Transitioning for cats and humans from lockdown life to the real world

There is talk of anxieties in people and pets at the end of the Covid social distancing lockdowns which have been implemented in many countries. They are going to be separated after 18 months of being together far more often. Both parties to the relationship are going to be pulled away from each other. Humans are going to have to spend more time at the office rather than homeworking. Being thrust back into the real world, into society where you have to interact directly with work colleagues and so on is going to be a bit difficult for a while for some people.

Cat home alone
Cat home alone. Image: MikeB
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And there will be a transition period for cats and dogs too. Dogs who’ve been adopted during the pandemic lockdown only know this artificial lifestyle. They’re going to have to adjust to being at home alone. And the same goes for domestic cats. Where at one time they were constantly surrounded by family members, suddenly their owner is back at the office for the classic working day which means the cat is left alone. That classic, much discussed feline mental health condition comes to mind: separation anxiety.

The arrangement from the cat’s perspective goes from a near ideal (in a good home where the cat is well cared for) to one which is of much lower quality. I think that it is fair to say that not enough attention is given to how companion animals – both cats and dogs – manage to cope while they are alone at home. This is because most cat and dog owners don’t understand what their companion animal does when they are away from home for about eight hours or more. Can you imagine what it’s like to be a cat under those circumstances? Or, worse, a dog with a strong attachment to their owner. It’s going to be a form of hell for some dogs. Watch videos of how cats behave when their owner leaves for the office in the morning. It’s heartbreaking.

It makes sense, therefore, to gradually introduce a cat or dog to being alone which means a transition period. This would seem to be workable because employers are allowing people to work at home for a substantial part of the week and then come into the office for a day or two. This would seem to be a decent compromise and a transition between full-time office work and the coronavirus pandemic work style; home working.

Cat home alone
Cat home alone. Photo in the public domain.

At least cat owners should be aware of the potential pitfalls of suddenly being away from the home. I am told that a staggering 3.2 million dogs and cats were adopted during the coronavirus social distancing period in the UK. That’s a massive increase on the normal number. Most are dogs. Many will only know the lockdown status which will make it all the more shocking for them to be alone. All the more reason to transition them out of this false state of affairs.

The rescue organisations have steeled themselves for a much higher than normal influx of abandoned dogs in particular as newbie dog owners discover that dog ownership is not quite what they believed it to be. And don’t think that cats are ‘independent’ and can cope well with being alone all day. They normally don’t. They really don’t. Domestic cats need the company of their human caretaker. It’s what cat domestication has given them: a dependence on humans and the human world.


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