What are the signs of stress in cats? Why is my cat stressed? What can I do to make her feel better? This cacophony of questions in our heads happens from time to time when we begin to feel we have a stressed cat. Like how stress has adverse effects on humans, it is the same in cats. Stress results in anxious cat behavior - including aggression - that is damaging if ignored or not cared for. If you notice your cat acting strangely - scared, looking for a place to hide, shivering, shaking or urinating outside of the litter box - these could be signs your cat is stressed. Unlike dogs, cats aren't very open with their emotions, which means that they act on their anxieties and withdraw from the world when in a stressful situation. Hence, you must recognize and understand the subtle signs of stress in cats before things get out of hand.
CAUSES OF STRESS
The causes of stress in cats are plenty because they don't do well with change. Does this mean that if you move a favorite houseplant from one corner of the house to another, it can result in a stressed cat? Maybe. Even the tiniest changes in their environment can lead to stress. To find out whether your cat is stressed, you need to put yourself in their shoes. For you, having a guest over for dinner is fun, but for a cat that is used to having only you around during dinner time, this is a disruption in routine.
Have you tried identifying the signs of stress in cats? Besides being nervous and scared all the time, they can urinate outside of the litter box, vocalize unreasonably, growl, hiss, and show signs of aggression. Moreover, cats that are stressed out have shown to have bladder and gastrointestinal problems and may also lick themselves bald. Unfortunately, we are often the ones stressing our cats out, and we don't even realize it. Your physical behavior and tone of voice change from time to time and are often shown on the cat leaving him or her uncertain of the way you might act the next time.
Our houses are the last thing we would consider while guessing the reason for a stressed cat; however, some home environments that have restricted access can also act as a source of stress. Some of the other things that can stress cats are constant visits to the veterinarian - let's face it, cats don't like going to the vet, and the journey itself is terrifying. Ask for home visits whenever possible - it is easier for you, your cat and allows your veterinarian to observe your cat at their calmest. If you must go to the hospital, use a comfortable and familiar crate covered in a blanket. All of us like to have people over right? But cats react differently to people coming into their house. It is essential to introduce the cat to people who will be living with you very slowly and with understanding and patience. As for guests, the lesser attention they pay to your cat, the calmer and safer your cat will feel.
Ensure that your cat has a place to hide in case they feel threatened by anyone - this place should be secluded and comfortable. Most often, our jobs disrupt our daily routines - if your job demands long working hours, start having longer playtime with your cat. Holidays are exciting for us, not for our cats. Guests at home for Diwali, laughter, jarring music and loud fireworks are sure to turn even the calmest of cats into a stressed cat.
HOW TO HELP YOUR STRESSED CAT
If there are signs your cat is stressed, contact your veterinarian to rule out any medical condition. Since cats are independent creatures, before looking to you for safety and shelter, they will risk assess every situation and attempt to understand its threat or danger. In other words, they feel responsible for their well-being. Therefore, when it comes to raising cats, consistency and predictability take the driver's seat in eliminating stress. External stressors need to be identified before attempting to do anything about them. This means identifying what makes your cat stressful - regular influx of guests? Your working hours? Noisy traffic on the road? The list is endless.
Once you've identified the source of stress, take steps that will ease your cat's anxiety or fear. Some cat parents choose to use ayurvedic remedies, essential oils, and pheromone collars to alleviate stress in situations that they can't control. However, be sure to run this by your veterinarian. If the problem is within your home, i.e. boredom or restricted access, veterinarians suggest 'environmental enrichment' to make homes happier for cats. This calls for more mental stimulation, vertical spaces like cat trees, and water fountains to encourage drinking water. Check out the range of cat Furnitures and scratchers including cat trees that can be very useful to help relief an anxious cat.
When a stressed cat stems from you leaving home or not being around, train them to lie down in a safe and secluded area and then reward them for doing it. That way, they'll understand that you leaving means that they are still safe and it's alright to relax.
When a stressed cat is left untreated, it becomes worse over time, and unwanted behaviors become more pronounced. The effects are plenty - a weakened immune system, anxiety, aggression, and depression. It is heartbreaking to watch our cats cope with stress and fear. To have a peaceful home, we must intervene as early as possible. With patience and love, our cats will soon return to happier and healthier versions of themselves.