How can we help our cats survive a construction project on our house?
August 8, 2014 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Our contractor is about to begin building an addition on our house. (Yay!) However, we have two very sensitive indoors-only cats who get stressed out easily, and we're told the noise is going to be intense for about a month, and especially during the demolition phase. (Boo!) I welcome any and all ideas for reducing our cats' (and our own) stress for the duration of this long project, short of boarding them elsewhere. Thanks!

Per the responses given to a previous ask on a similar subject (, we've got two Feliway diffusers plugged in at opposite ends of the house, have cleared some comfy hiding places under the bed, and will run a white-noise machine once building starts, but if there's something more we can do to make the whole process more bearable for our cats (and thus for us, their anxious owners), I would love to hear about it. (One bit of good news: almost all of the work will be happening behind a closed door, so that will help minimize the amount of disruption.) Any advice to make things less stressful?
posted by Janey Complainy to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Can you confine them in one part of the house (like the master suite)? You don't want scared kitties running out the door which the workers left open, or finding a hidey-hole and getting trapped. Cats are the experts at sneaking out open doors and/or getting themselves wedged into very small, inaccessible spaces.

If they are going to be subjected to Noisy Humans Doing Scary Things, it's safest to confine them with food, water, litter, toys, and safe places to retreat (like a box or kitty condo). You will want to have a Feliway diffuser plugged into the room(s) where you keep the cats.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:48 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know you don't want to board them elsewhere, but surely you must have a cat-loving friend or relative who can take them for a time. I say this only because construction work on the outside of my little house so stressed out one of my sensitive cats that it provoked a UTI (vet suggested it might be due to the cat avoiding the litter box due to stress) that led to an emergency vet situation. When it didn't clear up and instead got worse, my poor kitty had to have a perineal urethrostomy, which included surgically removing his penis and a month long convalescence in a large dog crate. The whole experience was awful for everyone involved and it ended up costing close to $6K in vet care.

If it's not at all possible to do that, you might check with your vet for some suggestions and/or medications like valium (I've had to give it to a stressed out cat who wouldn't stop licking until he bled). Of course, your kitties may be more resilient than mine have been, but you never know until you have to go through something like this.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 1:24 PM on August 8, 2014

I have a sensitive cat who is also a rescue and terrified of people, and I'm having the whole inside of my house painted right now.

I'm typing this from an extended stay hotel that allows pets. Extended stays have monthly rates that are pretty reasonable. They charged an extra $150 for my cat.

It took her about half a day to adjust to the new location. It's also nice for me to get away from the paint smells and noises.

If it's in your budget, you should definitely consider it.
posted by 1066 at 4:05 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thinking way ahead, I highly recommend looking for a cat-only boarding place to drop your kitties off if it's too stressful for them in the house during construction. We take our 3 kits to a boarding place when we go on vacation and it is GREAT - there are large "condos" where the cats can stay if they need solitude, there's tons of cat trees and toys and heating pads to lay on and even a totally fenced-in outdoor area where they can sunbathe year round. They are always super chatty and affectionate and social when we bring them home after a visit, which I attribute to the positive environment of the cat boarder. I only mention this because I was SUPER skeptical about using a boarding facility for my cats as I've always heard cats don't like unfamiliar places, but there are some great ones out there.

And, can't tell from your posting history but it looks like you may be in/near Seattle? If so, memail me and I'll tell you where our kitties go!
posted by joan_holloway at 4:07 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

We had some work done on our basement a couple of years ago, and we locked our two cats in the master suite with litter boxes, food, toys, etc. It was still a trial for them - one peed all over the carpet, while the other one had diarrhea under the chest of drawers. Looking back now, I would seriously consider an option like 1066, rather than trying to keep them in the house.
posted by LN at 4:22 PM on August 8, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far, everyone. Here's a follow-up question: has anyone ever tried using kitty prozac to help their cats in a situation like this?
posted by Janey Complainy at 4:31 PM on August 8, 2014

Oh, hi. I am having this happen right now. I opted to stay in a hotel. I got my company's room rate at a place that takes pets (La Quinta), and I'm just chilling here for a while. She didn't much like the house.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:46 PM on August 8, 2014

La Quinta doesn't charge extra. If you have a neighborhood listserv, ask if anyone on there has a company code. I get $59/night, but the weekly rate is $64/night. So I was already getting a better rate. Worth trying!
posted by Stewriffic at 4:48 PM on August 8, 2014

We use Prozac for one cat. We use it because he was territorial of the litter room and it was stressful for the other cat. Before Prozac he was afraid of everything. Not just noise or people, but if I knocked a pen off a table he was scared. Since Prozac the territorial fighting stopped and he isn't afraid any more. We had 3 guys in our home to replace a dishwasher with all the sound that comes along with that (power tools included) and he sat on the kitchen floor and just watched them calm as can be. This isn't the same situation but (no long term construction here) but it seems we saw the effect you are hoping for.

For an extended thing like construction I would think getting them away to a friend's or staying in a hotel would be better.

The act of giving the pills will be stressful for them until you are good at it.
posted by ridogi at 7:23 PM on August 8, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone. You know, my husband and I reviewed these comments and thought about what we knew about our cats' personalities (sheltered, sensitive, indoors-only, alarmed by other animals, and completely freaked out by their carriers and travel), and we opted to keep them at home. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they're adapting. The first day, they spent all morning under the bed in their ultra-secret hidey spots, but by afternoon, they were up on top of the bed and comfortably hanging out. (As for me, I would very much like to be in a hotel on a quiet island somewhere, but that's another story.) They still look a little worried when I enter the room after an absence of a few hours, but it's easy to reassure them. I think this was the right decision for us and our cats, but had they been of a different temperament, I could see the wisdom of an extended hotel stay.

Thanks again! You were all very helpful.
posted by Janey Complainy at 6:26 PM on August 12, 2014

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