Absolutely floored: remodeling and catsApr 26, 2023 10:35AM ● By Ask Ms. Kitty
Dear Ms. Kitty: We’re remodeling our house this year. I’m worried my cats will be stressed with all the chaos. Is there anything I can do to help them cope?
—Building in Briargate
Dear Building: Territory is important to cats, so changes in their environment can be stressful. Bringing unfamiliar workers into your house can be scary. Cats can also easily get lost, especially if doors or windows are left unsecured. They can become so frightened they run outside to get away from the noise.
You can minimize their stress—and yours—by including them in your plans. If your remodel is minor, here are two tips to help you weather the project. If it’s extensive, you might consider boarding them or finding a familiar and trusted friend or relative they can stay with.
SAFE AND SOUND
The first step is to make sure your cats feel safe. If they already have a safe room where they retreat when scared, start there. If they don’t, consider creating a new safe room as far away from the construction as possible.
The safe room needs to feel secure and include everything they need to stay there all day. Add at least one litterbox per cat, set up food and water stations and make sure they have familiar bedding to tuck into. Offer them extra hiding places by draping a chair, adding beds behind furniture or better yet, adding boxes. You know how cats love boxes! Toys, a little catnip and food puzzles will help make it enticing.
Before construction starts, spend time in the room with them daily. Work on your laptop or stream your shows and schedule in regular playtime. Feed them there at the same time every day. A white noise device can help cancel out power tools and other loud sounds. As construction starts and they need to stay locked in their room, they should be less concerned about it if you’ve spent regular time in there with them.
While the project is underway, post a big sign on the door that says, “DO NOT ENTER.” If you think that might be missed, seal the door with barricade tape when you leave.
If you can let them back out at night, do a construction check first. Seal up any holes in walls or floors and cover sharp materials. Make sure all paints and stains are dry and cans are covered.
The second step is to ease their fear of unfamiliar humans. Allowing strangers inside to make big, noisy changes to their familiar spaces can feel like a home invasion.
Outgoing cats who like hanging out with strangers present a different set of problems. You may still need to confine them to keep them out of construction dangers.
For shy kitties, try making your work crew more familiar. Invite those involved in the project to plan it at your home so you can introduce your cats ahead of time. Ask the crew to play with your cats and give them treats to share.
If the remodeling project is relatively minor, allowing your cats to reclaim their spaces when the workers leave on weekends may help them adjust. They’ll be able to mark appropriately by rubbing on new surfaces rather than spraying them.
But if your cats show you they are scared by staying hidden, wait until the project is completed before letting them out.
Once the remodeling is done, you will probably be eager to make the new space your own—and so will they. Place familiar equipment, like cat trees and nesting spots, in the remodeled spaces. Let the cats come out at their own pace. Feed and play with them in the newly updated places.
Show them how happy you are to have your home remodeled and enjoy it with them!
Ask Ms. Kitty
This free helpline is offered by Happy Cats Haven and Colorado Cats Boarding. Submit questions at HappyCatsHaven.org