Minimising Stress in Cats
We know from both research and experience that stress is a significant cause of behavioural problems in cats. Unfortunately, we also know that it can be a trigger for numerous kitty diseases. As most seasoned cat owners will be aware, cats are not great at showing their emotions. This article will let you know what to look for, and how best to manage it!
Is stress bad?
Stress is a natural response in mammals – we’ve all felt it! In the short term, it can be helpful to handle a tricky situation. The “fight/flight” response is activated, hormones are released, and we return to “rest/digest” mode once the challenge is overcome. This is healthy! However, what about when the “fight/flight” mode doesn’t switch off? At this point, cats start to develop what we call “chronic stress”, and the body isn’t as good at dealing with this. At this point, cats may start to develop behavioural and/or health issues.
What does stress look like in cats?
This depends a lot on if we are dealing with normal, natural stress (“acute”) or chronic stress.
- Acute: ears back, pupils dilated, body crouched, tail swooshing, vocalisation, hissing.
- Chronic: hiding, over-grooming, urinating frequently, spraying urine, eating more than usual, becoming easily startled, reluctance to play and aggression
What causes the stress?
It can be lots of things! We’ve listed some common causes below:
- Sharing food, water and litter trays (“resources”) with other cats
- Fights with other cats (particularly in indoor/outdoor cats)
- Changes to routine. For example, being fed a new food, new pets in the house, visitors, excessive noise
- Not enough stimulation, play, or socialisation
How can I minimise stress at home?
Ensure you have adequate “resources”
Each cat should have its own food bowl and water bowl. As a rule of thumb, there should be one litter tray per cat plus one spare in the house. For example, if you have 3 cats at home, there should be at least 4 litter trays. Litter trays recommended for cats include:
1. Pidan Cat Litter Box with Lid
- The large rounded shape offers a spacious layout with easy access for cats of all ages/sizes
- The half-open structure creates a well-ventilated and lightly lit place to offer your cat privacy and a sense of security
2. Catit Large Hooded Cat Litter Box
- Provides your cat with privacy while retaining their cat litter inside the pan; perfect for multi cat households
- Large cat litter box hood lifts up for easy access for cleaning; hand wash with mild soap and water
3. Unipaws Cat Litter Box Enclosure
- Multi-Function Cat House：Beautiful night stand hides your cat’s litter box or bed. Stylish furniture look blends with your home decor.
- Easy-to-Use：Pull out, clean and slide back under the counter. Wide top space to organize your kitty gears, magazines, the tv remote, etc.
- Durable Design： Made of quality solid wood, MDF, and metal hinges. Accommodate most of the litter boxes.
Stick to a routine
This includes feeding the same food at the same time of day, using the same litter material, minimising noise and interactions with strangers, and having allocated “play-time” with your feline friend.
Create a “natural”, cat-friendly environment at home:
Cats love a grass area that imitates “vegetation”
Novel, non-threatening things: this can include rocks, plants and boxes that your cat will explore.
- Social contact with humans: while all cats love this to some extent, let the cat dictate how much he or she wants to play with you. In other words, as cute as they are, try not to force it!
- Warm, cosy bedding.
- Toys: choose toys made from fur material or feathers that are close in size to a mouse (the cat’s natural prey).
Consider Feliway ®.
This is a pheromone that can be bought either as a spray or diffuser. There is lots of research suggesting it helps reduce stress in cats! However, it should not be the only thing you rely on.
Think about having an “indoor only” cat.
While this may seem harsh or unnatural, these cats tend to be less stressed, and just as happy. Cats roaming outdoors are likely to encounter neighbouring cats, or even feral cats, as well as be exposed to unpredictable scenarios! A window to the outdoor world is often all a cat needs.
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