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What to Do When Your Cat’s Scared of Construction

Cat scared of construction
Written by Elizabeth Italia, UW-AAB
—Feline Behavior Specialist 🇺🇸

Renovations can be exciting and stressful—for you and your cat. 

It’s not only the loud noises that are upsetting, but any change to a cat’s territory increases stress. Even just the sound of a new person talking in the home is enough to increase the stress level for some cats. 

We’ll take a look at what you can do to keep your cat calm when there’s construction in or near your home.

General Guidelines

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Plan ahead
  • Select a location to keep your cat during construction
  • Keep all routines the same, like meals times, playtime, etc.
  • Calming suggestions: 
    • Put a pheromone diffuser in the room where your cat will stay
    • Try putting a calming collar on your cat a few days before construction starts
    • For extremely anxious cats, talk to your vet to see if adding a calming medication makes sense
  • Give your cat time to adjust to anything new in the home

Let's look at the most common type of construction first, minor renovations, and then we'll address differences with other types.

Minor Renovations

Consider what room or rooms you’ll keep your cat in during construction. Ideally the room should be as far away from the noise as possible. Start to prep that area with an additional litter box, food and water bowls, toys, scratchers, and beds. 

Still keep your cat’s items in their normal locations, but just add to the new setup at this point. That will make the transition less abrupt. Start playing with your cat and rewarding with treats in this space.

On the night before or the day the renovations will start, move your cat to the new area with all of their main items and close the door. It's never a bad idea to put a sign on the door, like “Keep Out” or “Cat Inside,” just to make sure any workers know. 

You may want to spend a little time showing affection or playing with your cat before anyone arrives to solidify that this setup is safe and normal. Sometimes, playing calming music or even putting on the TV can help drown out the noise in the rest of the house. 

During months of nice, warm weather, you can open windows (ensure screens are secure), which will also help with ventilation and any unpleasant smells from the construction. It’s also recommended to air out the house a bit if you’ve had any sort of painting done.

Tell all of the people working in your house that you have a cat that should stay in its designated room and alert you immediately if they see the cat outside the room.

If you’re home throughout the day, check on your cat every few hours, but be careful not to let them out of the room. It’s important for their safety and stress level that they stay separate from the construction.

You can let the cat out to explore at night, but just make sure the construction area is safe and free of nails, saws, and other sharp objects, small pieces of hardware, and anything stringy. This will prevent possible injury or accidental consumption. 

You'll also want to make sure there are no holes in the wall or open air ducts (trust me). Curiosity gets cats stuck in walls! Don't risk it.

Major Renovations 

If you’re having massive work done on your entire house or large portions, you may want to consider putting your cat with a family member, friend, or a pet sitter who can house them for a short time. 

If you are making arrangements to stay somewhere else, then research and make sure you can bring your cat to your temporary housing. Keeping your cat with you is much preferred, but it may not always be realistic.

Regardless of where you put your cat, make sure they have all of their favorite belongings with them to ease the transition.

Neighbor Renovations or Home Building

You may not know ahead of time that your neighbor is planning something until the hammers start, but if you get any advanced notice, try to add items your cat likes to a room farther from the noise. 

Start spending extra time with them in this space so when things are underway, they are used to that room. If the work is visible from a window, I recommend not blocking the window.

Allowing your cat to see where the noise is coming from will be less stressful for them. Also, sometimes cats like to watch new things outside, and it can always turn into entertainment. 

Road & Utility Construction

Sometimes you’ll get an advanced notice from road and utility companies, but many times, you won’t. For most work, your cat will likely sit at the window and watch. If the noise becomes extremely loud, your cat may look for a hiding spot—and that’s okay. Let them curl up in a closet or under the bed where they feel safe. 

Some cats may even seek higher ground, and that’s okay too. If you have room, put a cat bed on a high bookshelf so your cat can make themselves comfy. Once the noise stops or the work is done for the day, they should come out from their safety spot. If not, you may need to coax with treats, wet food, or toys and show them everything is okay.

When to Be Concerned

Being scared of something new or different is normal. However, if your cat is too scared to eat or use their litter box for a day or more, even when the construction isn’t taking place, that is cause for concern. Consult your vet and describe what’s going on. It’s possible your cat’s behavior is just stress, but it could also be something medical. It’s best to loop in your vet and decide what to do from there.

Construction Complete

Once the work is done, you can definitely exhale a sigh of relief. Leave the door open and let your cat come out when they are ready. 

If the work was going on for a long period of time or there were massive changes, your cat could be apprehensive, and that's okay. Give them time, and they will adjust.



Sources

Cats Protection, Keeping Cats Safe During Building Works.

Article by  🙋‍♀️
Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist

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