3215 Breton Rd SE
Kentwood, MI 49525
"All my cat has to do every day is lay around and sleep- how can my cat be stressed?"
Stress comes in many forms and varieties. Cats and humans share certain stressors- loud noises, crowding, interpersonal conflict, competition for resources such as food or mates, changes in life situations such as moves, new family members such as new babies or partners, changes in amount or work time scheduled, etc. About the only human stressors that do not apply to cats are financial pressures, and worrying about making choices such as ethical , spiritual, end of life decisions, etc. Indoor cats may also be stressed by cats outside that they can see in the yard, or cats that come up to decks and sliding doors, especially when those cats then mark the outside of the house with urine.
Because cats evolved as small predators and as solitary animal in most situations, crowding and consequently competition for limited food sources a high on their stress list.
Many cats are housed indoors in multiple cat households at much greater population density than would normallly be seen in the wild. Even if food sources are plentiful, this crowding increases the interactions between the cats in the household. When this happens, there will be both more negative interactions between cats fighting for dominance, and more chance for urine marking and spraying.
Stress in cats can also increase cystitis flare ups, both sterile cystitis and in some cats bacterial urinary tract infections. Inflammatory bowel disease is much more likely to worsen due to nervous stimulation of the bowel associated with stress.
Signs of stress in cats can include:
1. Hiding- under beds, in closets, behind furniture, etc. Overall decreased interactions with people and other pets.
2. Decreased or occasionally increased appetite.
3. Mental dullness/ depression
4. Overgrooming (usually in association with skin diseases such as allergies or parasites, but often axacerbated by stress.
5. Decreased grooming- especially with mourning behavior or being "victimized" by a dominant cat.
7. Urine marking behavior.
Our thanks to the American Association of Feline Practitioners and their excellent Feline Behavior Guidelines. These guidelines contributed to the information we have here on stress management in cats.
"What can I do to reduce my cat's level of stress?
Stress management usually consists of managing the environment, increasing the positive attention given the cat, and treating medically where necessary.
3. Attach a bell to the dominant cat to warn the victim cat of its presence in cases of intercat aggression and very shy cats.
4. Offer hiding places as retreats that cats can get away from busy children. Paper bags and cardboard boxes can serve as effective hiding places for cats.
Cat trees and condos are helpful additional retreats, as are book shelves and the tops of cupboards and closets.
6. Increasing the positive interactions that you have with your cat- playing, socializing, even shared "computer work!"
1. Treat underlying medical problems, especially those that cause pain and debilitation. Chronic pain is just as stressful to cats as it is to humans.
2. Antianxiety medications can be very useful in addressing certain stress responses in cats. The type of medication that is appropriate usually depend on the type of stress being experienced by the cat.
Social interaction management:
1. Regular, dependable feeding schedules to avoid the cats being hungry for any extended amounts of time. Cats with irregular feeding schedules may overeat when food is available, and may be more prone to diarrhea and vomiting.
2. Avoid leaving cats alone for extended time periods. Although more independent than dogs, cats still need regular social contact with their human family. A healthy cat may be left alone for a couple days, but longer than that is unacceptable due to both lack of social contact, inability to maintain normal feeding regimens, and general safety issues. Urine spraying and marking frequently occur in cats that are deprived of their normal social contacts. Board your cat in a quality cat friendly facility if your absence will be for greater than 2 days, or if your cat has health issues or is very old or very young.
3. Regular sessions of petting and play to reinforce the bond with your cat. These sessions should be daily if at all possible, and rarely need to be more than 10 minutes per session to help reduce stress.
3215 Breton Rd SE
Kentwood, MI 49525