Just like human beings, many situations can cause stress in a cat. Some of the most common events which cats find stressful are:
- Moving house
- Sudden noise e.g. thunder and fireworks
- New household members e.g. a baby
- Multi-cat household
- Cattery visit
- Another cat moving into the territory
Common signs of stress in your cat may include any of the following:
- Aggression to people and other pets
- Hiding behind furniture
- Meowing excessively
- Urine marking (spraying)
- Soiling the house/doing it’s business outside of the litter tray
- Loss of appetite
- Pacing and panting
- Excessive licking or grooming leading to fur loss
NOTE: If you are concerned about your cat’s health please see your veterinarian first, to rule out any medical problems, before assuming that stress is the cause.
While some stressful situations are obvious, it is sometimes difficult to know what is causing your cat to be stressed. A cat’s sense of smell and hearing is much more acute than ours, therefore, they may become stressed by things that we may find normal, such as traffic noise or even odours that we cannot smell.
Assess your cat’s environment and try to reduce possible ‘stress triggers:’
- In multi-cat households it is important to give each cat it’s own space, a safe retreat away from other cats and household pets, noisy children, etc.
- A good idea to have a ‘cat room’ where your cat can retreat from dogs, children, or other pets, if necessary. This is very helpful for stress reduction.
- If you have more than one cat, have at least one litter box per cat plus an extra one or two in different locations.
- Offer separate eating areas to ensure that all your cats can eat in peace.
- If your cat is indoors-only, offer an environment that simulates a natural habitat. Provide a variety of toys for fun, exercise, and mental stimulation and to prevent boredom and frustration.
- Offer climbing areas or towers where cats can hide or perch from – cats often feel safe when they are high up.
- If you are going to be away for an extended period, consider a cat sitter to take care of your cat. Some cats are less stressed staying in the security and familiarity of their own home, than being boarded in a cattery.
- If you are going to be having guests visiting in your home or a new baby, try a gradual introduction with a “safe retreat” for your cat if it becomes overwhelming for your cat.
It is impossible for your cat to live a life with no potential stress triggers but recognising what those triggers might be and keeping changes to a minimum will help keep stress levels low.
Products to help alleviate stress
Feliway is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. By mimicking the cat’s natural facial pheromone, Feliway creates a ‘feel good’ mood in cats and helps reduce overall stress creating a state of familiarity in the cat’s environment. Feliway helps reduce or prevent unwanted behaviours caused by stress, such as urine marking.
Zylkene is a natural product that helps manage stressful situations in cats. It can also help your cat adapt to change, such as moving house. It can be helpful in short or long term stressful situations.
Your vet will be able to assess your pet and advise on suitable medical treatment and/or ways in which you can help to minimise the stress.