Gemma Kilby, veterinary surgeon here at Calder Vets, gives her advice.
Monitoring Cat Behaviour: The Signs of Stress
We often speak to cat owners who are worried about their cat’s behaviour. Often, the animal is acting in a particular way because of stress. Look out for the following changes to cat behaviour, which are likely indicators of stress:
- Withdrawn behaviour
- Hiding from you and other animals
- Lack of willingness to interact with you and other animals
- Inappropriate urination
- Excessive marking
Why do cats get stressed?
There are a number of reasons that a cat may become stressed.
Bullying from other cats
Your pet’s stress could be down to bullying. Cats can be manipulative in certain situations and actually use psychological welfare on each other long before the physical fight breaks out.
Change of house layout/circumstances
Cats are very sensitive to their surroundings. They can become stressed when the layout of their living area changes, so be sure to ensure their favourite toys and bed are still easy for them to find. They can also become stressed if there is a change to the living arrangement, such as someone familiar moving out or someone new moving in.
Cats are notoriously afraid of travelling. They can become stressed if they have to be moved anywhere, even if it’s just a routine trip to the vets.
Introduction of new pets
Bringing a new pet into the home can cause your cat to become stressed or agitated.
How to Reduce Stress in Cats
Thankfully, if you notice a change in cat behaviour and your cat is suffering from stress, there are things you can do to ease their upset. If your cat is stressed because of another cat in the home, try reducing the monopoly of one cat. Make sure each one of your pets has their own litter tray and their own food bowl, on different levels of the house if possible. Provide multiple food and water bowls and spread them around. You can also try using plug-in pheromone diffusers around your home which can help to modify cat behaviour.
There are many brands available; try Feliway. Your cat will also appreciate having multiple hiding places around the home and escape routes for worried cats – so things like cat flaps, spaces behind the sofa etc. should be readily available where possible.
Stress and Illness: Protect Your Pet
Whilst the majority of stress experienced by cats can be overcome using the methods described here, it is important to remember that illness needs to be ruled out as the primary problem. If your cat is behaving in an unusual way you should visit your local vet as the first step. For those of you in the Yorkshire area, Calder Vets has 12 practices in the area. We run a free advisory service at all of our branches and we would be happy to chat to you about any problems your cat is experiencing.