Sunshine and warm temperatures often herald a summer party! We look forward to long balmy evenings and being outdoors – and it’s good for our mental welfare, too! But what about our feline friends? We know that cats are not keen on visitors, so how can we help them stay calm around guests, when we are throwing a summer party?
Although great fun for humans, holding a party inevitably brings a change in routine, different noises, different smells, sudden laughter and music – all of which can make cats feel anxious and stressed.
Curiosity may get the better of some cats and they will want to investigate what is going on in their home. But, often, they will choose to hide and keep their distance from anything or anyone that they are not familiar with. You may find them retreating to their safe place, on top of a wardrobe or under a bed.
Whether your cat is a party animal or a wallflower, it’s important to let them adjust at their own pace - their wellbeing is paramount!
Summer parties! Help your cat stay calm around guests!
Preparation is key
Some parties might be planned well ahead of time – for example, special occasions such as milestone birthdays, anniversaries or national events – but some may be more impromptu.
Whatever the event, always keep in mind how your cat will react, and make preparations to help them cope.
- Maintain their routine around the party, i.e. feeding and playtime, so that things remain normal for them.
- Make sure they can access their safe places, away from the party, in a separate room or space if they wish to do so.
- Never prevent them from hiding; this will make them stressed.
- Put a favourite blanket or toy in their safe place, so they have something familiar beside them.
- Ensure their resources (litter tray, food and water bowls) are always accessible.
- Use FELIWAY Help! Plugging this into the room that your cat will retreat to, will provide support during short-term events, such as a summer party. Install it a couple of days before the party, so that you can create a reassuring atmosphere in the run-up and during preparations. Remember – cats don’t like change, so if you are moving furniture around to make way for your guests, this could be stressful, too.
- Unless you are confident that your cat can enter and exit their preferred room safely, make sure doors and windows are closed, but the room is well ventilated; this may mean leaving the window slightly ajar, but not wide enough for your cat to escape.
- Place a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door and explain to your guests why the room is out of bounds.
- Try playing some soft music in the room. It has been found that music can have a soothing effect on cats, and it will also help to muffle the sounds of your party and keep your cat relaxed.
Give your cat the choice
Some cats will be confident enough to mingle with your guests for a while, but this should always be your cat’s choice – they should never be forced to interact, so you should make it clear to your guests how to greet your cat.
Explain to them:
- They should allow your cat to approach them in their own time, not force them to interact.
- They should not try to pick up your cat, or restrain them in any way, and they should
- How best to stroke your cat; they should hold their hand out to your cat and allow them to sniff it first; if your cat is receptive and doesn’t walk away, slowly stroke their head, under the chin and around the ears – but avoid paws, tails, and underbellies. Their whiskers are super-sensitive, too, so should be avoided if possible.
- How to spot any signs of kitty stress or anxiety (for example, their eyes will be wide with dilated pupils, their ears will be back, flat to their head, or their whiskers will be held back against their cheeks). Your cat should always be allowed to retreat to their safe space.
- Not all human food is safe for cats to eat (e.g. chocolate or nuts), so either ask guests not to feed your kitty, or provide guests with some of your cat’s favourite treats, so they can reward your cat for being sociable, safely.
- It is particularly important that if your cat has found a shady spot away from the heat of the sun, that they are left there undisturbed.
Keep in mind that children can sometimes get overexcited when they see a cute kitty, so always supervise younger guests. You could even encourage them to interact with your cat by playing with a toy, and supervise their play – a fishing rod works well as it means that both child and cat can play together without any hands-on contact.
If your cat does like to be part of the action, it is still important that they have an accessible escape if they change their mind. Always make sure they can access an exit, or hide up on a high-up perch or shelf so that they can either escape or watch from above, and feel safe!
Remember the safety aspects of your party
Often, summer parties mean BBQs, which can present some safety hazards for your cat, so extra steps should be taken to ensure your kitty is kept safe.
- Set up your barbeque in a secluded area, preferably away from high fences or trees that your cat can walk along or climb, so that your cat cannot use these to access your barbeque.
- Take steps to make sure your barbeque cannot tip over and spill the coals or ash onto the ground. If your cat walks on these, it could burn their paws.
- Keep the lid of the BBQ closed when not in use, especially when you have finished cooking. Coals can stay warm for a long period of time (even after the party has finished) and can be dangerous.
- Never dispose of coals onto the ground to cool them, but instead put them into cold water. Cats, and children, could walk across them and burn their feet/paws.
- Cats are inquisitive creatures, so if they show signs of interest in the BBQ, distract them to move away from the danger.
- Similarly, if you spot them investigating party food or drinks, remove these before your cat can consume them. If you suspect your cat may have ingested something they shouldn’t have (alcohol, nuts, grapes, chocolate etc.), contact your vet straight away as these can be toxic for cats.
- On hot sunny days, make sure there is shade for your cat and that there is plenty of water available for them. Remember that, although cats are not known to be great fans of water, there are some exceptions – and they do need access to fresh water, always! A cat water fountain strategically placed in a shady part of the garden will help to entertain your cat, and keep them cool and hydrated.
Whether your cat likes to be a part of the party, or would prefer to escape it, these tips should ensure you, your cat and your guests have a safe and happy summer event!