How do you combine cat ownership and work?

Marc in Switzerland will tell you how to do it. He is an expert. This article is not a criticism of single, working, cat owning people. It is about exploring how to maximise cat welfare under less than ideal conditions. In the past I have failed at combining work and good cat caretaking. That was before PoC. It was not bad at it but I always felt guilty being away.

For a single, cat owning person, who works full-time it is obviously more difficult to maintain a strong relationship with a cat companion. If the cat is allowed out during the day what may happen is that the lonely cat finds other companions and interests. So your cat goes walkabout and meets up with a nice person who feeds him and bit by bit you become distanced from your cat.

The working cat owner comes home from work late and her cat is not there. Instead, he is down the road snoozing on Mrs Smith’s veranda having been feed best quality food.

Waiting cat

Waiting cat. Photo by qmnonic. Michael added the word.

It seems to me that to a certain extent we have to work on our relationships with our cat(s). In my experience a relationship with a cat is far more robust than a relationship with a wife or husband. Therefore it requires less maintenance. However, forced neglect through work commitments can weaken the bond between cat and caretaker. I say, “can”. Many people manage to deal with it very well.

A domestic cat clearly won’t understand why you are leaving for work early and coming back late, exhausted. If, at one time in the past, you were around with your cat for much longer periods he may become stressed by your absence.

I feel that in some scenarios of cat caretaking the circumstances might make things unworkable. The point is that, on occasion, some people who like cats and have cats should not keep cats at particular moment of their lives because work circumstances prevent it. I am sure this is a factor that is taken into account by sensible cat loving people who wish to keep a cat. This begs the question: do you find work that nicely fits good cat caretaking?

So how do you combine hard work and cat ownership? To be honest, I don’t think there is an easy answer. As mentioned, Marc, in Switzerland, manages extremely well and has systems in place which allows interaction to a certain extent and some remote cat caretaking by using strategically placed computers with cameras and Skype software that turns on when a cat approaches. I think that is how it works. Marc will no doubt correct me. The point is that it is possible to combine hard work and cat ownership but I am sure Marc will agree that it is a big compromise. Marc’s cats are full-time indoor cats for safety reasons and they are extremely well cared for and very content.

Perhaps a person working hard and full-time has to keep cats indoors while he is at work or even all the time. That may be a prerequisite for making the relationship work, which is a negative. Outdoor excursions are good for a cat provided they are considered safe.

These are the points I would consider when trying to combine good cat caretaking with working away from home:

  • Get a job where you can work from home! Unlikely. Although, home working is becoming more popular and it is more environmentally friendly (no travel=less carbon burning).
  • Ask your boss if you can work from home for one day a week. It will be good for the climate too. Unlikely.
  • Try and find out where your cat goes if he is not at home when you come back from work and try and stop him being feed and cared for by a neighbour.
  • Put a collar on your cat that is a GPS tracker device or which at least has your phone number on it. A lot of cat lovers don’t like cat collars for various reasons, one of which is safety. There are quick release collars though.
  • Setup a system as described above that Marc uses successfully.
  • Use an automatic cat feeder that dispenses food at regular times (unsure how effective these are, however).
  • When you are home, spend time with him. Play with him and reconnect.
  • If he is an outdoor cat, keep him in at night and try and spend time with him  – i.e. he sleeps on your bed.

All these ideas combined will be less good than if you were a retired person who loves and understands cats 😉

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How do you combine cat ownership and work? — 19 Comments

  1. Michael – for me the only real answer is to spend all my non working time with my cats. This does not work for most people. I happen to be quite alright with giving my free time to my cats and actually thats what I want to do naturally anyway. If I didn’t then it would be very different. I spend the whole weekend with them – only going out to buy food and once every couple months I might have some other thing I must do on a weekend but I really feel the loss if a saturday or a sunday gets taken up. As it happens I am leaving tonight for a week. As much as I have alot to look forward to on my trip if my train got cancelled or something changed I would be quite happy to spend my entire week holiday at home with my cats. Actually I think I would be relieved to not have to go. In June – this month – I am going to build a catio on my small balcony. I will leave this available to them at all times in all seasons so they can at least sit outside and enjoy the sights and smells and many plants I plan to grow there. I’d like it to be a sort of outdoor jungle with a couple cat trees in it basically.
    Actually if I lived somewhere in the countryside where they could go outside I wouldn’t feel guilty at all. When they can go out at will I think cats usually are just fine and even busy with not necessarily the time to spend with you but being inside they are very dependant. I don’t like it – actually I have always felt that if I had 3 days off work instead of 2 that would make a significant difference each week if you consider I spend work day evenings and mornings with them – I would be with them alot of the week but with just 2 days off it’s not enough.
    It also is very hard to be at home and have things to do on my computer – they get frustrated if I am busy at home. The short answer is its not easy at all with indoor cats.

    • Marc you can’t be with your cats all the time so you have done the right thing, you have more than one cat so that at least they have some companionship.
      People have to go out to work, many jobs can’t be done from home and because so many cats are needing homes an added bonus of adopting two or more helps that situation.
      Our two cats don’t bother a lot with each other but at least when we go out they know they are not shut in alone, I think it must be long boring days for single cats with no company at all.
      Another thing, you spend as much time as possible with your cats, some people get impatient if their cats want lots of attention, they think of themselves, not their cats.
      I’m looking forward to seeing pics of your Catio when you get it done 🙂

      • I will defintitely send you guys pictures – an article or something when I am done with it. I am a bit nervous about the implications it will have with the neighbours but we will see.

