I recently had my roof replaced and found myself having to follow my own advice on how to minimize stress during loud and chaotic events. And loud it was! Wow.
Change of environment is one of the most stressful experiences a cat can endure. This is why, unless the work would somehow be hazardous to their health, I do not recommend boarding during home improvements. Cats often do not eat well while being boarded, sleep in their litter box in efforts to be saturated in their own scent for comfort, become cage aggressive and are often difficult for the staff to easily (and kindly) care for, etc. One must also consider that during the boarding stay they encounter many other cats, humans, and unfamiliar smells. They may have to endure listening to a sick or difficult to handle animal and may also have to cope with barking dogs. Instead, I recommend utilizing a variety of different tactics to make the experience as low stress as possible.
First up, white noise! Now, this can be all relative. I typically recommend using classical music and usually some that is consistent and does not peek and valley. There are actual white noise machines as well as apps on phones and iPads. In our house we did our usual thing, we rocked out! The majority of my cats are very well socialized and they are accustomed to loud music, guitar playing, visitors, even the vacuum! So I did our usual day off cleaning routine. I plugged in my iPod, hit the work out mix and cleaned the house. Washing machine and dryer going and vacuuming! We made our own personal form of white noise, the kind they are used to! You see, you need to try and make it as much like a normal day as you can.
Next on the list, appropriate confinement! We were having our roof re-done and we have a 2 story home. The upstairs is just the master bedroom, bath, and a small office. But it is the go to safe place for 2 of my cats. As much as the bedroom is their favorite room, I knew they would be better off away from the noise and a little weirded out about being forced to stay downstairs, than to listen to what sounded like the end of the world! Luckily, we have an actual door to close off the upstairs from the downstairs; this also helped with the noise considerably! The upstairs dwellers quickly settled into their usual preferred downstairs spots and everyone else couldn’t care less about being downstairs.
What’s next? Well, we were doing our usual thing right? With a few exceptions! Screen porch stayed closed due to noise and scary debris being thrown off the roof. Blinds get pulled down so the cats do not see the debris flying past the windows and 12 strange men outside making scary noises and putting up ladders etc. Put out fresh canned food breakfast before the racket starts just in case they are stressed and then won’t eat. Fresh foraging toys to occupy them, heating pads to encourage napping. Ipod thumping, I started to vacuum upstairs. I drowned out the scary banging with something that happens twice a week. And I started upstairs intentionally. My cats are cool with the vacuum, 2 even love being vacuumed! The rest don’t love it and move from room to room, but not frantically. I also gave the ones who would accept it, calming treats along with their arthritis treats that morning.
Try to make it positive! We had an interactive play session that morning followed by treats. All things we would usually do. It was truly amazing how well they did. Any one of the 7 of these cats would have been far more stressed being dropped off at a boarding facility for the day.
All of this applies even if you are having construction done in the home. Confine the cats to their favorite room and follow these same techniques. I cannot stress enough that it is by far less stressful for them to stay in one room of their home, surrounded by their smells, and their things, than to board.