8 min.

How to prepare your cat for your absence post-lockdown

Returning to work after lockdown? Find out how to prepare your kitty for being alone at home and avoid behavioural problems caused by stress.

Routine changes: a source of stress for cats

Everyone who has adopted a cat knows that they are very routine-oriented animals. Many cats have a hard time adjusting to a move, some can find accepting their adopter’s new partner challenging, and they all have unique habits like meowing in the kitchen at 5:10 p.m. to remind you that it’s almost dinner time.


Let’s not forget that lockdown has already affected the well-being of certain cats because it happened overnight, which changed their routine without warning. For other cats, lockdown has enriched their daily lives. Since adopters worked from home, they had more time to play with their cats and pet them during their breaks.


The post-lockdown return to onsite work will be gradual so you can avoid the radical changes that cats hate. Nevertheless, you will spend a lot less time at home and your schedule and routine will change, which will result in less time to spend with the cat. New behaviour that humans find unpleasant such as more frequent meowing, nighttime meowing, destructive behaviour and relieving themselves outside the litter box may occur.


To prepare the cat for this upheaval, adopters can anticipate their new schedule and ensure that as many routines as possible will remain the same once they return to work:

  • Gradually decrease the amount of interaction and attention you give the cat during the day (when you will be away).
  • Maintain or create a strict routine for mealtimes if the cat is fed at specific times.
  • Plan and maintain play sessions at times when you will be home post-lockdown (each morning and evening, ideally).
  • Offer the cat a training session once a day at a time when you will always be home to continue the training.

The end of teleworking: my kitten will be alone

One of the effects of lockdown has been a significant increase in pet adoption. Many adopters made up for a lack of activity with a newly adopted cat. The cat received attention, was petted and enjoyed games whenever it wanted. The problem is that this will change overnight and the cat will be left alone.


Don’t resort to anthropomorphism and assume that your cat will suffer from separation anxiety. This is extremely rare in cats. It is therefore very important that you provide the cat with as many independent enrichment opportunities as possible so it can work off energy when it is alone. Otherwise, it could come up with other activities on its own which you may not appreciate. So opt for enrichment:


  • Different heights and hiding places
    Cats need to climb so they can watch over their surroundings. It is therefore very important that they have access to several different heights in the home, which will fulfill this need and give them more space to explore.
  • Mealtime enrichment
    Cats in the wild have to put effort into hunting for food to survive. When cats eat from regular bowls, they can easily and quickly ingest too much food before they start to feel full. Providing a fun bowl that forces the cat to use their brain and paws when eating will ensure that it spends more time feeding and less time climbing the curtains. It will also regulate its food intake.
  • Playtime
    Two ten-minute active play sessions with you will help the cat to burn off energy, but you must also leave toys for independent play such as small balls and mice in their environment at all times. You can also rotate the toy selection. Put away some of the toys and take them out later to revive the cat’s interest.

A return to social life: preparing your fearful cat for guests

The end of lockdown means that friends and family can visit your home again. Your kitty may have gotten out of the habit of seeing visitors or if you have a new cat or kitten, you may be eager to introduce it to people. However, forcing this kind of meeting may cause the cat to react in a fearful or aggressive manner. You should never pick up a cat to introduce it to other people or animals.


If your cat is afraid of guests and you don’t have visitors often, you can simply set up a room with everything it needs and isolate the cat there while guests are in your home. This allows the cat to remain in a safe and stress-free space. Make sure that you lead the cat into the room during a play session so it won’t view the time in the room as a punishment.


If the cat is uncomfortable with visitors, but shows no excessive fear or aggression, you could use the same method, but leave the room door open to allow the cat to choose whether to mingle with guests or remain in its space. If the cat chooses to venture out of its room to meet your guests, reward it with cat treats to show that being social can pay off. You may also ask your guest to play with the cat in order to reinforce this positive association.


If your cat is aggressive with guests, isolate them and contact a cat educator who can help you to use desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques. These techniques are very easy and effective.

My cat has been urinating outside the litter box since I returned to work

Following a major change in routine, cats may relieve themselves outside their litter box. However, when this happens, your first step must be to consult a veterinarian since the majority of cases are caused by medical issues. Once any medical issues have been eliminated, you should check that the litter box is not too small, closed, poorly positioned or filled with a substrate that feels unpleasant on the cat’s paws. These issues can often cause a cat to avoid using their litter box. Therefore, make sure to take the advice below into account:


  • An ideal litter box is uncovered and as long as the cat (from their nose to the tip of their extended tail).
  • The cat’s food should not be in the same room as the litter box.
  • The litter box should be placed in a low-traffic area that the cat is comfortable in and it should be open enough for the cat to see what is going on around it.
  • The substrate should be soft, unscented and easy to maintain. Ideally, you should opt for a clumping litter with a mineral substrate (clay).
  • Each litter box should be cleaned at least once a day.
  • Your home should have one more litter box than the number of cats, which means two litter boxes for one cat.


As you can see, cats commonly react in various ways to a major change in routine, and the upcoming end of lockdown is certainly one. By following as much of the advice in this article as possible, you will greatly reduce the likelihood that your cat will react badly to this upheaval. On the contrary, you will be able to begin this new chapter together with confidence.