You’ve had more time than you could ever imagine sitting at your desk in your home office doing the work that you would have done at ‘the office’, and with you a lot of the time has been your cat companion. He has interrupted you at inopportune moments because he thinks your desk is a nice little perch from which he can look out the window and on countless occasions he has convinced you to give him the odd snuggle and stroke. So, he has been incredibly happy about your extended presence at home.
But this unusual time of coronavirus lockdowns and social distancing, which has brought great benefit to companion cats, is going to come to an end very soon as workers migrate back to the office and I suspect that you might be a little anxious about returning and socialising with your work colleagues rather than taking the odd zoom call. Zooming is communicating at a distance and it is not the same thing as face-to-face interaction. So, I would expect that many people have become de-socialised to a certain extent and they will have to relearn their social skills or at least redevelop their confidence at playing office politics and trying to get their way when in direct contact with work colleagues and their boss.
Where there is anxiety for cat owners there may also be something similar for their cats. Domestic cats love the reassurance of their owner around them throughout the day. New routines and patterns have been developed and we know how cats love these aspects of the human-to-cat relationship. They are indeed reassuring but they are all going to be broken to smithereens and quite suddenly. Domestic cats all over the country will be missing their owner and wondering where they have gone. They’ll be waiting anxiously at front doors and they will meow loudly when their owners returned from work.
They will adapt and get used to their old ways but there’s an argument that cat owners should reintroduce them to these old ways by being away from their cat a little bit more than usual, right now, to try and simulate what it will be like when they are back at the office. This would let down their cats gradually rather than having that sudden sharp shock of effectively being abandoned.
But it has been an interesting time because people may have lost, slightly, their social skills whereas cats have developed them, being in almost perpetual contact with their human guardian. Both these effects are going to be turned upside down shortly.
There is going to be more stress in the home. When the owner comes back from work, she will have to de-stress herself but in that moment, she is likely to be more stressed, and before going to work as well. The same emotion may suddenly be felt by their cat. When the front door closes, he will have to kill 10 long hours on his own, pottering around the house, snoozing, eating and pottering. This can up the anxiety levels.
Videos of domestic cats left alone while their owner is at work are quite distressing. Often, they don’t know what to do with themselves and they patiently and with great perseverance kill time. They need their companion humans to be there for them, to interact with them to fill their lives. I would recommend that cat owners everywhere visit YouTube to look up some videos of cats left alone in their homes. It might be educational.
P.S. I expect many cat guardians to be anxious about the effect on their cats rather than because they’re returning to the damned office after a sticky commute. There will be some discussions going on as to whether they can work at home permanently and many employees will find a way to do this. If that is true it will be a silver lining for domestic cats that comes out of this pandemic.