In the last post, I included a quiz to determine your cat’s level of stress. It also identified some common stressors. In this post, I wanted to discuss some signs of stressors in your cat’s life that you might recognize, and some ways to reduce common stressors in your cat’s environment.
Obvious signs of stress
There are 3 types of obvious signs of stress that you should be able to easily identify.
Only vertical scratch marks are considered to be a sign of stress. But, your cat can also scratch on vertical surfaces to keep its claws trim.
How can you differentiate the tow types of vertical scratching?
Scratching is anxiety related if:
– Scratching sites are widespread.
– Your cats live in a multi-pet household.
– Your home is in an area with a dense cat population .
– There have been changes in your home.
– Scratching is occurring near windows and doors.
How to help stop cat scratching:
– Cats scratch to maintain their claws. Scratching sheds the outer husk, revealing a new, sharper claw underneath. Scratching posts help cats with this.
– Provide an alternative scratching post near area of unwanted scratch marks.
– Other environmental modifications can decrease your cat’s stress and make your home cat-friendly, including high resting places in different rooms, sufficient and daily-cleaned litter boxes, providing additional feeding places and water bowls, and consider using a microchip cat flap so your cat has complete access to the outdoors.
– Consider trying Feliway, and spraying it to the areas scratched daily until the behavior stops.
Feline urine spraying is one of the primary methods used by cats to mark their territory. Whether male or female, neutered or not, it is exhibited in some way by almost every cat. It is generally associated with a stressful event or a change in environment.
Common factors that may be causing your cat to spray include:
– Changes to an owner’s routine
– Conflict ant tension in a multi-cat household
– Loss of feline companion or owner
– Introduction of a new pet or person
– Stressful events (holidays, social gatherings)
– restricted access to territory
– Environmental changes may be required. You may need to increase the number of litter boxes, provide elevated hiding places, and separate your cats’ feeding and water bowls. If urine marking continues, you should seek veterinary advice, as medical, behavioral and further environmental modifications may be required.
-For cats that aren’t spayed or neutered, spraying is also associated with sexual excitement in male cats or the onset of estrus in female cats. Spaying or neutering your pet may resolve unwanted spraying.
– In cats with a history of urine spraying,consider trying a Feliway Diffuser prior to stressful events (plug in several days before the anticipated event) to prevent a relapse of unwanted behavior. You can purchase Feliway diffusers online and at pet supply stores.
How to reduce cat’s spraying:
– There are anti anxiety medications that your veterinarian may prescribe. Consult with your veterinarian.
– Clean sprayed areas with alcohol and allow to dry. There are also a number of odor neutralizers on the market, some of which are more effective than others. Sometimes, the carpet or flooring may need to be replaced, in extreme cases, and those that are prolonged and the scent is too difficult to remove with a chemical or shampoo, or odor neutralizer
In very stressful situations, some cats can react aggressively towards people, other cats or other household pets.
These are situations best discussed with your veterinarian or a trainer, or veterinary behaviorist. Sometimes, in addition to behavioral therapy, medication is prescribed.
Overlooked signs of stress:
Some cats will display more discreet signs, such as :
– food intake disorders (anorexia or over-feeding)
– Overgrooming (bald areas) or under grooming (matted or soiled fur)
– House soiling
– Decreased levels of activity
– Appearing withdrawn (reduced desire to play or interact)
Consequences of stress
Cats may react to stress in a number of ways and also to varying degrees.
Some cats may be able to cope very well with a stressful event or a change in their environment and may only feel uncomfortable for a few days or just a few hours. In this case, stress is unlikely to have any serious consequence. However, others will have serious problems coping with even small challenges. These cats are far more likely to suffer acute or chronic stress which can have a real impact on their health, contributing to or exacerbating problems such as cystitis, dermatological conditions, anorexia and obesity.
Please note: If you are worried about your cat’s stress level or if you believe your cat is suffering from any of the medical conditions discussed, consult your veterinarian before engaging in any course of action. He/she will recommend suitable options that might include behavioral therapy.
In addition to your veterinarian’s recommendations, or some things you might consider addressing in your home, to alleviate stress might be listed below. They include some common stressors, and how to make the situations less stressful for your cat.
1. Modern Lifestyle
This can mean more stress for cats. Cats have very specific needs which must be met in order for them to feel comfortable. They prefer privacy and need free access to important resources like food, resting areas, toilets, etc. The ability to avoid potential stressful situations is vital for cats within their environment. However, modern life means we cannot always provide these specific requirements: cats live in houses or apartments and often without free access to the outside They do not have complete control of their resources and are forced to share their living space with other individuals, including humans and other pets.
Why does inter-cat tension occur in multi-cat households?
Cats are naturally solitary animals and prefer free access to water, food, litter trays bedding exits and entrances In a home with more than one cat, this can, but not always, cause competition between the cats for these things which in turn creates conflict. It can be difficult to identify conflict between cats in the house or within your cats’ territories out of the house. However these conflicts can be stressful for your cats and in turn lead to unwanted behaviors of aggression.
Many cats are territorial, and some cats are more territorial than others. Those territorial cats have a very strong link with their environment, which can be much stronger of a link than that they have with other occupants in a household. Those cats don’t necessarily need a large territory, but they will organize their space by dividing it into at least 3 parts.
1. Isolation areas where they rest:
These areas are often high places where the cat won’t be disturbed. These spaces are rarely shared with other cts.
2. Activity areas wearer they play, hunt, eat, eliminate
Depending on the resources, the cat may be forced to share these areas.
3. Passageways between all the areas (defined during various exploration activities): These paths will only change if there is a modification in the environment. As long as these areas and passageways stay the same, cats feel secure. Any change in the environment disrupts the harmony of the territory and leads to stress.
How to reduce stress in Multi-cat household
1. Create multiple access points for valuable resources:
– litter trays (1 per cat + 1 extra)
– Multiple food stations
– Multiple drinking opportunities (away from food)
– Enough climbing, hiding and sleeping areas for all cats.
2. Make sure these resource are spread around the house and on each floor to avoid competition.
3. Consider a plug-in diffuser such as Feliway, in rooms most frequented by your cats.
4. Additional advice:
– Covered litter traysnmay increase bullying isn some multi0cat households.
– Single cat-sized sleeping perches have been shown to help reduce individual cat stress in multi-cat households.
– Placing a bell (or several bells) on the aggressor cat in the house can be useful as it provides a warning to the other cats that the aggressor is coming, giving them the chance to get out of the way.
– Provide safe escape routes and hiding places at a height to reduce bullying.
Why moving is stressful for cats?
– Cats are territorial animals. Moving changes their territory and completely removes their familiar marks, which is very stressful.
How to make moving easier for your cat?
To help your pet feel at home in his new environment and reduce potentially dangerous roaming:
1. On the day of the move, lock your cat or cats into one room that has been cleaned. Leave food, bedding, a litter tray, and one piece of furniture in/under which he can hide. Place the cat carrier int eh room with its door open. make sure your movers know the door to there room must remain closed to avoid your pet going missing.
2. Try to unload one room first. You can place your cat here to rest and recover front he car journey while you sort out the rest of the house.
3.If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, when you first allow your cat outside, choose a weekend when you are home. Let him out just before meal time.
4. Ensure your cat is micro-chipped in case she or he gets lost.
Visiting the veterinarian:
Taking your cat to the veterinarian can be stressful for both of you. To your cat, the process of entering an unfamiliar carrier, a scary car ride, a strange waiting room and then examination can be very stressful. This was discussed in the previous post . Your other cats may act differently upon the return of the cat that was seen at the vet.
Hope you found this helpful.