by Jeanne Hodges
Schedule changes can have a tremendous effect on cats. Cats are creatures of habit; their typical routine makes them feel secure in their forever home. When children go away for school, our cats who are intricate members of the family, have their feelings and pick up on our feelings as well. They grow accustomed to play time, but once school starts up again, their whole world changes; it is important to acknowledge their feelings and to help them cope.
Recently, my son Patrick went off to college, and this has had a profound impact on our rescue cat, Amber. Amber considers Patrick to be her best friend; when she hears his door, her ears lift in anticipation of seeing him. He recently left for college, but prior to this we put photos of the two in her room. We also left his blanket with his scent on her bed so she would feel reassurance that he would return soon. Although cats like Amber pride themselves on being independent, we often catch her outside Patrick’s door wondering where he is.
We knew the adjustment was going to be hard for her, so we made certain to prepare. My husband and I have increased our playtime with her, and we talk to her about what Patrick is doing; she’s very intuitive and I am convinced that she understands us. We call him at school, and when she hears his voice her mood changes.
We see Patrick as often as we can; Amber has lots of travel gear, and she’s gradually become more familiar with the college campus as our visits become more frequent. She is so love-able and everyone at the school was so happy to meet her.
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The most important thing about having a cat is that they are just like small children: they love, feel, get scared, get excited, and form emotional connections to their family members. They add so much to our lives that it is just as important to add to theirs. It is important to understand our kitties and give them as much attention through these life transitions. For this, it is important to have a schedule; designating times for feeding, play, and having stimulating toys to exercise their mind and body. Like people, more activity, attention, healthy eating, and love will make your cat well adjusted. Cats give us unconditional love; they speak a language that fills our hearts with joy. As a last note to make, I’d like to leave off with a quote from Charles Dickens: “What greater gift than the love of a cat.”