WHY IS MY CAT STRESSED? HOW CAN I REDUCE MY CAT'S ANXIETY?
Cats have evolved to be able to deal with acute stress common in their natural lifestyle, like encounters with other animals or hunting prey. However, they have a hard time dealing with the chronic stress they are exposed to in their domesticated life. Chronic stress can have very negative consequences in our kitties’ health: it can lead to serious behavioral issues and can trigger common diseases such as cystitis and diabetes. But, how do we know if our cat is stressed out? How can we avoid it?
In order to keep our kitty from feeling stressed, first we have to understand the most common sources of stress in cats:
Too little resources, too many cats
Our cat might feel anxious if they think they need to compete for the limited resources they have (water, food, litter boxes, beds, scratching posts...). This is very common in multi-cat households. To ensure this doesn’t happen make sure you have one litter box per cat plus one, and at least one tray in each floor your cats have access to. Remember to clean all of them frequently, as a dirty tray can be very unpleasant to your cats. Place multiple food and water bowls around the house and provide your kitties with a variety of toys and scratching surfaces (vertical and horizontal) so they don’t have to compete with their housemates.
No one likes changes
Our fluffy friends can be extremely sensitive to changes in their environment such as moving to a new house, introducing a new member of the family (be it cat, dog or baby) or even moving furniture around. Be mindful of your cat when you know some changes might be happening. Introduce your cat to any novelty gradually and in the calmest circumstances possible. Don’t force your kitty to interact with anything or anyone if they don’t want to. Let them adjust at their own pace.
Would you stop with the noise?
By now you know cats aren’t particularly fond of loud noises so, remodeling, loud parties or band practice can be very uncomfortable situations for your cat to be around. If you can, consider allotting a room or space for your cat to stay in and avoid the commotion. Choose a room as far from the noise as possible and if you need to move your kitty’s things, do it gradually and days before the stressful circumstance happens.
A bored kitty is a stressed kitty
“Living with humans has many advantages: you are fed and petted regularly, you are warm and comfy, and you are protected from the dangers of the wild. But boy, can it be boring! Our owners get to go out and have fun while we have to stay inside and do nothing all day”. Doesn’t that sound stressful to you? Cats need an outlet for their energy, their curiosity and their predatorial instincts or they can feel anxious. Make sure you spend enough time with each of your pets and be an active participant in their playtime as well as giving them an environment they can interact with - climb, bite, scratch and play with. If your cat isn’t allowed outside, place an appropriated surface near a protected window so they can observe the comings and goings of your neighbors!
It can be difficult to identify stress in our kitties as felines are experts in hiding any signs that their mental or physical health is suffering. Appearing sick or vulnerable could make them an easier target to potential predators in the wild! This is why it’s key that we keep a close eye on our pet’s behavior to identify issues as quickly as possible.
Cats can show their stress in many ways such as hiding or showing aggression, being extra-clingy, eating more or less than usual, over-grooming, peeing or pooping outside the litterbox, vomiting or diarrhea, changes in their general behavior and many more. If you notice any of these on your beloved cat, try to analyze their environment: Has there been any changes lately in your home, big or small? Have you provided a dynamic atmosphere for your cat? What can you do to make your cat more comfortable? If you notice any behavioral or physical changes in your cat, please consult your local vet to rule out any medical issues as well!