        • Surely they can’t object to a Catio on your own property, they’d have something to complain about if you had 3 dogs living like we have just the other side of the fence, feet from our living room window. Environmental Health have no objections and said it’s a long messy process if we complain about the barking and because it’s not constant and not at night now he takes the biggest dog in, we are better just putting up with it. Honestly sometimes it’s like living in a kennel block, how we long for our peaceful Cat Village! Dream on ……………….

          • The problem with living in an apartment is that there are rules for everything you can and can’t do because people are living very close together. Putting a catio on the balcony may be OK and is great for the cats but the lease may forbid it as it alters the external appearance.

            • Thanks for explaining Michael, I’ve never lived in an apartment.
              I don’t see how it’s a lot different to a semi detached house like ours though, the walls are paper thin as this estate was built in the 1950s, but as you say there are rules for what you can and can’t do in apartments that don’t apply to houses.
              I just hope Marc can have his Catio

          • Ruth – actually I can very much sympathise with you on this one. I have had a similar experience that lasted years and was mainly one dog only. It really drove me crazy and others in the neighbourhood. The fact the owner kept the dog outside was probably because they didn’t want the barking themselves. I called the Toronto Humane society on them just to piss them all off (I like neither the Toronto Humane society nor the neighbour so it was 2 birds with one stone) and it got a bit quieter for a while. When I spoke to other neighbours they all expressed dislike of it. It’s incredibly antisocial. Personally I don’t think I would be able to put up with it for years and I would like take the arduous route of making him feel incredibly unwelcome and doing the necessary paperwork to chase the issue. A person should not leave dogs outside at night, kennel or no kennel. In a way thats a bit like neglect. If I had a dog I would want it to sleep on the end of my bed probably. I hope in the winter he will take them inside. I hope this problem will solve itself – I feel really bad for you because I know exactly what that is like.

            • Thanks Marc, it does get irritating and I really don’t know why people have dogs if they don’t want them as house pets.
              We don’t want to make waves as our cats safety is most important and the barking doesn’t bother them at all when they are out in our garden. He never lets them run loose which is a good thing for all the neighbourhood cats.
              Yesterday was particularly bad but today they’ve hardly barked so they can’t be classed as a noise nuisance and apparently the RSPCA say the dogs are cared for OK, so we just have to live and let live, it’s a rented house so he might move on.
              But it’s a strange old world when people can shatter the peace just because they choose to. Babz says she is going to get a trumpet and sit outside our window and play it lol as it’s no different to dogs sat out there making an unholy racket for everyone to share lol lol

    • You do a great job looking after your cats and thank you very much for commenting. It is not easy making a living and caring for cats to a high level.

      One day things will be a bit easier for you. I never felt right being out all day when I had a cat or cats at home. It sort played on my mind. I sense that it is similar for you.

      • Yes Michael – it does play on my mind. Actually I usually crave their company as well so it’s a matter of wishing I could get home sooner both for them and for me. I am on day one away from them today but I am with 4 other cats so its ok 🙂

  2. Honestly, i became a cat owner by default as i previously owned dogs.Dogs require more personal care and can’t be left alone at home for long hours. Cats can be left alone in a flat with a little food and water and hence ideal pets for single working people.In my house my cats are never ever alone for more than a few hours if i am away on tours or home as my house care-taker Sabina looks after them in my absence.As for Marc,his use of computer camera’s and skype for keeping in touch with his cats from his remote workplace is a real pet innovation for working owners who can afford this modern technology.

  3. Monty has had me here all day and it’s cold and somewhat wet out so there aren’t any bees around, which means he’s gotten to be out most of the day. The hard thing is when I end up having to work all day. He gets used to having me here, to having lots of outside time, and then suddenly he’s cooped up inside alone all day. It must be hard on him. He carries his stuffed doggie around on days I’m not here. I had to sew up Doggie’s foot a couple days ago. I’ll probably just keep fixing it over and over for him, because I know he would miss it. He just came and meowed at the screen door to be let in. I don’t have to work every day for us to make enough money, but there are days I have to be gone all day, sometimes 12 hours because I’ll end up working in another city through the medical staffing company. I like that I went into a field that pays well enough that I can work part time, but bring in a full time income. Not everyone has that advantage, and if money really became tight I’d have to take a full time job. I’m really resisting doing that, because I like being here with Monty.

    • A good cat-friendly arrangement. That is the way it should be…I knew you’d have a near perfect set-up because you are organised but a bit untidy – so you said ;). What is this about Monty’s doggie? Is this a security blanket thingy?

      • You posted a picture of him with it on the page with the video if him in the snow. I think Doggie is a substitute for a cat companion. I’ve caught Monty biting the back of Doggie’s neck and prancing over it the way a feral male would do to assert dominance over another male cat. At least he is dominant over his toys. Doggie doesn’t push him around, Monty is in charge. When I get home from work I will find Doggie on my bed or even outside the apartment on the landing to the basement stairs. Where Monty goes, Doggie goes– when no one is here. He’s less likely to interact with Doggie if I’m here. Doggie is just a child’s toy I bought Monty for his first Christmas.

  4. You should come visit our house. Laura or I are always there with the cats. I’m gone from just after 2p.m. until 12:30 a.m. When she goes to visit her dad I take a few vacation days to be with the cats.

    Our problem isn’t the cats being alone, it’s being paranoid since the fire last year. We’re afraid something will happen if one of us isn’t home. Having more than 1 cat they’re ok if left alone, but we don’t like to do it.

    Every week or so I take Laura out for a meal or to shop for a few things for the cats. We’re only gone a few hours. The cats do fine without us.

    I’d recommend the cat sitter dvd. Our cats gathered in a group to watch that movie. They even went over to the screen and tried to catch the mice and fish in it.

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