There are many reasons why our feline friends can be stressed, anxious or unhappy; and it can often be a combination of multiple factors. They are, but not limited to:
Tell Tail Signs
Providing they are not caused by an underlying medical reason, if your cat is stressed it may show one or more of the following signs:
If You’re Happy and You Know It
If your cat does all or most of these behaviours on a regular basis, then you have a very happy and content cat who clearly loves you. Congratulations!
Take The Pressure Down
Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls
If your cat doesn’t like how its water is provided, they will not drink and may try to find alternative sources – such as your sink or toilet! Being dehydrated can cause stress along with some health issues. Filtered cat water fountains constantly provide fresh moving water which many cats love. Their sense of smell is strong, so they know if the water isn’t fresh. Provide their water in a variety of containers (ceramic, stainless steel etc.), in multiple areas around the house. Shallow or wide bowls are more enticing as they don’t knock their whiskers. Keep their food, water and litter tray separate from each other and in private areas.
Let’s Get Down to Business
You should provide one litter tray per cat PLUS one extra. Ensure it is in a quiet and hidden area so they can do their business in private where they feel safe and less threatened – such as away from children, other animals and high traffic areas. Ensure it is cleaned at least once a day, depending on use. Make sure there is a deep layer of litter so they can dig deep. Some cats prefer a hooded litter tray, some don’t. Some cats like paper based litter, some don’t. Some cats like to enter and exit the tray from different sides, some don’t. It’s all about finding what your cat likes best.
Workin’ 9 to 5
Stop feeding from a bowl. Keeping your cat mentally stimulated is easy with the use of enrichment feeders, so they have to work for their food. It prevents boredom, burns mental energy, teaches them that food is valuable and should be earned, prevents eating too fast and helps with weight loss. You know the excitement your cat gets when it’s dinner time? This prolongs that joy! Buy a few varieties and rotate them for extra challenges. They are plenty on the market from pet stores, ‘Kong’, online and K-mart. You can even make your own! Start with easy ones until they get the hang of it.
Let Me Entertain You
Offer a couple of different varieties of cat scratching posts – rope, wood and carpet. The use of pheromone therapy ‘Feliway Feliscratch’ can help to encourage them to use them. A selection of toys – feathered ones, dangly ones, chasing ones, bell ones, tunnels – and interact with them. ‘CatIt’ make great entertainment systems that you can mix and match. If your cat is inside only, offer plenty of viewing places and warm sunny spots through windows. You can even purchase cat hammocks that secure to the window. Companies such as ‘Secure Kat’ and ‘Oscillot’ provide customisable outdoor confinement options, so they can experience the outside world whilst staying safe and protecting wildlife.
Cats in The Cradle
Cats can spend up to 16-18 hours a day asleep and sore, unhappy or stressed felines often sleep even more. Why do they require so much sleep? The suspected reasoning is a genetic trait from their ancestors as a way of preserving energy for hunting. Some of their time “asleep” is actually just a resting phase so they are still alert, hence why sometimes their ears move when there is a noise. Spending nearly two thirds of their time asleep, it should be as enjoyable as possible. Offering different types of beds, boxes, hiding places and access to high areas such as cupboards can help them feel secure and relaxed when getting a good night (and days) rest. You can create a climbing station from a book shelf with steps cut out of the shelves.
Food, Glorious Food
‘Hills Feline c/d Stress’ has been formulated with ingredients, vitamins and minerals to help prevent stress and support urinary health. It is available in both dry and wet formulations. Please discuss with one of our veterinarians if you wish to purchase.
Stop and Smell the Roses
The use of pheromone therapy, called ‘Feliway’ has shown to reduce stress in 9 out of 10 cats. It is a synthetic version of the feline facial pheromone that cats leave when they rub their faces on furniture, door frames, people’s legs etc. They leave their “scent” around their environment as a way of marking it as safe. Using ‘Feliway’ diffusers and sprays can provide them with comfort, even for situational stress such as car trips. It is best used in areas where the cat spends most of its time and away from external doors.
So Fresh, So Clean
Cats are creatures of hygiene, and anything less can be distressing for them. Long haired cats can find it hard to keep their fur tidy and older cats can struggle with hard to reach places. They can benefit from regular grooming to keep their fur in prime condition, prevent painful mats and reduce ingested furballs. You can also purchase “self-grooming” corner mounted brushes simply sticks to the corner of a cupboard or wall or ‘CatIt Massage Centres’, allowing them to rub up against it and get a massage.
Juicy, Juicy Green Grass
If your cat can’t go to the garden, bring the garden to them. Garden stores stock ranges of grasses and plants that are designed for pets to graze on. ‘Pet Grass’ and ‘Catnip’ are the two most common with ‘Catnip’ being known for the euphoric feeling it brings to many cats. You can plant them in pots or create a patch of grass for them to lay in. Despite popular belief, cats eating grass is not a sign that they are unwell.
Check Up On It
Make an appointment to see a veterinarian to rule out other factors or health conditions affecting their behaviour. Thyroid disorders can cause anxiety, for example, and arthritis can cause them to be uncomfortable. They can also discuss medication therapy to alleviate stress and anxiety which improve their quality of life.
Play That Funky Music
Websites such as ‘Relax My Cat’ have designed music and videos speciality designed to relax cats and reduce boredom. It can be used when you are out of the house to keep them occupied and entertained.
If you have a single-cat household, don’t assume they would like another cat friend. If their behavioural issues are not related to loneliness, then adding another cat to their territory can only make it worse. Some cats like having a feline housemate; whereas others like to run the kingdom on their own. It can be harder for adult cats to bond than it is for kittens and they can end up just tolerating each other, but not actually liking each other.
If you do have more than one cat, remember that they prefer not to share. Individual beds, litter trays, water bowls and food bowls are important.
Long Road to Travel
Travelling in cars can be terribly distressing for cats. They are placed in a cage, carried outside of their safe environment, placed in a vehicle where it is loud, bumpy and scary. This experience can be made even more frightening if they are going to the veterinary clinic where they encounter other people and dogs but can’t escape the threat.
To make the experience as stress free as possible, try the following: