Friday, June 20, 2014

How to Reduce Stress in Cats

AdoptAShelterCatMonth How to Reduce Stress in Cats

In honor of June being Adopt-A-Cat Month, I wanted to take a moment to share some quick tips in how to reduce stress in cats. Anxiety in cats is caused by 3 factors: physical stress such as sickness or pain; psychological stress caused by boredom, fear, the death of a human caretaker or loss of an animal friend; and environmental stress, such moving to a new home. Reducing stress in cats includes eliminating the stressful situation when possible and helping cats cope with stress that can’t be eliminated. Ample exercise and mental stimulation are important in reducing anxiety in cats.

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Look for signs of stress in cats.
  • Changes in grooming habits. The cat will wash until bare spots appear or will not bathe at all.
  • Meowing and verbalizing excessively.
  • Pacing the floor (and meowing may accompany this).
  • Hiding more or acting withdrawn.
  • Sleeping less.
  • Playing less often.
  • Depositing urine or feces in places other than the litter box.
  • Changes in eating habits or eating inedible objects like dish towels.
  • Scratching at doors, windows or screens.

Take your cat to a veterinarian to see if health troubles exist. 

Many stress symptoms can also be symptoms of physical illness. You need to know if you’re dealing with a sick cat or a stressed-out cat.

Determine the cause of your cat’s stress. 

Try to pinpoint when the symptoms started and why.

Eliminate physical stress. 

The following are some examples of things you might do to reduce physical stress:

  • Trim claws that have grown painfully long.
  • Eradicate a flea infestation.
  • Make sure the cat has plenty of food and water so it doesn’t experience long bouts of hunger or thirst.

Reduce psychological stress. 

Give your cat a sufficient amount of what vets call “challenging play” to keep the cat’s mind stimulated.

  • Provide toys for your cat. Acquire a wide variety of toys, but only put a couple within reach of the cat at one time. Every few days pick up the toys you’ve made available to the cat and put down a couple of new ones.
  • Play with and pet your cat. Dangle something enticing for it to chase or toss toys across the room.
  • Give your cat a perch so it can watch the goings-on outside.

Lessen environmental stress. 

Some things you might try include the following:

  • Turn down loud music. Cats have sensitive ears, which can be hurt by loud music, loud television or other source of noise.
  • Comfort a cat that’s frightened by loud noises outside the house, particularly fireworks or thunderstorms. Take it into an interior room.
  • Don’t yell at your cat. Cats can’t understand the connection between yelling or hitting and something the cat is doing wrong, so trying to discipline a cat this way only makes the cat anxious and afraid.

Help your cat cope with stresses that you can’t eliminate. 

Make sure the cat has undisturbed hiding places where it can take refuge from what it sees as threats.

Provide cat condos and other feline furniture. 

These give private areas for perching and napping. A cat tree allows the cat to climb out of harm’s way and appeals to a cat’s natural desire to watch activity from above. Get a scratching post. Clawing is an acceptable way for your cat to relieve stress.

Play with and pet your cat regularly. 

Set aside a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes each day for interactive playtime with your cat. If you own more than 1 cat, make sure you play with each cat alone every day in addition to group playtime.

Provide pots filled with catnip plants or cat grass for chewing.

Consider locating a bird feeder outside a window for your cat’s entertainment. 

Or get an aquarium so your cat can watch the fish swimming.

Give every cat in the household its own feeding area and litter box. 

Experts recommend 1 litter box for each cat, plus 1 extra litter box. Also, Clean all litter boxes and feeding areas regularly.

Separate jealous cats for awhile.

  • Play with and feed each cat while the other is not present.
  • 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.

Consider using prescribed anti-anxiety medicine or over-the-counter herbal and pheromone remedies. 

Do this if nothing else relieves your cat’s stress. Consult a veterinarian first.

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