5 Things We Can Learn from Our Cats About Staying Positive While Sheltering at Home

Pets can teach valuable lessons about how to make the most of social distancing.

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- Posted on Mar 25, 2020

A black cat poses imperiously on a computer desk

Like a lot of us, I’ve started working from home since my household went into self-quarantine. I’ve been spending most of that time with my cat. Growing up, I was never a cat person. I thought they were fussy and a little holier-than-thou in attitude. My boyfriend, however, is a cat person. When we moved in together, he came with a cat. A Siamese named Bilbo. I figured we would avoid each other and stick to our own spaces.

Of course, as time has gone on, Bilbo and I became friendly, and eventually, friends. He sleeps not only on my side of the bed, but on my pillow. He sits on the couch next to me when I do my office work. Now that we’re together all day every day, I’ve started to notice more of his habits. Bilbo is an indoor cat, which means he has basically been in self-quarantine his entire life—and he’s pretty satisfied with it!

So, how will we survive the next weeks or months cooped up? Here are a few tips I've learned from my cat:

1. Stick to a Schedule 

On my first day of self-quarantine, I heard a meow. Seven-thirty sharp. The thick, yowling scream Bilbo uses to wake us. "Feed me wet food," he seemed to say. Usually, this isn’t a problem. I get up, drop some food into his bowl, and hop into the shower. But today? There’s a whole extra hour before I even have to start thinking about sitting in front of my computer, I thought. “Bilbo, shh.”  

He screamed and screamed. How could I explain a pandemic to a cat? Finally, I threw off the covers. “We’re not doing this every day,” I told him as I slid the thick salmon goop into his dish. Day one became day two, three, four … the world outside us changed, but Bilbo kept to his schedule. In doing so, he's helped me keep a schedule too. Reading the news can make me feel scared, like I want to stay in bed forever. Then Bilbo howls us awake, and I put on a pot of coffee.  

2. Get Enough Exercise 

At twelve-years-old, Bible is an old cat. He is also enormous. People are shocked when they see him. Even as an older cat, Bilbo still loves to exercise. He loved to run from one side of our home to the other, often a couple times an evening.

His energy has reminded me of the importance of exercise. I don’t run through our apartment. I think it would irritate our downstairs neighbors, and I’m trying to be kind in this difficult time. I do yoga. I go on walks. I do workout videos without jumping jacks. Even from home, I make sure to keep my body moving. Emotions are high. It’s easy to spend all my time on the couch. But if Bilbo can exercise, so can I.

Bilbo in his natural habitat

3. Save the snacks

Like many people, I love to snack. As you can imagine, I’ve been eating a lot in self-quarantine.  

We feed Bilbo wet food in the morning, and dry food throughout the day. Lately, I think he can feel my stress. A few days ago, while I was eating handfuls of chips instead of an actual meal, I saw him walk over to his bowl, sink his head into the dry food and devour his food. Two minutes later, Bilbo threw it all up on the hardwood floor.

It was an important reminder that stress eating only leads to more stress.

4. Sunlight Is Important 

New York, where I live, isn’t on lockdown. I can still take brisk walks—six feet apart from other pedestrians! —in between Zoom meetings. I feel the sunlight on my skin, and it helps to settle my anxiety and brighten my mood. Bilbo is an indoor cat, but he likes to sit by the sunniest windows, sometimes for hours and hours. If I’ve spent too long huddled in front of my computer, only to look up and see Bilbo sunning himself by the window, it reminds me to get myself outside, too.  

5. Stay Affectionate  

I love my boyfriend. But when I learned that we would be spending almost one hundred percent of our time together in our small, Queens apartment, I wondered how long it would take before we started annoying each other.

Bilbo, of course, could not be happier. We are his two favorite people. I don’t know exactly when Bilbo realized that it would just be the three of us—all the time—for a while, but he seems to understand it now. He cuddles constantly. He purrs every day. On the days the dishes pile up or my boyfriend and I fight over our small space, I try to be more like Bilbo. How lucky are we to be stuck at home with the people we love?

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