Having visitors who stay for several days can be both exciting and stressful for you, but have you ever thought about it from your cat’s perspective?
A few days beforehand (and through the hours preceding your guests’ arrival) you’re most likely cleaning the house a little more thoroughly than usual, possibly rearranging furniture, and generally making your home hospitable for your guests. You may be a little on edge as you get ready for visitors. All of this unusual activity can make cats anxious.
Why is that? Well, cats are routine-oriented creatures. They like to know what to expect and when to expect it, so aberrations from the norm can stress them out. This includes the preparation for guests, as well as their stay.
Cats rely heavily on scent. They have glands in their paws and face that deposit their own scent (undetectable to humans) everywhere they go. Deep cleaning, rearranging furniture, changing bedsheets, washing blankets, spritzing the house with room freshener, not to mention the new scents guests bring with them: all of these things change the way your home feels, smells, and looks to cats, and this can also make them anxious.
So how can you ensure that your cat is prepared for this temporary (but in the eyes of your pet, huge) change? If you talk to your cat, try explaining to them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it as you get ready. They may not understand every word, but the tone of your voice and the attention you give them during the process can reassure them. Use your guest’s name frequently prior to their arrival and tell your cats about their visit with excitement. This can help convey to your cat that you view your guests’ arrival as a positive thing.
If you’re displacing one or more of your cat’s normal hangouts (for example, a guest room), you can try moving a favorite blanket or object they associate with that spot–don’t wash it first; leave your cat’s familiar scents on it–to a new quiet area. Let them know that this is a spot for them, and spend some time with them in the new area.
A product called Feliway can also help to soothe your cat. It’s a synthetic pheremone that mimics the “happy” scent your cat releases naturally. In Houston, you can find it at Petsmart. There are two versions of this product: a plug-in diffuser and a spray.
When your guest arrives, take your cat’s personality into consideration. If your cat doesn’t enjoy meeting new people or greeting visitors, keep them in a room where they can feel safe until the bustle of greetings and settling in is over.
Try to keep mealtimes, litter box cleaning, and the times you replenish their water consistent. Don’t forget that your attention will be diverted while your visitors are in your home, and try to set aside at least a few quiet minutes alone with your cat every day.
Let your cat know that they’re still an important part of the household, no matter who comes to visit.