You may think that stress isn’t an issue for our cats. After all, they have a pretty comfortable lifestyle with a warm bed and regular meals – there’s not much to be stressed about. However, a recent study by veterinarians from a Spanish university showed that stress can be a real issue in domestic cats, and the consequences can be severe.
Apart from the effect on the kitty’s quality of life, stress is usually manifested as behavioral changes, and these can be challenging for their pet parent to manage. The result is the cat is either given up to rescue or euthanized. This means that it is important for pet parents to recognize when their feline companion is stressed and deal with it quickly.
Causes of Stress
Things that cause stress to cats may not be obvious to us. The stray tomcat that struts past your window can definitely cause anxiety. A new arrival in the household, such as a visiting guest or new baby, will also upset their status quo. Changes in their daily routine or conflicts with other household pets can also be added to the list of stressors. Even something as simple as boredom can cause distress to an intelligent creature like your family feline.
Common Symptoms of Stress in Cats
What symptoms can you expect to see if your kitty is feeling out of sorts and anxious about their environment? A common symptom is over-grooming, where cats lick themselves constantly, resulting in bald spots on their skin. They can become aggressive to other pets and human members of the family and may hide away and avoid interaction.
The most concerning consequence of chronic stress is feline interstitial cystitis (FIC). This is a recurring bladder condition that is characterised by bloody urine, straining to urinate and passing urine in inappropriate places. In most cases of FIC, no underlying cause can be found and it appears to be closely associated with environmental stress. It is easy to see how the effects of stress on a kitty can be distressing to their pet parent.
How to Manage Stress
When it comes to managing stress in your feline family member, there are a number of things you can do. The easiest is to tackle the obvious stressors. Block your kitty’s view of outside so that they can’t see intruders. Try to maintain a consistent routine around your pet and if they are uncomfortable with a houseguest or new family member, don’t force interaction. Give your feline companion their own space where they can escape for a while and de-stress.
One of the most important parts of keeping a cat mentally healthy is environmental enrichment. This means giving your kitty the opportunity to express their normal physical and social behaviors. They are hunters, so give them toys that allow them to hunt – whether it is food, a ball or even a laser pointer. They will also appreciate a place to scratch, a spot where they can sit up high to survey their domain and a clean place to go to the toilet.The Indoor Pet Initiative website developed by Ohio State University has a number of suggestions on how you can make your cat’s life so much more interesting, which can reduce their stress significantly. You can find the Indoor Pet Initiative at https://indoorpet.osu.edu/home