Create A Chill Out Zone
Just as teens retreat to their bedrooms, and adults to their homes, cats need a place they know is theirs, where they are safe, calm and away from the daily feline grind.
Set aside a corner in your home and place a few of your cats favourite toys, blankets and some climbing equipment. Make sure this area is away from anything too loud for the cat, such as the TV, stereo, fridge or washing machine. Remember, nobody likes to feel trapped, especially cats, so make sure they can access this area whenever they need to.
Signs Your Cat Is Stressed
The anxiety and fear associated with stress affects your cat similar to the way it affects people, though cats tend to hide it well. Even worse, chronic stress “suppresses the immune response, causing a broad range of illnesses,” says Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist.
Here are five common signs of stress in cats to help you identify it and seek help quickly.
Why Are Some Cats More Prone To Developing Chronic Stress Than Others
The ability of the individual to cope with challenges depends on both genetic and environmental factors. The development of the physiological systems involved in the stress response starts before a kitten is even born and if the mother is stressed during pregnancy or receives poor nutrition then her litter may be more prone to developing stress, and the non-adaptive coping strategies that form the basis of many of the common behaviour problems.
A lack of early socialization and opportunities to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a typical domestic home environment may also result in life being very challenging later on.
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Because Cats Have Such Sensitive Hearing And Skin Excessive Noise And Touching Can Cause A Great Deal Of Stress
Take a soft cotton cloth and rub your cat gently around the cheeks and head to collect the scent from glands around her face. Exercise helps keep cats happy, it burns off unneeded energy, and it can help relieve anxiety. This will make it easier for your cat to cope with the changes a new cat or family member cause
Understanding Your Cats Behavior
You probably already know that your cat is most comfortable with the familiar, and needs time to adjust to things, people, or places that are unfamiliar. When you bring your cat to visit the veterinarian, it is often difficult for her because the carrier, car, and the veterinary hospital are usually unfamiliar places and experiences.
Here are a few tips from our feline veterinarians:
Respect your cats need for time to become familiar with new situations, people, and places. Leave the cat carrier out and open in your home so your cat can become familiar with it. Consider taking your cat on short trips in the car so she can become familiar with it and hopefully learn that a car visit does not mean you are taking her to the veterinarians office. Give your cat rewards to encourage positive behavior. For example, if your cat is sitting calmly in or near a carrier, give her a treat.
Your cat perceives the world through her senses. Weve broken down ways to help keep your cat calm corresponding to the way your cat experiences her environment.
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Recognising Stress In Cats
It can be worrying if your cat’s behaviour changes, especially if you don’t know why. Behavioural changes in cats can often be down to stress, so it’s important to be able to spot the signs as soon as possible, even when they’re subtle.
Stress can affect your cats quality of life. It may make medical issues worse and it can also cause medical problems, like stress cystitis, which is a painful and potentially dangerous problem for cats. So its important to be able to notice when your cat is showing signs of stress so you can help them.
If your cat has a phobia or something upsets them, you may see obvious signs that theyre feeling stressed. But if your cats stress has built up slowly over time, it can be harder to realise, especially if youre not sure what to look out for.
What Are Some Of The Common Causes Of Anxiety In Cats
A number of different things can trigger anxiety:
Changes in your cats environment
Illness or physical pain
Improper socialization during kittenhood
Its important to determine the precise cause of your cats anxiety, so you can remove the stressor from their environment or mitigate its effects as much as possible. Think back to any recent changes that have occurred in your home that may be to blame. You should also pay close attention to your cats behavior throughout the day and note when and where they display the most symptoms of anxiety. Taking video footage of their behaviors and keeping a log of their activities may help you and your veterinarian to pinpoint the cause.
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Cat Calming Products To Help Ease Cat Anxiety
Reviewed for accuracy on August 29, 2018 by Katie Grzyb, DVM
Humans are not the only ones that deal with anxiety issues cats can suffer from anxiety, too. As a pet owner, keeping your cats anxiety under control is important for establishing and maintaining a positive pet and human relationship.
There are many reasons a cat may experience anxiety, but there are also many calming products that pet owners can try to help manage their cats anxiety.
Problems And Proofing Behaviors
Cats may not immediately adjust to any changes you make, so be patient. If you have eliminated potential health concerns, do your best to make your cat’s environment as calm and inviting as possible. If one thing doesn’t seem to be working, add another one of the suggestions and see how the cat reacts to the combination.
