We’ve all seen the memes poking fun of the fact that cats are not thrilled about all the togetherness brought about by the COVID-19 stay at home orders. But cat behaviorist Rita Reimers says, it’s not really a joke. Cat are used to their alone time and people need to understand the adjustments their pets are going through. Rita is the founder of Just for Cats, writes an advice column called "A New Cattitude" and answers questions through her membership only group Club Cattitude. She said she has seen a lot of new issues rising up during this difficult time.
We interviewed Rita, along with her Executive Director Linda Hall, for the Passionistas Project Podcast. They said they want everyone to have access to Rita’s advice and understand people are facing financial issues. So through the month of June they are offering cat lovers the first month membership to Club Cattitude for only $1, which goes directly to Friends of Felines Rescue Center in Defiance, Ohio. After that the price is $9.95 a month instead of the regular $19. So if you have questions about cats, or just want to be part of a community of feline-loving friends, consider a membership.
We spoke with Rita and Linda about COVID issues for cat owners, Rita’s new book “The L.U.C.K.Y. C.A.T. Approach” and their upcoming line of USA-made cat toys and bedding called Gracie and Esther
Here’s an excerpt from our interview with Rita and Linda
Passionistas: Have you found new behavioral issues arising during this time of COVID 19 and do you have tips for people about how to deal with the togetherness?
Rita: At first, if you don't work at home and you're at home, you're interrupting your cat’s sleeping period. Usually they're sleeping during the day. They're like, why are you here? Get out of my, get off my sofa. I want to sleep there. Then after a while they're used to being there. Then you're going to go back to work and they're going to go through separation anxiety. They're like, why aren't you there? You used to be at my beck and call. I could lie on you whenever I want.
So I always suggest that people do what I'm doing right now. I shut myself in my office. There's no cats in here. Let them have some time apart from you. Let them have their routine. They're making a new routine. Cats don't like change. You disrupted their routine by being at home. Now you have to make a new routine, which I think includes having them be on their own and having you be in a separate room or go outside for a walk or do something to be apart from them.
So I noticed that I have a cat that's very attached to me, Smoochy. I've had her since she was four weeks. She's three legged. She's always been extremely attached to me, but it's getting worse. She's practically under my rear end when I sit on the sofa. I sit on the sofa and she started like lunging and barking at the other cats when they come near me. So I have to consciously make sure I get up here for a few hours every day. And that seems to make her relax a little bit, not be quite so anxious that she's got to be right up against me every moment of the day.
And the other thing I think that's important is cultivating this routine around what I call the four PEGS of cat behavior. There's four basic behaviors that cats do every day to ensure their survival.
One of them is they hunt for “Prey.” That's the P. We may make that by playing with them. So really take a wild type toy or something. You can make them chase around, mimic that they're hunting, let them catch it and then feed them. That's the E in the PEGS is they “Eat.” They'll eat their dinner or breakfast and then right away a cat's instinct is to “Groom” and they do this because out in nature, they want to get all the particles of remnants of their kill off of them so that their predators can’t find them, aren't attracted by the smell of the prey. And so they won't become someone's dinner. And then lastly they're going to go to “Sleep.” That's PEGS.
So I always suggest people, even when they're home, practice those morning and night, because in the morning you're going to do Play, Eat, Groom, Sleep. You're going to go off to work, so sleeping or you're going to be up in your office or what have you. And then at night I'm going to do it again. So I always do it really, you know, maybe an hour or so before I want to go to bed. I do play, eat grim sleep, so they're ready to sleep when I'm ready to sleep. And that way they won't tend to wake you up at three o'clock in the morning when they have you captive and they want to expend that energy. You've already done that by doing PEGS and whatever other antics you might do with them during the middle of the day.
Passionistas: Is this a good time for people to adopt a cat as far as you're concerned?
Rita: I would say so, because you're home. You're able to bond with the cat, especially if you've got introductions to do with other cats or dogs, or children in the household. I know some facilities they are doing video pre-adoption screening. So when you go to the shelter or rescue, you get to see the cat that you've been talking about seeing on the video or what have you. They're trying to cut down on their exposure to people as well. So it's not like you can go and walk through the shelters or rescues like you could before. I know the shelter, here hasn't even been open.
Linda: I just talked to Jackie [at Friends of Feline Rescue Center] yesterday and she said it's exhausting. This woman, she's just given her life to, that's in her own way and has built this rescue onto her home and it keeps building and she's all about the cats. She's up early, she's up late. Well they have a webcam. So for one thing people can watch a cat and be like, Oh, I love that cat. But you know, often you, you decide, Oh this cat and then you get there and the cats really aloof and not your cat. So she's taking appointments and she's got a room that she can let the cats and people interact one at a time and then they leave and they scrub everything down and disinfect it and then they take the next one. And so it's exhausting, but it's kitten season and they're getting full, they need help.
Rita: A lot of places need fosters now because it's kitten season. So they need people to hold onto the cats and socialize them. Maybe not adopt them, but they need places to put all these kids. That's always a need. But I think it's more so now.
Visit RitaReimers.com/join-club-catittude and use the discount code HELPFFRC to join Club Cattitude and help the Friends of Felines Rescue Center.
Listen to Rita and Linda’s complete episode here.