If you have a cat, it’s likely that you know how easily felines are stressed. As creatures of habit, cats generally do not cope well with unfamiliar situations like visitors, new children, moving homes or even the addition of new furniture. When cats are stressed, it can lead to everything from vomiting to destructive behavior such as urine marking, clawing and fighting with other household cats and pets. Fortunately, new research shows that it is possible to manage stress in cats.
Why Cats Get Stressed
In order to manage stress, it is important to understand why stress happens. Generally, stress is the result of a new stimulus entering the cat’s environment. Cats thrive in familiar settings and may not adapt well to new stimuli. Cats may become stressed because of physical, social or emotional interactions with other cats or humans.
Additionally, cats can become stressed when their environment puts constraints on their urge to be a cat by forbidding them from hunting, roaming, climbing or scratching. This is common in indoor cats. Cats may also become stressed due to a new baby or constant company in the home.
Mitigating Feline Stressors
New data published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery suggests that, for all of the reasons cats become stressed, there are ways to manage the stressors. The School of Veterinary Science at the Autonomous University of Barcelona conducted the study in June of 2015. The study shows that stress can often be treated in these three ways:
Creating a Cat-Like Environment: As we mentioned previously, cats get stressed if their environment does not allow them truly to “be cats.” That said, it is important to provide cats with acceptable areas to climb, scratch and hunt. If you have an indoor cat, you can do this by purchasing cat-proof pet furniture such as cat trees and scratching posts. If you have an outdoor cat, most of these needs will be met by ample time outside. For indoor cats, pet parents can provide safe outdoor time by building an escape-proof outdoor cat area on a deck or in the yard. This allows the cat to be outside without the dangers associated with escape.
Reducing Cat-On-Cat Conflict: Inter-cat conflict is a great source of stress and can be mitigated by identifying the root of the conflict and treating it at the source. Cats may have conflict with one another over resources (food, litter boxes, beds, etc.) or because of differing personalities. Whatever the reason, locate a certified pet behaviorist to help you identify and resolve the issues.
Offering the Cat “Safe Areas”: Cats need a safe place to decompress and escape. By offering them these things, pet parents can reduce feline stress. Ensure that the cat has a quiet, dark space, such as the back of a closet or a top shelf, where she can escape excess stimuli and ensure that the cat always has access to it. Providing your cat with a safe zone like this can help greatly reduce stress.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.
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