For a while now, the Mail Online has featured a startling headline which states that cats are falling ill with ‘life-threatening stress’ because their owners are working from home under social distancing rules during the Covid pandemic. That of course is changing as people emerge from their homes and drift back to the office. Many businesses are trying to entice their employees back from the comfort of their homes. One interesting ploy is to allow them to bring their dogs with them to work. I like that because dogs at work improve productivity (cats too) but this is about cats and the stress they allegedly develop when they see too much of the human companion.
The point that needs to be made is this: cats can get temporary stressed when there is a change to their environment. Cats are creatures of routine and rhythms. They seek comfort in those routines and rhythms. They like stability. They like to know where they are in relation to their human companion’s activities and movements. They fit into these.
And, of course, suddenly their human caregiver is at home all day. Perhaps, also, there’s been some rearranging of furniture in the home in order to make office space. And perhaps, too, the children might have been at home more often because of school closures or because of social distancing reasons and deliberate isolation when contracting Covid.
But this is a temporary state of affairs. By that I mean the change from the cat owner being away all day to being at home is temporary. Quite quickly cats will adapt to the change in their lives. Domestic cats are highly adaptable particularly when they are young. After a transition period when some cats might indeed feel stressed, their lives will be or should be significantly improved. Cats like their human caregiver to be around. These are domestic animals and they are inculcated with the need to be around their human caretakers. When people work at home the lives of cats improves. And after the initial transition they will be less stressed than they were before because of potential separation anxiety.
A lot of cat owners don’t realise the amount of stress they cause in their cat by being at work for long hours, away from the home. Nothing can be done about it because they have to work like that but many domestic cats, particularly those who are kept inside full-time, will suffer from stress which is called separation anxiety. It is a well-known and understood condition.
Often, this stress inducing lifestyle has been removed by Covid which is a point that the Daily Mail journalist fails to make. And also working at home might or should reduce stress levels in the cat’s caregiver. This should benefit cats. And it is reciprocated as cats can calm people.
The typical way that cat stress is shown in a medical condition a cystitis, specifically idiopathic cystitis. This is an inflammation of the bladder which is exacerbated by anxiety. It can be caused by a bacterial infection although as it is idiopathic (unknown cause) this is not always the case. And male cats can develop a blockage in their bladders (as a linked condition to idiopathic cystitis) according to veterinary nurse Debbie James. In general terms stress is evidenced in urinary tract health issues which can lead to inappropriate elimination i.e. drops of urine sometimes bloody (hematuria) on the carpet.
I would expect the lives of domestic cats to be significantly improved because of Covid. That might sound almost ridiculous but there is a huge, quiet problem in the background in the lives of domestic cats in that they are left alone all day while their owner works in the office. Covid has dealt with that at a stroke.
P.S. Cats can get Covid from their owners but the symptoms are mild and it resolves quickly. However, cats and dogs may for a reservoir for the disease which will be with us for years to come.
SOME MORE ON CYSTITIS: