Having friends or family stay for a visit gives you the opportunity to relax, talk and enjoy time together. However, being the purrfect host can be difficult whether you have a social, outgoing kitten or a shy, fearful cat. As a pet owner and host, you need to perform a balancing act of making your favorite feline comfortable and your houseguest feel at home.
Make the first move by laying out the particulars as clearly as possible to your houseguest. Tell your invitees that you have a cat and ask them if they suffer from cat allergies. If your allergic friends or family decide to stay in your home, discuss the best manner in which you can alleviate their sensitivities. In most cases, grooming your cat before your visitors arrive can be very effective. Besides treating your cat, thoroughly clean your home by vacuuming carpets and rugs, dusting surfaces and washing floors. Once you clean your guest room, limit pet access. If possible, place a HEPA air purifier where guests sleep — allergy experts claim that if you can breathe pure air for at least eight to ten hours each night, you can probably tolerate more exposure to allergenic substances during the day. Most importantly, encourage your guests to discuss increasing doses of their allergy medications with their physicians.
Next, give houseguests a crash course in how to be around cats. Guests will need to understand that they must allow a cat to come around on its own time and not force a relationship. Moreover, cat owners should fully describe their cat’s personality and behavior. If your cat likes to leap off the kitchen counter onto a shoulder, warn your guests, or you might suggest they bring slippers if your cat is prone to foot attacks. Be careful not to frighten your guests, but merely emphasize how important it is to maintain your cat’s routine for everyone’s best interests.
Now that you have introduced your visitors to your pet’s cattitude, prepare your cat for houseguests. If your cat has grown up having a limited experience with people is it more likely to fear visitors, engage in destructive behavior, become aggressive or eliminate inappropriately? Beth Adelman, animal behavioral counselor and author, suggests Comfort Zone® with Feliway® (a product that mimics a natural comforting facial pheromone used to reduce anxiety). The wall plug-in is generally used to reduce inappropriate elimination, but can also comfort cats in these types of stressful situations. For best results, plug the diffuser in the electrical outlet a few days before guests arrive.
Next, examine where you have placed your cat’s litter boxes. If you feel that guests will disturb your cat and frighten him away from the box, it will be necessary to relocate the box. Move the litter box one to three feet each day until you effectively relocate the box to where you want it to be. Another option is to add another litter box in the new hideaway.
Once your visitors arrive, encourage them to treat your cat gently. Ask them not to challenge your cat by staring at it, looming over it or speak loudly. Remind them: if the cat approaches them, allow it to sniff their fingers. If the cat grants permission, pet it gently. Also, ask them politely to keep the door to the guest room closed at all times and to exercise extreme caution when opening windows and when leaving your residence. If children are guests in your home, simply explain to them that they are to leave the cat alone and ask their parents to help enforce your policy. If a toddler is in the house, put up a baby gate across the entry to the cat’s safe haven so that your feline won’t be bothered.
If guests are willing, ask them to help your cat overcome its fear of strangers. Have friends or family sit on the couch and toss your kitty tasty morsels. To ensure your cat’s interest in the treats, remove its food bowl a few hours before visitors arrive. If the cat comes out and takes the treat, have your houseguest repeat the process. With such pleasant consequences, you will allow your cat to make friends at its own pace, rewarding your cat along the way.
If your cat does engage in inappropriate elimination or even manages to eliminate on guests possessions, recognize that your pet is extremely stressed and is marking its territory. Don’t punish your cat. Clean up the mess with an odor neutralizer, deny cat access to the room where the accident occurred, confine the cat to its retreat for the rest of your guests’ stay and try to spend as much time with your cat making it feel comfortable in its retreat.
Over the holidays, cat owners can prepare for houseguests by having realistic expectations of their feline’s behavior and discussing their cat’s personality with their visitors. Although it is much easier to introduce a kitten or a younger cat to visiting friends and family, overtime a shy and fearful cat can learn to enjoy human company too. With a lot of love, patience and determination, your cat can become an excellent host!
Summer Valley Veterinary Clinic
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