Stress in cats
Nowadays, stress has become a recognized problem in modern life humans. In the cat, changes in the environment, in the daily routine, strange smells, harsh noises, soiled litter, the absence of certain family members or the arrival of a child, or
The appearance of new animals is all source of stress.
Stress corresponds to an animal’s psychological and bodily changes in the face of potential aggression. For example, his heart will beat faster, his pupils dilate, and his hair will stand on end. The animal will then be ready to fight or flee.
In a feral cat, this reaction can save his life. In an apartment cat, on the other hand, escape is not always possible. In the case of adopting a new animal, for example, the cat will not be able to avoid it if they do not get along at the start.
If they can’t avoid a source of stress, a cat will become anxious, which can cause some health or behavioral issues.
Manifestations of stress
Cats express stress differently depending on their personality. For example, in an extroverted cat, which suddenly becomes nervous, it is pretty easy to assume something is stressing it. Your cat can leave scratch marks all over the place, and if there is a dog he lives with, you can find traces even in his indoor dog house or dog cave bed. On the other hand, we do not necessarily think of anxiety in a shy cat who remains motionless for long periods.
Frequent manifestations of stress in cats are uncleanliness, urinary marking, excessive licking and self-mutilation, remaining immobile or hidden, aggression (against humans or other animals), more frequent meowing, loss of appetite or, on the contrary, increased appetite, a permanent state of alertness.
All these symptoms can also appear in case of illness. It is, therefore, better to consult a veterinarian quickly to rule out a health problem.
Causes of Stress
They are numerous, but we can note the anxiety linked to the cohabitation between cats, the restricted territory, a change of territory, and the food distribution mode. In addition, some cats are naturally anxious, and the slightest shift in habit disturbs them.
Good to know: cats like to have 15 to 20 small meals per 24 hours. Giving them only one or two meals is a source of stress because they fear missing out. So they eat their ration very quickly and ask again. Very often, owners believing that their cat is hungry, give food again. The cat, therefore, quickly becomes fat or even obese. This is why it is advisable to divide your cat’s daily ration as much as possible and to accustom it (from a very young age if possible) to manage its ration of kibble during the day (and night).
The bladder is the target organ of stress in cats. Uncleanliness will therefore be one of the first symptoms of anxiety. Stress thus contributes to developing urinary disorders, such as chronic interstitial cystitis.
Chronic stress is also at the origin of the body’s high, continuous production of cortisol. Cortisol causes, among other things, a reduction in immune defenses and therefore makes the body more susceptible to infectious diseases.
Do not hesitate to talk to your veterinarian about it.
What to do?
If your cat is showing some symptoms, the first thing to do is to see a vet ensure he’s not sick. A behavioral origin will be strongly suspected if your cat is in good health.
With the help of your veterinarian, assisted if necessary by a behavioral veterinarian, you can find the causes of your cat’s anxiety and put measures or treatments to reduce it.
Products such as food supplements against anxiety or soothing pheromones can be interesting in this context.
Recent studies have also shown that in the case of chronic interstitial cystitis, changes in the environment could bring about a real improvement by reducing the frequency of recurrences. The advice given was:
to avoid punishing the cat,
to provide him with premium food in the form of mash,
increase water consumption (water fountain, for example),
to change the litter for an unscented clumping litter,
to provide places to climb and areas of observation or rest at height (cat tree, etc.),
to give a cat scratcher house,
to leave the television or radio on in the absence of the owners,
to spend more time taking care of his cat and playing with him,
to provide your cat with a cat tower for large cats
try to understand and reduce conflicts between cats if you have several.
These changes should be made one at a time, gradually, to let the cat adapt. They contribute to the well-being of our pet felines. It would therefore be interesting to put them in place preventively in any anxious cat.