Stress in cats: causes, symptoms and remedies

Even the cat is stressed out! The things that unsettle our beloved pets are not work issues, love woes or money problems like ours rather factors affecting their normal daily routines. An issue already well known to veterinary behaviourists ­– and confirmed by a new study from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, which was published in the ‘Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery’ – cats affected by stress are more prone to disease.

 

How to recognise stress in cats

What exactly is stress in cats? Dr Maria Grazia Calore, veterinary doctor and expert in pet behaviour, provides us with a clear definition: “The term stress means exposure to unpleasant conditions with negative effects, it is usually an experience with limited duration. The concept of animal welfare, however, is a wider issue because it takes into account all the needs of the species and usually takes the behaviours expressed by the animal into account.”

We have already talked in previous blogs about potential stressors for cats such as moving house or taking your cat on holiday another cause of stress for our felines can be the arrival of a new addition to the family such as another cat, dog or baby.

To recognise the signs of stress in our cats, we need to look for changes in their behaviour such as a new inclination to isolate themselves, disinterest, a tendency to mess out of the litter tray, aggressiveness, fear of contact, eating too much or too little and excess or lack of personal hygiene. Doctor Calore explains further: “The normal reaction to stress consists of three behaviours: I immobilise myself, I fight, I escape. So, if we notice any of these reactions we should understand what’s wrong with our animal.”

 

Territory, games and interactions: solutions to lessen the stress

When we understand the cause of the stress our cat is experiencing, we can work to remedy the situation.

Pay particular attention to:

The environment: cats should have their own areas to be alone, play and, if possible, use the litter tray. Attention should also be paid to two important elements connected to their territories – marking out their territory with both scratches and pheromones. To address these territorial elements, we should provide them with a cat scratching post and avoid cleaning areas where they mark, such as doorjambs and table legs, with aggressive detergents.

Interactions with human beings: we should avoid forcibly picking up our kitty and educate the kids to respect our cat when it is having a rest. We should also stimulate our feline by involving him or her in our activities, according to their body clocks, and avoid ‘neglecting’ them if we bring a new pet or baby in to the home.

Finally, we should always use a soft approach in any situation that might unsettle our cat and reward them when they are calm.