Stress is one of the most popular reasons for health and behavior problems in cats. The most effective solution in this case is getting rid of the source of the stress. This article will tell you what are the most popular causes for stress in cats, and how to avoid them, or at least relieve the stress if the cause is unavoidable.
- New experience. In most cases experiencing something new creates a considerable amount of stress in a cat. Examples may be indoor cat going outdoors for the first time, encountering with an unseen animal (seeing a frog for the first time) or even switching to new cat food brand. New experience is not only something that has never happened before, but something that did not happen for a long time. New experiences are hardly avoidable, as life around us is constantly changing, so bing present when your cat encounters new experience, petting or talking to him is important in overcoming the stress it creates.
- Revision of a bad experience. Most cat owners know that meowing and hissing starts even before entering a clinic when visiting a vet. Events happening on a way to a clinic (pet carrier, car, stress of the owners…) trigger association to bad experience from the past. Playing, petting or talking to your cat may relieve the stress this experience causes (of course avoiding this experience is way better solution, but it’s not always possible, and avoiding a vet visit may cause lot more trouble).
- Environment changes. Adding something new, like a washing machine to your household, removing something old, like your cat’s worn out bed, remodeling or changing a house are rarely appreciated by your cat. Cat’s love things as they are. If you may avoid making changes too rapidly, it’s a great way to reduce your cat’s stress. It’s even true for good changes, like getting a cat tree or moving his litter box to a more appropriate place. If changes are occurring, giving treats to your cat, playing with him next to the new objects or spraying them with a replica of cat friendly pheromones is helpful. You can read more about feline pheromones here.
- New pet or family member. Adding a new pet to existing household, whether it’s a cat, dog or other may challenge your cat’s ability to keep it cool and will take some time to make things calm down. Same is for baby arriving or a mother-in-law moving in. Best to avoid this is to introduce cat to new family member (including other pets) gradually. This means, create a single room to your new pet, and leave it for some time, without introducing to your cat. Make him first accept the new noises and smell appearing, and make the introduction later. Please note, new pet in a neighbors house may also be a source of stress.
- Routine changes. If cat wakes up every morning, stretches, scratches and heads to its food bowl he’s expecting a freshly poured cat food in there. If, by some reason, he does not find it, stress is induced. It’s true for other stuff like getting a play, peace for a nap or greeting an owner coming back from work on expected time. Getting yourself disciplined and sticking to your cat’s schedule is important to lower the stress. If you find it hard to follow some paths, gradually change the schedule and stick with the new one.
- Absence of the owner. If an owner is not present for longer period than usual. Like going on vacation, getting in a hospital or starting to work in a new job with longer hours. Must note a death of an owner here too. Best ways to avoid this kind of stress is avoiding or lowering amount of owner being absent (wish everyone could avoid their death) or having someone else who cat considers a friend spending some time with him during owner’s absence.
- Mourning. It’s no different than for humans. Cat’s mourn losing their loved ones. Owner, family member, kittens or other pet in a household. Combined with the overall mood in house when someone dies, it creates lasting and often hard to overcome stress for your cat. Spending time with him is the best way to relieve it.
- Lack of activity. In other words it’s boredom. It’s especially stressful if cat had active life before, but then because of some reason it lowered. No doubt, best way to overcome it is providing activity to your cat. Both, spending more time playing with him, and creating a stimulating environment with lots of perches, hideouts and tunnels. How about creating a food hunt for your cat?
- Too much activity. It’s the other side of lack of activity. Cat’s need a time on their own. They can’t chase a toy mouse or get squeezed all day. Create a corner (or a room) where your cat can feel safe. Instruct your family to leave a cat alone when his at the designated spot, a cat tree or a window sill in example.
- Forced confinement. If you’re traveling with a cat in pet carrier, it’s tons of stress combined. New experience, fright of sound of motor and disability to move around. Forced confinement also occurs if you have visitors and owner locks him up or when outdoor cat is forced to live indoors. Best relief, of course, is avoiding confinement. Playing and talking with a cat can help if confinement is required. If stress levels are very high trying stress relief medication is also an option, but check with your vet if it is okay. Using a cat friendly pheromones, mentioned above, may significantly reduce the stress. And also, as there are many benefits of keeping a cat indoors, making his indoor environment more appropriate and stimulating will be necessary to avoid stress.
- Illnesses and traumas. They make cats feel incapable and useless. The higher the disability, the higher risk of stress. Cheering up and petting a cat during this period is the best relief. Heavy illness may require medications as well if prescribed by a vet.
- Noise. Does your house alarm turns on constantly? Or maybe a neighbor’s dog is barking too often? Even an ultrasound noise which we don’t hear, but is induced by many household items may be source of stress as well.
- Stress of the owner. If we are stressed out our cats do feel it and start to worry about it. Also, if we have problems in our life we usually spend less time playing with our pets, as we are busy solving things. However, sparing some of your time petting a cat, will be helpful for both of you.
There are some other causes of stress in cats, however, we can’t mention all of them. Check this article if you want to find out more about stress in cats.