This column is part of a series of reflections from Broadview staff about the coronavirus pandemic.
Cats like routines. I’ve lived with Jim for three years now, and he’s easily the most predictable part of my day. When the alarm goes off at 6 a.m., he demands breakfast. When I leave the office and get home, he’s right there at the door, ready for a brush, a play and then dinner, always in that order. He likes to cuddle up on the couch around 3 p.m., and 4 p.m. is his shouting hour (sorry, neighbours).
Now, obviously, everything about my day is different. Broadview staff have been working from home since last week, and like many others who are lucky enough to be able to, we’ve been downloading new software, turning our apartments into home offices and learning to get by without the support of our usual social contact.
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I’m a Type-A person on a normal day and, honestly, I’m struggling. If I check social media or the news more than once or twice a day, I end up sitting there, wide-eyed and frozen, heart racing, infinitely scrolling. I’m feeling dread and fear in my body in ways I never have before. My usual coping mechanisms aren’t working, or at least aren’t enough. It’s hard to convince yourself your fears aren’t real when everything happening outside your door makes them entirely justified.
Jim’s delighted. He still wants all of the same things, at the same times, but instead of having his humans’ full attention one or two days a week, he gets us all day, every day. After his morning nap, he wants affection, and he wants to be entertained. I’ve had to scoop him up and off my desk dozens of times. He reaches his paws up onto my legs and lets out a soft cry, asking me to stop typing and start playing.
He’s only happy when I shut the laptop and step away for a while, so I’ve been trying to build in cat breaks: 10 minutes of purring pets on the couch, or waving around his favourite lizard on a stick, fully present and not thinking about anything else. I’m building my own routines for the rest of the day, too, as I get used to my new life as a house cat: reading at dawn, going for a walk each day, charging my phone in the other room at night.
It’s hard, but it’s helping. I’ve never understood my cat more.
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