At the same time, remember that change can stress a cat. Try not to make too many changes all at once. Likewise, if your household has experienced a change recentlymoving to a new home, a new or loss of a family member, or even rearranging the furnituredo your best to provide your cat with familiar things. A favorite toy or old scratching post can bring a good deal of comfort to your cat.
While waiting for your cat to come around, try to maintain a calm, stress-free home as much as possible. You don’t need to walk on eggshells for fear of disturbing the cat, however, and they should get used to your “normal” home. With time, many anxious cats settle in and find comfort.
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Moving With Outdoor Cats
If your cats are mostly outdoor kitties, you need to keep a few additional tips in mind for the big move. Make sure you have up-to-date vaccination tags and have registered their microchips online. Help your outdoor cats get used to a car-safe carrier by leaving it outside for a few days with your cat’s favorite treats, blankets, or toys inside.
When you get to your new destination, keep your cat indoors for a few days or up to several weeks. She’ll be very nervous by all the new sights and sounds, and you don’t want her getting scared and running away.
Keep a comfy bed like the Thermo Outdoor Kitty House in your garage or other indoor room with your cat. You’ll ultimately move your kitty and the house outside at the same time. Stay outside with your cat at first and bring her back in every night.2 Helping your outdoor kitty adjust to a move can be a long process, but it’s worth the time to help her stay safe.
How To Help A Stressed Cat
The sooner you can figure out the source of your cats stress, the easier its going to be to help her out.
However, since most of us arent cat psychologists, that might not always be feasible, Dr. Bonk said. With that mind, you can check to be sure your cats needs are met.
Ask yourself some of these questions:
- Does my cat have enough food and water?
- Does my cat have a clean litter box?
- Does my cat have a safe place to use the bathroom?
- Does my cat have to compete with other cats?
Depending on whats causing stress for your cat, there are a few changes you can make that should address the root of her issues.
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Protect Your Cat From Possible Intruders
Cats can be very territorial of their space and rarely share well with others. So if another cat or pet is also part of your household, this could be very stressful. You can try feeding them separately until they get used to one another.
If its a stray cat that comes to steal your cats food, you can ensure that you cover all areas where they can get inside your house.
Alternatively, you can have a cat flap that is only activated by a microchip in your cats neck.
Play Nicely And Manage Interactions
Give your visitors your cat’s favorite toy so they can interact in a fun way. Teach children to be gentle while petting, and not to bother your cat while she’s sleeping or eating.
You can minimize the stress of a visiting animal by keeping the two pets in separate parts of the house and not allowing the visiting pet to have access to your cat’s litter box and food and water bowls.
If you’re introducing a new cat or dog that will be living in your home, introduce them slowly. Start by keeping them in separate rooms and feeding them on either side of a closed door.
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Play With Your Cat Regularly
Keep your cats mind stimulated and help reduce stress with exercise and interactive games. There are many types of toys available, so experiment and find out what type of toy your cat likes best. Some cats prefer toys with feathers that mimic a bird, while others prefer those that more closely resemble a mouse or small rodent. Laser pointers can be entertaining for some cats as well.
Spend at least 20-30 minutes a couple of times a day actively engaging your cat in play. Your cat will appreciate the time with you, get more exercise , and be less anxious.
How To Reduce Stress For Cats
One of the ways to help your cat lower the levels of stress is by providing it with scratching opportunities.
There are a couple of main points when it comes to reducing stress in cats:
- Establish a routine and stick to it. Avoid sudden changes in your cats life, instead, make changes gradually.
- Remove or reduce stressors as possible.
- Provide environmental enrichment through increased climbing and vertical space opportunities, food puzzles, scratching opportunities, and daily play sessions.
- Maintain daily excellent litterbox hygiene, use basic boxes, get rid of liners and hoods and dont use harsh chemicals that irritate your cats boopable snoot.
- Provide resources for every cat . Experts recommend having one more litterbox than the number of cats.
- Avoid using heavy scents in the home
- Make sure you have adequate space for the number of cats you have: ASPCA recommends 18 square feet per cat.
- Provide adequate socialization to kittens: San Diego Humane has a great checklist on how to do this.
- Utilize calming aids as necessary. This includings pheromone sprays, thundershirt, anxiety medication, calming treats, Assisi loop, etc.
- Partner with your veterinarian to make sure your cat is in good health and free of pain.
- Visit Fear Free Happy Homes for tips on how to make veterinary visits less stressful, and more tips on reducing fear and anxiety in cats.
