What Stresses Cats Out?

It’s hard to believe that an animal who spends most of their day sleeping can be stressed out, but our cat companions are more sensitive than we may realize. Cats are natural predators and function on high-alert. They often sleep sitting up, react quickly to noises, and generally keep close tabs on their surroundings.

Why is this important? A recent study published in the Applied Animal Behavior Science Journal showed that stressed out felines are more susceptible to disease, while more relaxed cats tend to have better immune systems.

How can you tell if your cat is stressed out?

Look for changes in:

  • Grooming patterns
  • Litter box use
  • Sleeping
  • Energy
  • Appetite
  • Hiding
  • Meowing/Crying
  • Aggressiveness

Step 1: Rule out a Medical Issue
Changes in behavior can also indicate health issues. If you notice any of the above schedule a visit with one of our doctors. Your kitty may be trying to tell you something!

Step 2: Once the problem is deemed behavioral, how do we find the source of the anxiety? Here are some areas to consider: Is there something or someone new in the house? Are there enough hiding spots? Cats need places to go where they feel secure. Some cats like to find a “hidey-hole”, others prefer to perch up high. Are there enough food dishes and litter boxes? Cats prefer not to share.

Loud noises or new smells can be very stressful to a cat’s sensitive ears and nose. Is there construction close by, or a new cat hanging around? Is someone gone from home, who used to be there? Some cats will grieve the loss of a companion. This can even be an issue when routines change with school and work schedules.

Too much attention can be a bad thing. Some cats get overwhelmed by too much affection. Some issues can be dealt with easily, while others take time and patience. We enjoy being a resource for our clients, so please don’t hesitate to call for suggestions if you think your cat is having issues.

Keeping Peace in a Multi-Cat Household

Every cat has his or her own personality. So when you have multiple cats in one household things can sometimes get heated. Cats react quickly when their feelings or safety are threatened — some become aggressive, others may become withdrawn, even sick. Of course some conflict between cats is normal, but our goal is to reduce unhealthy conflict.

Signs of open conflict are the easiest to recognize. Cats may stalk each other, hiss, or “poof” their hair to look bigger. If neither cat backs down, these displays may escalate to swatting, fighting and biting.

But conflict between cats isn’t always exhibited in fighting. A more assertive cat might chase another cat away from resources such as food or the litter box, or silently and subtly block access. A less assertive cat may routinely move away from the food dish when the dominant cat approaches. Less assertive cats may also spend excessive amounts of time hiding. In cases of extreme conflict the stress of a threatening housemate might cause a cat to vomit, avoid the litter box, or start missing meals.

Please understand we don’t mean to discourage multi-cat households. We just want to be sure that you are informed and have the resources that you need to handle your kitties’ issues.

Here are some suggestions:

Adopt 2 kittens at the same time, preferably from the same litter. But, sometimes once they hit adulthood, even litter-mates will have issues.

  • Give each cat a separate set of resources (water, food, litterbox, perch) in safe quiet locations not in view of the other cats.
  • Add three-dimensional structures to increase the cats’ sense of space such as kitty condos, or even cardboard boxes.
  • Be sure to spread your time and affection generously among your cats to avoid competition.
  • Use kitty pheromone sprays or plug-ins to create a calmer atmosphere in the house.