Many things can cause stress in our feline friends. While short term stress is often unavoidable, when a pet is paced into extremely high or ongoing stressful situations, the levels of anxiety can result in some unwanted behavioural changes. Stress can also trigger the onset of serious health problems.
So, what typically causes stress in our cats, how does it show up and what can you do to help your moggy have a meditative life?
Causes of Stress
There are many causes of stress here’s a list of the common ones in cats
1. Overcrowding / bullying – when a home or neighbourhood has a lot of cats in it then competition and personalities can start to clash. Even if there is no overt fighting between cats, just the presence of another feline can be enough to trigger high anxiety.
2. Visits to the vet or cattery and return from hospitalisation – it goes without saying that cats do struggle when they are taken from their home.
3. Moving home – this one stresses everyone out! And your cat is no different. The change of scene can be good for you, but the loss of the familiar environment is highly distressing for your cat.
4. Rearrangement of furniture – yes, unbelievably, even something as benign as moving your furniture, or replacing a worn out old scratching post can be traumatic to a cat.
5. New babies in the home – the arrival of a baby is joyous for parents (mostly) but it can be terrifying and isolating for cats. Draconian changes to their routine, less attention from their owners and the noise of a baby are all changes that will potentially upset your cat. (My own cat went bald from stress when my toddler began to walk!)
6. Fireworks – unsurprisingly the pyrotechnics we all love, cause most animals to quake in fear.
Reactions to Stress
So how does stress show up in our cat’s day to day? The answer may surprise you. Some of the impacts of stress are psychological and your cat cannot overtly tell you if it is suffering, but the effects show up as physical disease. Some of the other effects are external and are in fact your cat’s attempt at a response to the stress. Otherwise known as a coping mechanism.
1. Cystitis (FLUTD) – When cats get stressed, one of the most common ways it shows up is that they develop cystitis and start to pee more often and pee in weird places. Many cats will pee in the bath and often the urine has spots of blood in it.
2. Urine marking – this behaviour is different to cystitis, instead of spotting small amounts of urine, stressed cats may perform a feline equivalent of a ‘dirty protest’ and spray urine in odd places. My dad’s cat once hilariously pee’d in my suitcase on my gym clothing due to the stress of visitors in his domain. Sadly, I did not realise this until I was 10 minutes into a run on the treadmill and had emptied the gym, such was the terrible whiff.
3. Vertical scratching/property damage – all cats like to scratch, but some take it to a new level of destructiveness. If this is your cat, then it’s possible there’s a stress issue.
4. Loss of appetite and hiding – hardly specific to stress, none-the-less, a stressed cat will tend to find a safe spot to shelter and may not come out until it perceives the coast is clear.
So what can we do to minimise the issue? Thankfully there are some easy ways to help your stressed kitty out.
1. Environmental correction - Avoid over-crowding plus providing a secure area for feeding, toilet and resting. Ideally this means putting in extra litter trays, having food bowls and water bowls in multiple locations or at least hidden away from high traffic parts of the home.
2. Behavioural modification - allow the cats to express the natural predatory behaviour, using climbing and scratch posts, and toys that can be chased and caught.
3. Pheromone treatment - Feliway® - use of a synthetic facial pheromone that reassures and pacifies cats. It comes as a plug in diffuser and can really help your cats to settle down.
4. Pet medicines – prescription medication is needed to settled stress-based cystitis down and can be used in extreme cases to manage stress.
So, if you think your moggie may be a stressed, we hope that you know understand a little more about why, and how your vet can help settle things back down so everyone gets to live and happy healthy life.
If you have any concerns about your pet, you can contact us today on 020 8459 4729.