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.
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 😉