respond with a higher frequency of eye narrowing movements themselves.”

Their study also found that cats were more likely to approach people after slow blinking as opposed to having a neutral face.

“From the current study, the slow blink sequence appears to be an indicator of positive emotion in cats.”

Cats are also known to initiate a sequence of slow blinking with humans. The slow blinking behaviour may well be innate behaviour but could also be a result of domestication.

“It could be argued that cats have developed slow blink behaviours because humans appear to perceive slow blinking as positive and cats may have previously been reinforced by their owners for responding to slow blink sequences.”

“It is also possible that slow-blinking in cats originated as a mechanism to interrupt an unbroken stare, which is potentially threatening in social interactions; this could then have been elaborated by a combination of selection and learning in the domestic environment.”

“Socio-cognitive abilities of cats are an under-studied area, and future research on cat behaviours, such as slow blinking, could enhance our understanding of interspecific communication and the ways in which domestication has shaped the social behaviour of an ancestrally solitary species.”

And you thought your cat loved boxes…

Today I found this exchange on Facebook which made me laugh. So I wanted to share it with you, just for fun.

* By Jessica Gerson-Neeves in a Facebook post

Dear Vitamix,

I feel like I should preface this by telling you that what follows is probably going to be the weirdest contact you’ve ever received, and it’s definitely the weirdest contact I’ve ever sent. I apologize in advance for literally everything I’m about to tell you.

My name is Jessica Gerson-Neeves, and my wife Nikii Gerson-Neeves and I have coveted a Vitamix for several years now, as I have a chronic disease that makes fiber very difficult for me to digest and my wife is an avowed lover of smoothies. Black Friday sales offered us the opportunity we hadn’t found earlier, and we finally ordered a Vitamix from Amazon the day after Thanksgiving. We were quite delighted when it arrived on our doorstep several weeks ago, and immediately brought it inside and absently set it down on the kitchen floor “just for a quick second.” That was our first mistake, and this is where things get weird.

We are the devoted servants of a trio of cats who go by the names of Max; George, Destroyer of Worlds; and Lando Calrissian. Mere seconds after setting down the Vitamix box, in the moments before we would’ve opened it and happily put our exciting new blender to use, Max (also known as the sentient soccer ball) spotted the box and, assuming it was for him, hopped right up on top.

And that was the beginning of the end.

That moment was two and a half weeks ago, and since then, the Vitamix box has been occupied by at least one and sometimes two cats at all times. With three cats and only two humans in the household, the humans are outnumbered and (being giant suckers), both frightened of and unwilling to forcibly relocate the offending cats.

Yes, we realize we’re absolute madwomen, and yes, we are both ashamed and sorry.

Long before we realized what this would turn into, I snapped a picture of Max atop the Vitamix that first day and posted it to a cat group on Facebook that goes by the name of THIS CAT IS C H O N K Y. The group boasts nearly a million members, and the post immediately took off. Since then, I have been faithfully documenting the whole sordid saga each day with photographs and accompanying prose. I am attaching to this email a curated selection of these posts and the pictures that accompany them so that you can get a sense of how the situation, now known widely as The Great Vitamix Incident of 2021 and/or Appliancegate, has developed.

Incidentally, I should mention here that of the five-to-ten thousand people following the saga, we are aware of at least a few who have now ordered their own Vitamixes, and hundreds of them are now seeing targeted ads for Vitamixes (Vitamices? We’re not quite sure of the appropriate pluralization). You’re welcome for the deeply strange free publicity?

We write to you because it has become clear at this point that without herculean intervention, we’re never going to get to use the new blender we’ve been longing for for years. Despite what many people have suggested, we aren’t writing to request additional Vitamixes—that would be ridiculous, and while we’re definitely ridiculous, we’re not quite that ridiculous.

No, we’re writing with a stranger but far less expensive request.
Is there—I cannot believe I am honestly asking this—any possibility at all that y’all would be willing to send us three (the number is very important, as there are three cats and we need there to be one extra so we can hopefully get the actual blender out of the box) empty Vitamix boxes? Other cardboard boxes seem to lack the appeal of the Vitamix box, and since, much like your wonderful blenders, this stand-off seems to be Built To Last, we’re afraid that this may be our only way out of the situation in which we find ourselves.

In case you are wondering, yes, I am ashamed of both writing and posting this letter. I both dread and look forward to hearing your response, and encourage you (as I’m sure you are finding yourself with the urge to do so) to spread it to your colleagues as widely as you would like in order to laugh at the absolutely bonkers middle-aged lesbians who are losing a stand-off with their cats.

Yes, we are a stereotype.

If by some miracle you are actually willing to fulfill the weirdest request ever, please let us know and I will be happy to send along our mailing address. And if, by some miracle, you have the urge to use any of the pictures, (which I have censored, I apologize for my foul mouth) posts in your marketing, at least let us know in advance, so we’re aware that more of the world is going to witness our shame.

With desperation and many, many apologies,

Jessica Gerson-Neeves


Vitamix reply:

Thank you for reaching out. This issue is not one to be handled lightly. We’ve assessed your predicament and have come to the following conclusion.

Firstly, we’re firm believers that you cannot move a cat from its post. Doing so results in penultimate despair.

Secondly, our great engineers designed these boxes for ultimate protection of the Vitamix unit. Little did they know, the possibility of a chonkier unit atop the unopened box would pose a problem. We’ll chat with them later. 😉

Thirdly, we’ve contacted our support team to stop what they’re doing and #SENDTHEBOXES. 🌈

Send us a private message when you get a chance so we can get your contact information over to our team.