Last spring, my partner and I bought and moved into our first house. It’s what people would politely describe as “a real fixer-upper,” and what we would less-politely describe as “a total dump.” However, the good news is, we’re finally able to start doing a bunch of renovations, with a plan for the work to begin in about three weeks and last for about five.
We have two kitties, Frog and Toad. They’re littermates, about three years old. Frog is extremely friendly and loves people; she hates to be alone. She is also a real escape artist, and will bolt out any door left open. Toad is the exact opposite of Frog: he’s a total scardey-cat, afraid of just about everything, strangers, noises, spiders, you name it.
You can probably guess where I’m going with this. When we start construction on the house, it’ll be full of strangers coming in and out, using power tools, making noise, and being generally disruptive. How can we mitigate the stress and chaos this is going to rain down upon our babies?
Signed, Worried Mama
First of all, congratulations on your trash heap (I mean “fixer-upper”)! You’ve timed this letter perfectly, as we up at Purrfect Pals HQ are starting a huge construction project ourselves – our new building, Patty’s House! You can bet we’ve been doing a ton of brainstorming ourselves on the best ways to keep this project from driving our kitties – a mix of introverts and extroverts just like yours – from going completely bonkers.
There are a number of dangers when it comes to cats and construction. There’s the obvious risk of Frog bolting out a door left open, but also the same risk for Toad, who could become overwhelmed by a noise and make the same move out of fear. Additionally, you never want to let your kitties be underfoot when doing any kind of construction using tools, carrying heavy items, or using paint or chemicals in your house – there’s too much danger there for both the workers and your cats. A cat underfoot can easily trip a worker using a power tool or carrying something heavy, and that can spell disaster for everyone.
So, what you’re gonna want to do here is pick a room in your house to serve as home base for Frog and Toad during construction days. A guest room or large bathroom would be perfect for this, but any room with a door you can shut will do.
The great news is that you have a few weeks before the madness starts, which is going to help a LOT. Pick that room out today and start turning it into a kitty haven right away. Fill it with toys, a cat tree by the window, good napping spots, and a good place for Toad to hide in case he needs a safety zone when all the noise starts up (under a bed, in a big box in a corner, whatever works).
Frog is going to need help finding that space appealing when she’s in there with only Toad to keep her company. And Toad is going to need help finding that space protective when he’s in there with only Frog to keep him safe.
As with most things cat-related, the key to success here is starting slow and building up gradually. Start by taking both kitties in their new room, shutting the door, and playing or hanging out with them for a while. Then let them back out when you’re done. Do this a couple of times a day for the first day or two, then start ending your visits with a meal, leaving the room while they eat. Mom’s gone? No problem, I gots food!
Do that for a couple of days, then leave them in there alone a little longer each day. As you work up to an hour or two at a time, go in there periodically and interact with them again, then leave, then come back, then leave. This will teach Frog in particular that she isn’t going to be forgotten in there – that even with the door closed, you’ll be back for her.
Once construction starts, they’ll need to stay in the room the whole time workers are in the house. Visit them as often as you can, but don’t stress out too much about it if you’re too busy. Make sure they have a litter box, water, toys, and things that smell like you and your partner.
Keep an eye on Toad once the noise starts up. Make sure he’s eating, drinking, and using the litter box normally. Most importantly, don’t interfere with him when he’s in his hiding space. You can talk to him quietly from nearby, and you can reach in to pet him if he’s game, but never drag him out, for example, because he really needs to know that when he’s in that space, he’s safe.
Before you let them out each evening when the work is done, be sure to do a quick spot-check of the construction areas to look for hazards – chemicals or paint left out, nails on the floor, dangling cords, things that could fall off of counters with the slightest tug, that sort of thing.
Overall, though, while we kitties absolutely looooathe change, we’re pretty adaptable. Though it may be several weeks of stress, Frog and Toad are going to be okay. They’ve obviously got a good mama lookin’ out for them. And once the insanity is over, I have a feeling you’re all going to be as happy in your new place as we are going to be in ours!