Working full time and caring for a cat
Cats have a reputation for being easy to care for, and while there is some truth to that, cats do still have needs. With an increasing number of the population working full time, people considering a cat have to be aware of just what is involved and if full-time workers can care for a cat.
- Parasite treatment
- Veterinary care
- Love and attention
Kittens, senior cats, cats with underlying medical conditions and longhaired cats need more care than healthy, adult shorthaired cats.
Households who are in full time working positions must make sure that cats don’t get bored or lonely from long hours alone. This is even more important for the indoor cat.
Cat care 101 for working people
The practical side of cat care includes feeding and managing the cat’s physical needs. Cats thrive on routine, so try to keep a reliable schedule. One person should be responsible for particular tasks such as feeding, litter trays, parasite prevention.
- Adult cats are fed twice a day, morning and night. Some people leave dry food out all the time so the cat can graze if he or she wants. This is okay, as long as the cat isn’t prone to overeating/obesity. For households who are out for extended hours, automatic cat feeders can be utilised to ensure cats are fed at the same time, even if the cat’s carers are not home.
- Kittens who have weaned and adult cats need fresh water, which should be changed at least once a day.
- Wash food and water bowls once a day in warm soapy water and rinse well.
- Longhaired cats need to be brushed daily to prevent the fur from matting.
- Litter trays should have solids scooped twice a day and all litter removed and replaced with fresh once a week.
How to reduce boredom in cats
The biggest issues cats face when their human family are working full time are boredom and loneliness. But there are ways we can enrich their lives.
- Provide the cat with an assortment of toys and puzzles to keep the cat entertained while you are away. Don’t keep all toys out at once, but rotate. Pet shops have a wide variety of interactive toys as well as food puzzles which can alleviate boredom.
- Cardboard boxes and paper bags (with the handles removed) are always popular with cats.
- Pingpong balls and champagne corks bring out the hunter in your cat.
- Catnip and cat grass are both cat-safe plants that bring the outside in. 60% of cats respond to catnip, which induces a high-like state for a few minutes. Affected cats will roll, rub their head on the ground and drool. Cat grass doesn’t induce a high, but most cats like to nibble on grass.
- Cat trees and shelves are a must for cats. The cat tree provides an outlet to sharpen the claws and stretch the leg, shoulder and back muscles. Tall cat trees and perches allow the cat to watch the world from a height. I personally recommend a tree that is at least 5 feet high if possible.
- If space permits, an outdoor catio or cat enclosure allows the cat to enjoy time outside but in a safe environment to keep the cat and wildlife safe.
- Enclosures should have a sheltered area so the cat can get out of the sun, as well as cat-safe plants and places to climb. Tree limbs, cat trees and ramps work great in enclosures. Cat enclosures can be homemade or professionally installed. Basic ones include a balcony which is screened, cages that are placed outside for the cat to spend time in or the more deluxe which are larger enclosures built onto the side of a house with lots of plants and places to climb and explore. You are only limited by space, budget and imagination.
Cats have a reputation for being independent compared to dogs, and while there is some truth, cats can and do suffer from loneliness if left for extended periods alone without the opportunity for social interaction. Each cat is different in regards to how social they are.
Make an effort to schedule 5-10 minutes a day to play with your cat. This not only promotes physical exercise but is also mentally stimulating to the cat and helps them to maintain a bond with their human family, ie; time spent with you is fun and engaging.
Working full time is hard, when you get home, there’s dinner to cook and plenty of other household chores to get on top of. Our cats don’t understand that we are busy, they are happy to see you home and want some attention.
Two cats can keep each other company when you are out of the house. It is always better to adopt two cats together, but not always practical. Animal shelters will sometimes advertise a home for two bonded cats. We adopted our two bonded Tonkinese cats from a shelter, and they have a special relationship. They don’t spend all their time together but do love to cuddle up on their favourite chair.
It can be a little more tricky introducing a new cat into the home with an adult cat. Some will accept the newcomer, some will never welcome it. It’s impossible to know how the resident cat will respond until you try. Options include adopting from a shelter on a trial basis to see how the cat accepts the newcomer. Generally, it is better to introduce a kitten, who will be seen as less of a threat, and preferably one who is the opposite sex.
Introductions must be slow and the new cat should be isolated for some days to make sure it is not bringing an infectious disease into the house. In most (not all) cases, the resident cat will take some time to accept the newcomer, but it will be achieved with time and patience.
- It is possible for people working full time to share their home with a cat, but pet owners must make time to play and engage with the cat daily.
- Interactive food puzzles, toys and cat trees can relieve boredom while you are out of the house.
- Two cats can keep each other company, it is preferable to adopt together, but if need be, introduce a cat at a later stage.
- Maintain a routine so that the cat is fed at the same time daily (by a person or an automatic cat feeder), and don’t forget to schedule play and cuddle time too.
- A cat enclosure or catio can allow the cat to spend time outside but in a safe environment.