If there was a feline equivalent to the human Holmes and Rahe stress scale, which ranks 43 stressful events that can contribute to illness, I’d guess that home improvement projects are at the top of the feline list of stressors. Not only are cats creatures of habit, and any change to their home environment, even something as minor as moving a piece of furniture, can cause stress. Home improvement projects come with noise, upheaval, potentially harmful tools and chemicals, representing just about everything a cat does not want to deal with.
If you’re planning home improvement or remodeling projects, there are things you can do to minimize stress on your cats.
Designate a safe room
This should be a quiet room, as far away from the construction noise as you can get. Put beds, food, water, toys, and cat trees and scratchers in the room. You may want to get your cats used to staying in this room a few days before construction begins so they associate it with something pleasant. Leave a radio or tv on in the room, this may act as white noise and block out some of the construction sounds.
Put a “DO NOT ENTER” sign on the door, so that it’s clear to construction workers that the room is off limits. Depending on how clever your cats are about opening closed doors, you may need to put a lock on the door that locks from the outside.
Go into the room during the day periodically and spend time with your cats. Play with them, or just sit and read a book. Even if your cat is hiding inside the safe room, she will still be comforted by your presence.
Try to keep your normal routine as much as possible
Get up at the same time, feed the cats at the same time, play with them at the same times as you normally would. Feed them the same food, and maybe increase treats a little during this time.
Minimize smells and fumes
Cats sense of smell is far more sensitive than ours, and paint fumes and other construction smells will affect them even more than they affect us. Leave windows open (make sure that screens are secure) or use fans to keep the air circulating.
Clean up after construction workers
If you let your cats out of their safe room overnight while the project is going on, do a safety check first. While contractors may clean up before they leave for the end of the day, they won’t clean up with your cats in mind. Look for any nails, sharp objects, strings or other items that could harm your cats. Clean up spilled chemicals or paint so your cats can’t walk through them.
Don’t leave your cats unattended during a remodeling project
I’ve heard of cat guardians who went on vacation while their home was being remodeled and left the cats in the care of a cat sitter. Not a good idea, in my opinion. Even though cats usually do better when left with a cat sitter rather than being boarded, if you must travel during a constructinon project, boarding them may be a safer, and less stressful option.
Holistic remedies can help minimize stress
I’ve been known to postpone or avoid remodeling projects altogether to avoid stressing out my cats. Yes, there are things I’d like to redo in my home, but Allegra and Ruby get pretty stressed even if they have to be locked into a safe room fora couple of hours when a service person is in the house. I just dont’ want to put them through that kind of stress for days on end unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Have you had any home improvement projects done? How did your cats handle the disruption?