Is your cat acting differently? Perhaps they appear more anxious than usual, or their behaviour just seems "off", whatever the symptoms, pet parents know when there is something amiss with their furry friend...
In this instalment of The Cat Guide our experts share some of the stress signals to look out for in your cat.
“Cats are naturally solitary animals, so do need their own space. During lockdown, many cats have developed symptoms of stress and needed treatment as a result of this sudden and sustained change in routine. As much as cats love their pet parents, they do need alone time, so ensure that if you work from home, some time is spent apart and your feline friends do have their own space to remain both healthy and happy until things return to normal.”
Why could my cat be stressed?
Cats can be stressed by many factors; a change in the dynamics of your home, such as the arrival of a new addition (including humans), moving home, or even something as trivial as a new piece of furniture.
Older pets can be more vulnerable to the effects of stress, as they are less tolerant of changes in the home environment.
With lockdown in the UK, and many more people staying at home or working from home, our cats’ routines have had to change somewhat, and this can affect their mental health.
Many cats (particularly those who are recent additions) can feel separation anxiety when faced with time alone in the house after a long time of having their pet parents around. If they haven’t been taught how to cope on their own, your absence can be really stressful to your cat.
Signs of a Stressed Cat
It can be easy to miss the smaller signals of a stressed out cat, and people sometimes only become away when aggressive behaviour, marking or hiding starts to show.
Keeping an eye out for the early signs of anxiety can prevent these symptoms from appearing, particularly when reported to your vet or a pet behaviourist.
Here are some of the ways you can tell if a cat is stressed:
- Appetite Loss
If your cat suddenly goes off their food, this could be a sign of cat depression or anxiety.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that many cats are fussy eaters, and if this is the case, then trying them with their favourite food can give you an idea of whether something else is amiss.
- Running and Hiding Away
This is instinctive in cats, and can be a sign that your cat isn’t happy.
If your cat heads for their hiding space (you should ideally provide a few around your home) then it is best to leave them be, and not to try to coax them out until they are ready.
- Spraying or Pooping in Strange Places
This is a clear signal from your cat that something is stressing them out. Both male and female cats spray, and is a way of marking their territory.
Deliberate defecation in strange places such as doorways and places of high traffic is known as ‘middening’ and is triggered by stress and feelings of insecurity.
If your cat is peeing more often, but not producing a large amount of urine, or having trouble urinating, they may be suffering from cystitis.
Feline cystitis can happen when stress causes a cat’s bladder to become inflamed.
- Over Grooming
Another symptom of stress is over grooming, particularly in the tummy and thigh area.
Cats calm themselves by grooming themselves, this is known as displacement behaviour, but if your cat is doing it too much, there may be an underlying cause.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, speak to your vet or an animal behaviourist to get to the bottom of what is stressing your cat.
How to help a stressed cat
The quicker you pick up on the signs of stress from your cat, the greater your chances of easing it will be.
Cats can handle a certain amount of stressors, but a usual stress reaction shouldn’t last longer than a short while, and should end when the trigger is removed.
If this isn’t the case, and your cat remains stressed, or it happens more often, your cat’s anxiety could become a bigger psychological problem, such as a phobia.
In order to best figure out when your cat is stressed, it is important to be able to recognise when your cat is relaxed and happy, so you can determine if they aren’t feeling themselves.
Tips for stressed cats
If the problem at the root of your cat’s stress cannot be changed, here are a few suggestions to help your cat to adjust;
- Keep Calm - your cat can pick up on your mood, voice and body language, so lead by example and try to reduce your own stress.
- Provide Hiding Spaces - Cats need a space to call their own, away from human hands, somewhere high up and inaccessible or under the bed is a good place to start.
- Don’t Go Changing - Cat’s are scent-oriented, so keep the “smell-scape” of your home the same, a new carpet or piece of furniture can bring with it a whole host of new smells that can stress out your cat.
- Get Pheromonal - Using a pheromone spray or plug-in diffuser can fill your home with pheromones to help keep your cat calm, when in doubt, talk to your vet.
- Be Patient - As with any stressed out individual, patience is key. Provide plenty of time for your cat to come round, and don’t expect results overnight.
- Ask your vet about supplements - There are a few specially formulated nutritional supplements that provide a natural stress relief. While these do not necessarily work for every cat, your vet will be able to suggest one that is right for your cat.
A known stress-inducing factor for cats is toilet time, so that’s why we’ve developed a 100% natural litter that is soft on paws and free from nasty chemicals or fragrances that might upset your cat.
What could be better for stress than nature!
04/03/2021 by NatuTeam