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Cat Calming Pheromone Diffusers
If you like the idea of treating your cats anxiety with pheromones, but you know that wearing anything would stress your cat out, try pheromone diffusers for cats. Cat calming diffusers like the Feliway plug-in diffuser can help with general anxiety in cats by emitting a synthetic version of the feline facial pheromones.
Cat calming diffusers like the Feliway MultiCat diffuser plug-ins are specifically made to help calm multi-cat households and promote harmony amongst cats. These diffusers use a synthetic version of the pheromone given off by mother cats while nursing kittens.
Krieger says that she strongly prefers diffusers to collars. If a cat doesnt like a collar, she cant get away from it. If she doesnt like the pheromones from a diffuser, she can walk into another room. So, if theyre helpful, you get the benefits without causing any undue stress, and if theyre not, you dont cause any harm. she explains.
Review Your Cats Environment
Just as humans need peace and calm, when they are stressed, so do cats. Turn the television down and make sure that any other loud noise, especially shouting or screaming from young children, is kept to a minimum. Let your cat rest in a quiet location and make it as comfortable as possible for him.
As an absolute bare minimum, you should give your cat his own condo, so that he can hide away, whenever he wants to. Also, provide him with a suitable scratching post. In the UK, it is illegal to declaw your cat. Scratching is a means of relieving stress. Ensure your cat scratching post is stable and tall enough for your cat when fully stretched out. Many people make the mistake of buying cat posts that are actually too small for fully grown cats.
Also ensure that your has easy access to food, water and a litter tray. Cats tend not to like sharing litter trays, so make sure that you have enough to accommodate all of them.
It is not normally advisable to radically change your cat’s diet. However, when a cat is stressed, his food may be a little too rich for him to digest properly. Switching to a bland diet, for a short period of time, may help and there are several specialist dry cat foods which are specifically formulated for sensitive stomachs.
Addiionally, remember that if your cat does engage in inappropriate behaviour, do not shout or hit him. He cant help it and disciplining a cat like this will only serve to increase the intensity of his anxiety.
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Stick To A Routineand Clean The Litter Box More Often
An upheaval in your routine can result in separation anxiety in your cat. Give your cat food and water at the same time every day, and clean the litter box daily. Thats right, a common source of cat anxiety is a dirty litter box! Cats are such fastidious creatures that they dont want to step into a dirty litter box too oftenleading to urinating and defecating outside of the litter box, or potentially life-threatening lower urinary diseases. Make sure you scoop daily and follow the n+1 rule: If you have 1 cat, you need n+1 litter boxes . If you have 3 cats, you need 3+1 litter boxes . Or, skip the scooping altogether and get an automatic, self-cleaning Litter-Robot, which always provides a clean bed of littergreat for territorial cats!
Of course, we cant always avoid changes in schedule, so we recommend trying to ease your cat into a new routine whenever possible.
What Are The Signs Of Stress In Cats
If your cat is feeling stressed, their behaviour may change. Some of these changes can happen suddenly and be very obvious, but others can develop gradually or be harder to spot.
Some signs your cat might be feeling stressed include:
- Hiding or staying out of the way all the time
- Avoiding certain places, other pets or people
- Poor coat quality
- Body language that shows they are worried
- Peeing in the wrong place, urine spraying or marking, blood in the urine
- Meowing or yowling more than normal
- Sudden changes in behaviour
- Aggression towards other pets or people
Many of these signs can be caused by medical problems as well as stress. So if you’re worried about your cat or they show a sudden change in behaviour, always contact your vet for advice first.
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Establish A Scratching Area
Scratching surfaces are important for your cats health and well-being. Deny your cat a scratching post or scratching area and you deny your cat the ability to mark his territory as he prefers. This, in turn, may result in stress and even anxiety. Your cat may even choose his own scratching area like your furniture or carpeting which will annoy you and create a more stressful environment for your cat.
Provide your cat with both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces. Make sure there is at least one scratching post/surface for each cat in your home. Additional scratching surfaces cannot do any harm and may be appreciated.
Provide Playtime And Enrichment
Start a daily routine of exercise and play with your cat. Even 15 minutes a day with a laser pointer or wand toy will help your cat get the exercise he needs while reducing his stress. Similar to creating a safe space, youll want to make sure your cat has enough environmental enrichment while youre away to stay distracted from ensuing anxieties. Keep him stimulated with catnip toys, food puzzles, cat grass, and window-watching spots.
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