Sick days are meant for that midwinter flu bug or dreaded root canal, but our cats believe these paid-leave days are intended for a higher purpose: to spend with them.
Consider escaping the office for the day and devote the hours to bonding with your cat. Need a few ideas on what to do? We’ve asked certified animal behaviorist Yody Blass for some tips on “sick day” activities to help deepen the connection with your kitty:
1. Have a Spa Day
Although cats are generally fastidious self groomers, a thorough brushing and combing will remove any lingering old fur and reveal the healthy, soft coat your cat is so proud of, while gently massaging her after brushing will stimulate the skin and relax her.
And what’s a spa day without a mani-pedi? Even if you’ve avoided trimming your cat’s claws, relax, you’ve got all day and only four paws. Patience, careful attention not to cut the nail quick, and your soothing voice reminding her that she’ll be oh so happy with neatly trimmed nails will carry you through.
If you haven’t cut your cats nails before, Blass suggests getting your cat in the habit of letting you massage her paws and extend her claws in a gentle and calming manner prior to any attempts to clip their nails.
“This will help the cat already feel comfortable with you handling her paws,” she says, making the cat much less likely to resist actual nail trims.
2. Take a Cat Nap
Just as we revel in new high-thread-count bed linens, Kitty loves a soft and comfy place to sleep. If you haven’t replaced her cat bed recently, invest in a new one or clean and cover her existing bed with a new T-shirt, pillowcase or crisp cotton fabric in a fun cat print.
Since cats often have several sleeping spots, customize all of hers with new, clean bedding, and for a treat, sprinkle a bit of catnip on top. If her true preference is sleeping atop your own duvet or bedspread, keep the fur under control by covering it with a flat sheet.
Then, having done all this housekeeping, nap like a cat with your cat. Embrace that refreshing sleep by settling into the most comfortable posture and letting go of the day’s worries. You may wake up with a cat on your pillow, purring in her dreams.
3. Play, Play, Play
Gather your cat’s favorite toys, from the battered catnip mouse to the laser pointer and fishing lure with fake feathers, and focus all your attention on engaging your cat in some serious playtime. Toss that little mouse and watch your cat streak after it, or laugh as she stalks the mysterious tap on an open paper bag. Cats of all ages still have some kitten in them, and offering yours a chance to let loose will unleash the little hunter within.
“Keeping cats mentally fit with regular affection and play can also go along way toward preventing [behavioral issues],” Blass says. “I see lots of cats that have issues with using their litter boxes consistently, or have issues with aggression. When we add in daily play sessions or cuddle sessions, the positive behavior changes become even more apparent, with a higher success rate.”
4. Visit a New Vet
Visiting the vet isn’t exactly your cat’s idea of a fun sick day, but if your regular vet has retired or you’ve moved recently and don’t yet have a vet, using the time to check out potential replacements is a wise investment and the best way to avoid scrambling for a vet in a crisis.
Take the time to stop by and ask questions, observe other clients and get a feel for the place. Is it a cat-only practice? What about weekend hours, or early morning emergencies? Will the vet follow up visits with phone calls?
And if you’re happy with your current vet practice, take an hour to say thanks (and not just in cases of emergency). Bring a basket of muffins or plate of cookies for the staff, write a thank-you note for years of caring for your animals or take a little time to give them a positive online review.
5. Clean Your Closets
The experts remind us to purge closets once a year, removing or repairing all those clothes we haven’t worn, and our cats like clean closets because they’re unexplored little rooms with familiar scents and secret hiding spots.
Give your cat a thrill by removing everything from your closet and letting her explore while you sort the donations from the dry cleaning. Once she’s given her approval, put everything back and give her a few moments to relax in the newly-cleaned nap spot you’ve provided her.
6. Build a Cat Castle
The best part about creating a cat-approved castle? No costly, some-assembly-required-but-no-instructions-included, pink and purple mansion needed!
Start with a large, sturdy box with the bottom still securely taped and flaps still attached on the other side—your local supermarket or craft store will gladly provide a freebie. Then, decide whether your cat’s castle will be vertical or sideways, humble or grand. With a marker, sketch in windows or turrets, a balcony or two. Cut random openings so your cat can gaze out at her royal worshippers. Line the box with a dollar-store blanket, and toss in a few toys, along with a big paper bag to make your DIY castle a fave feline hangout.
“While many of us choose cats in part because they are more independent and can handle our busy lives, it is important to their overall well being to keep them in balance with bonding opportunities,” Blass says. “Giving them extra love and attention can make them makes them happier and better behaved.”
7. Read a Book
You cat loves the sound of your voice, and even if you already converse with her, try reading aloud, a new pleasure for you both. No cheating with an audio book—your cat wants to hear you, not a narrator.
Pick a juicy best seller or collection of light-hearted essays and spend an hour or two reading together. Losing yourself in the pages, you’ll find that your cat is the perfect audience, always up for another chapter.
8. Find a New Hobby
Even if your cat’s favorite pastime is napping, other hobbies will offer her more stimulation and enjoyment. If space permits, install a sturdy bird feeder on your deck, balcony or patio, or if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, plant a butterfly bush. Your cat will be mesmerized by the winged visitors stopping by to enjoy a bite or pleasant respite.
If your home offers no window to the world for your cat, treat her to a DVD designed for cats, featuring squirrels, birds and other wildlife on an endless loop of natural sound and nature from a distance.
9. Make a New Friend
If your cat is an only cat and you’ve considered adding a companion, a sick day is the ideal time to visit a shelter or rescue to meet and appraise possible new roommates. You know your resident cat best, so consider how she’d respond to a younger ball of energy or a more sedate senior. Choosing a newbie to complement your cat’s personality is more than just picking the cutest kitten or a cat whose coloration contrasts or matches hers.
“Adding a new cat takes a lot of thought and effort,” says Yody. “Be sure to seek the advice of your veterinarian or a behavior expert on the best way to introduce the cats in a gradual and safe way, ensuring that they get off on the right paw from the start.”
And if your household is at its cat limit, spend a sick day at a cat rescue, cuddling the new cats, helping clean cat litter boxes, grooming/feeding kitties or doing anything to help other felines find their own forever homes.
Kathy Blumenstock is owned by cats, loved by dogs, writes about both, and still longs for a horse.