Our question this week was:Dear Doctor,
I am going to be remodeling my home very soon. I have two cats and I know how stressed out they can get sometimes. Do you have any tips on how to minimize their stress while I am remodeling?
Thanks for your question. I'm pleased that you recognize different elements that can cause feline stress and certainly remodeling, moving, new roommates or people in the house, outdoor construction, new cats, new babies, new cats outside that your cat can see or smell, and holiday events are just a few of the common stresses that can affect cats. Several behavioral problems can occur secondary to "stress" so taking the time to minimize all stresses whenever possible is a very smart option. I've done remodeling as well and have had the same question from hundreds of clients. These are some tips that I've seen help minimize the stress of remodeling: Try to keep the cats isolated in one room where there is no construction. Preferably this would be in a relatively quiet room in the house. Place a sign on the door of that room that says, "DO NOT ENTER" so there is no confusion that this room is off limits to the construction workers.
You may want to move your cats into the room a few days or so before the construction begins. Make sure room is associated with a place of comfort. If this is where you are going to feed them, start feeding them there. If this is where they will need to use the litter box, add the litter boxes now. Play with them and spend time with them in this room.
Place a TV or radio in the room and keep it on a low/moderate volume. This can act as "white noise" to drown out some of the construction sounds.
Make sure the room has food/water and a litter box. Make sure there are enough litter boxes. The rule is one box per cat plus an extra one. So if you have two cats, the ideal would be to have 3 litter boxes in the room. I know that sounds like a lot but try to at least put in two. Some of this advice also depends on the size of the room and how long your cat will need to be in there. If it is for extended periods of time or a room they will be "living in" it is better to err on the side of excess.
Try to make their new room interesting. Again, depending on how much time they will be in there, consider adding a window perch, a cat tree, a bird feeder outside the window and other toys or distractions.
Your cats will feel the stress, rather from the noise, smells or different environment. Try to keep the routine as normal as you can. This includes what you feed, when you feed, how much you feed, when you get up, and just about anything else. Also, make sure you spend as much time with your cats as possible. If you can, make sure you include play in the day. During the construction, go into the room with your cats and read your paper, drink your coffee and generally try to spend a little time with them. Some cats will be hiding and extremely comforted by you just being around.
Minimize smells and fumes if possible. Increase ventilation in the house by using fans or opening windows. If you open windows to which your cat has access, make sure screens are secure.
If you let your cat out during the remodeling process, such as at night when the contractors have gone home, take special care to make sure the environment is cat "safe". Check to see if there are nails, chemicals, strings and any other items that cats could either walk in, lick up or eat. Spilled chemicals or paint that your cat walks through and can cause them to become sick when they lick their paws.
Once the construction is complete, allow your cat some transition time back to the environment. Open the door and allow them to explore on their own terms. Keep the food, water, and litter box in the same place. Don't just push them out there and force them to eat, drink, sleep and eliminate in a new place. They probably have found the room they are in a comforting refuge. Keep it open and allow them to retreat if they want to.
Best of luck!
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