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We know that current lockdown and government restrictions are challenging for cat owners. We want to provide some inspiration and advice on how to keep your beloved pets fit and healthy during this time.
You may have an exclusively indoor or outdoor cat, or your cat may have the option of both. Some people may have decided to keep their cat indoors during the outbreak to prevent their cat wandering in to other households: while not considered the main route of transmission, it is possible that the virus may survive for periods of time on the fur of our beloved pets. Therefore, our animals may be able to act as a possible route of transmission if other people interact with them and don’t wash their hands. If your outdoor cat is now indoors, there are ways to keep them active and happy at home (and avoid scratching your furniture!). Cat gyms and scratching posts are a great source of exercise encouragement. Homemade toys from string, balls or laser beams can also entertain some cats for hours. Check out the Cats Protection website for some great ideas (https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/coronavirus/how-to-keep-your-cat-entertained-in-self-isolation ) and the Battersea website has some tutuorials on how to make toys at home too (https://www.battersea.org.uk/ ). If your cat has come indoors, make sure they have multiple litter trays throughout the house in quiet locations to allow them plenty of choice while getting used to using them; this should equate to one per cat in the household plus one exta.
Cats, particularly cats that are unused to having humans in their space all day, love dens and hiding places. Consider making your cat multiple hiding boxes around the house, ideally some at higher levels too, like on a shelf or atop a wardrobe (safely!). You could use cardboard boxes and old t-shirts to keep them cozy. Pheromone plug-ins, such as Feliway, are a great way to keep your cat calm. If you cat is now sharing their space with young children more than they are sued to, ensure that younger family members give your cat some “alone time” each day. Make your cat search for their food by scattering it around the house or hiding it rather than leaving it all in their bowl. You could also make puzzle toys out of bits from your recycling box: a simple toy that you can make yourself is to fill a toilet roll with dry food and push the ends of the roll in so that they form a seal. Then cut small holes on the outside of the toilet roll so that your cat has to roll the toy to get the food out.
It may be tempting whilst at home with your cat to show them just how much you love them with treats and extra food! You needn’t feel guilty about this as long as you remember to take these treats out of their daily calorie allowance of breakfast and dinner (you will need to reduce their meal sizes to allow for extra treats). You don’t need to use special treats to reward your cat, their normal food can still be a treat for them! If they usually have 2 meals a day, why not spread the same amount of food out into 3 or 4 smaller meals, and consider hiding their biscuits all over the house. This is both mentally and physically enriching, warding off boredom. Be careful not to feed extra food during this time and risk your pet becoming overweight: diabetes, heart disease and joint disease are all common as a result of weight gain.
Have you ever considered brushing your cat’s teeth? Some owners may be horrified at the idea! However, it is possible to train your cat to accept tooth brushing, and what a better time to try than during a lockdown with more time on your hands. Make sure you use special animal toothbrushes or soft children’s toothbrushes. Do not use human toothpaste but reach instead for specially made meat flavoured animal toothpastes. Doing this daily will help prevent painful (and smelly!) dental disease developing, which ultimately requires a general anaesthetic to clean and treat.