By: Dr Megan Kelly
In today’s world stress is a term we hear on a daily basis, mainly due to the hectic lives we live – rushing from meeting to meeting, constant emails, text messages, traffic and noise pollution.
My cat seems to have the life. He sleeps all day on the couch, gets fed, stroked and loved. He doesn’t have deadlines, he just does what he wants when he wants. But cats actually get stressed quite easily. And when a few things compound it can lead to illness. Your cat may appear to have an easy life so to speak but, every day they need to filter stimuli that can lead to stress. Something so simple as getting someone to paint your house may result in a stress-related illness in your cat.
Stress causes the body to react to changes that require an adjustment or a response. The body reacts to the changes in emotional, mental and physical responses.
The responses result in a number of symptoms which we realise as a stress response.
A recent study showed that healthy cats can show signs of illness when exposed to stress. Stress to a cat is when they sense or face a threat. They enter fight or flight mode. And continual fears may lead to a prolonged state of stress causing anxiety and eventually leading to long term health problems.
Common causes of cat stress are a strange animal in the cat’s territory, a new baby or new pet, loud noises, strong odours, physical trauma, fleas and parasites, neglect, being left alone and a lack of mental stimulation, also any changes in the cat’s environmental, physical and emotional well-being. It seems cats are particularly sensitive to even the smallest change.
Some signs that may indicate your cat is stressed:
Scratch marks – vertical scratches on doors and objects are a sign of stress.
Urine marking- cats use this to mark territory. Usually at entrances or in the rooms where they frequent.
Lying immobile – feet and tail tucked away hiding in a hunched position under furniture, beds or objects.
Over grooming – this can often be so severe as to cause bald patches.
Vocalisation – cats tend to vocalise when they are stressed, unless they are Siamese, in which case this is always normal.
Decrease in appetite or not eating at all.
Some cats may develop an idiopathic cystitis – a stress related bladder condition that is very uncomfortable and painful causing them to urinate often.
Animals are an important part of our lives. They give us pleasure, companionship and research even suggests that people who own cats are less stressed than those that don’t. It has been reported to reduce your risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Just stroking your cat daily can decrease your blood pressure.
So let’s look at my top ten stress relieving tips to help your cat out.
1. Provide a safe place where your cat can go. E.g window perch away from the dog. Cat flap to get in and out of the house. Look at specific cat furniture made for cats to lounge on,in comfort.
2. Offer scratch posts to relieve stress. It’s a bit like a stress ball for us.
3. Provide each cat in multi-cat homes its own litter tray and eating area. If possible provide many litter trays. Make sure you provide adequate food and water at similar times in the day. Cats like routine.
4. Consider pheromone or herbal therapy at times of anticipated stress. Many cats enjoy Catnip plants or grass for chewing. Valerian is also great for stress reduction.
5. Interact with your cat, encouraging purring by stroking and playing. Provide toys for your cat to play with and offer mental stimulation by rotating the toys so your cat doesn’t get bored.
6. Tellington touch – a hands on therapy using circular motions with your fingers. Some cats will go to sleep during the treatment.
7. Behavioural therapy – this entails conditioning techniques to help your cat break the negative association with an object or situation. This must be done in association with a behavioural specialist.
8. Minimise loud noises and music.
9. Put a bird feeder outside your cat’s favourite window so as to provide entertainment.
10. If symptoms progress and are interfering with your cat’s quality of life you may need to ask your vet for anti-anxiety medication for your cat.
In conclusion cats don’t like change. Keep any changes to a minimum and introduce any changes very slowly.
For information on our Cat Health Tonic which assists with your cat’s overall well-being including the nervous system, click here: Cat Health Tonic.