Have you ever come home and slammed the door, or shouted a few choice words because you’ve had a rubbish day and you just need to let off steam?
Most of us have. Now the impact of stress in humans is recognised as a significant cause of health problems, but what about our pets? Unlike us humans, Tabby the cat can’t vent her feelings by shouting at you or calling her friends. It’s up to us as animal lovers and pet owners to learn how to spot the signs of stress in our pets and then take action.
Potential Causes Of Stress
Lack of socialisation. Puppies and kittens need to learn socialisation - how to interact with people and other animals. They also need to learn what is acceptable behaviour within their environment. In the first few weeks with a new pet, if a pet isn’t exposed to other animals and people within a home setting, chances are it may be more susceptible to stress.
Change can be a huge cause of stress for everyone involved, and pets are no exception. If you are having building work done, or have a new baby in the house, it’s a big change and your pet might struggle initially. If you start a new job, and your daily routine changes, your pet might take time to adjust to it - as will you!
Grief can be an all consuming emotion. If your pet has lost a companion (human or animal) they will grieve, as we do. It takes time to heal and recover. It is perfectly normal for behaviour to be different throughout the grieving process.
Sensitivity: our animal friends can be sensitive. Sensitive to sounds, noises and emotions. The noise of a family argument could be upsetting from your pets perspective. Anyone have a pet that’s terrified of fireworks, thunder, or the noise of the vacuum?! It’s about trying to remove these stress trigger points, modify or control them.
What Does A Stressed Pet Look Like?
Animals are not all that different from humans under pressure. Your pet’s behaviour changing could be an indicator that they are feeling stressed. Warning signs can include depression, hostility, anxiety, irritability and fear. Their general health might deteriorate due to the immune system’s reduced ability to fight infections.
Stress behaviours in cats can include extra time sleeping, attention seeking behaviour or total lack of interaction with you, excessive licking, unexplained vomiting, spraying urine and going to the loo in places that are not the litter tray.
Stress behaviours in dogs can include refusing to eat, alterations in sleep pattern, excessive panting, lack of interest in the environment or over reacting, hiding and cowering.
What Can I Do About It?
The good news is that you can help a stressed out furry friend. Firstly, see if you can work out what is causing your pet to feel stressed and then address the problem.
Build trust on your animals terms - let them interact with you and other household member when they feel ready to.
Try and keep a calm atmosphere within your home, and if possible make sure there’s outside space (or maybe a climbing tree for indoor cats!) for your pet to let off steam.
Help your pet gain in confidence by promoting independence. Toys that can be played with independently, such as a kong, can be helpful to encourage pets to settle down whilst having something to engage with.
And finally, show your love to them! Reassure them by making time to play with them and fuss them. Any stress should be melting away!
It’s important to say that a lot of the stress occurring in pets is only minor. Changes may also be the result of medical problems.
If you have any concerns, make an appointment to pop in and see us.