Feline stress can take its toll

Cats are extremely sensitive creatures that stress out easily. Stress can led to more serious health problems later. Stress in cats is caused by three main factors:

  1. Physical stress such as sickness or pain;
  2. Psychological stress due to boredom, fear, death of a human caretaker or loss of an
    animal companion;
  3. Environmental stress: moving to a new home, a new pet in the home, or stray cats outdoors.
stressed cat

How can you tell if your kitty might be experiencing stress? Look for these signs:

  • Changes in grooming habits: washing until bare spots appear or will no bathing at all.

  • Meowing and verbalizing excessively.

  • Pacing the floor (and possible meowing at the same time).

  • Hiding more than normal or acting withdrawn.

  • Sleeping less.

  • Playing less.

  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box.

  • Changes in eating habits or eating/chewing inedible objects.

  • Scratching at doors, windows or screens.

Feline stress is a real condition which can lead to more serious health problems. If you spot signs of stress in your cat, talk to your veterinarian about treatment options for your kitty.

What to do:

  1. Try to determine the cause of your cat's stress; when the symptoms started and why.
  2. See your veterinarian to rule out any health issues.

Eliminating feline stress:

Physical stress:

Your veterinarian will check to see if your cat’s stress might be caused by chronic pain. Common causes of feline pain are dental disease and arthritis.

If health issues are the source of your kitty’s stress, your veterinarian will recommend a treatment plan.

Psychological stress:

  1. Provide environmental enrichment such as new cat trees/furniture for vertical space.
  2. Provide interactive toys like treat balls or other problem-solving toys. Rotate toys every couple of weeks to keep it interesting.
  3. Schedule time daily for play and grooming.

Environmental stress:

  1. Turn down loud music. Cats have sensitive ears, which can be hurt by loud music/television or other sources of noise.
  2. Comfort a cat that's frightened by loud noises outside the house, such as fireworks or thunderstorms. Take it into an interior room.
  3. Don't yell at your cat. Cats can't understand the connection between yelling (or hitting) and what they might be doing wrong. This form of discipline only makes a cat anxious and afraid.
  4. Address any stray or feral cats outdoors who may be stressing out your indoor cats. There are repellents and other safe, humane products available at www.havahart.com.

Managing unavoidable stress:

  1. Make sure your cat has undisturbed hiding places for taking refuge.
  2. Provide cat condos and other feline furniture for perching, napping and watching things from above.
  3. Play with and pet your cat regularly. Set aside at least 10 to 15 minutes a day for interactive play. If you have more than one cat, play with each cat alone in addition to group playtime.
  4. Reassess the litter box situation. Experts recommend one litter box for each cat, plus one extra litter box. Clean all litter boxes and feeding areas daily.
  5. Separate cats who are not getting along. Re-introduce the cats to each other slowly over a span of weeks or months. Do the same if there is a dog in the house.

If the stress persists, talk with your veterinarian about prescribed anti-anxiety medicine or over-the-counter herbal and pheromone remedies.