Hint: A lot of things . . . .
Stress is fairly rampant in today's world. While it can be a good thing when we need to fight or flee for our lives, it can have adverse health impacts when it's chronic and doesn't let up.
Stress can also have a negative impact on our cats and can negatively affect their relationships with other pets and humans in the home. While they don't generally get upset about the same things we do, our cats can experience chronic stress, which is never good for them.
Causes of Stress in Cats
The main things that cause signs of stress in cats include:
~ Too much competition for resources. This most often occurs in multi-cat households when cats feel like they must compete for food, water, clean litter box space, scratching post real estate, or time with their humans.
~ Inadequate territory. If a cat doesn't feel like the master of a piece of territory, he might become stressed. This is usually the case when he doesn't have a good scratching post to mark or there are other cats in the home that bully him out of spaces.
~ Changes in the household, including the addition or removal of pets or people. Cats are sensitive to change and it can stress them out. In fact, when people in the house are feeling stressed, cats often exhibit signs that they're stressed too, indicating that our emotions can rub off on them.
~ Remodeling or other noisy events in the home. Most cats are not fond of loud noises, so remodeling projects, loud parties, and other noise can cause them stress.
~ Veterinary, grooming, or kennel visits. Traveling in the car, being in an unknown space, and being handled by strangers can all work together to result in stress for some cats.
~ Boredom. Cats that are bored and don't have an outlet for their energy, especially their predator instincts, can become stressed.
Signs of Stress in Cats
Cats show stress in many ways, and it often comes down to observing changes in normal behavior to determine whether yours might be stressed. The catch is that many of these signs can also indicate various medical conditions, so it can sometimes be tricky to sort things out. If you notice any change in behavior in your cat, it's best to consult a veterinarian to rule out medical causes before settling on stress as the diagnosis. Here are some common signs of stress in cats:
~ Inappropriate elimination
~ Inappropriate scratching
~ Hiding or extra clinginess
~ Decreased appetite
~ Over-grooming, sometimes to the point of creating bald spots, often focusing on the legs or belly
Treatment of Stress in Cats
Once medical causes for the behavior are ruled out, treatment of stress in cats relies partly on trying to determine its source. Below are some general ways to combat feline stress in your home.
1. There are enough litter boxes that are all kept clean. A good rule of thumb is that you should have as many boxes as you have cats plus one. There should also be at least one box on every floor of your home to which your cats have access. Make sure litter boxes are not placed in noisy, high-traffic areas.
2. There are enough food and water bowls. It's best to feed cats with structured mealtimes, especially in a multi-cat household. If possible, separate them so they have full access to their food allotment without having to defend it from others. Water fountains can also help.
3. There are plenty of scratching posts in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some cats like to scratch vertically, some horizontally, and some like a variety. Be sure you have lots of sturdy scratching posts (or cat trees with sisal for scratching) in all areas of your home so each cat can always find something to scratch on.
4. There isn't too much noise and commotion. If there is remodeling going on or you are having a party, consider creating a "safe room" for your cat(s) filled with everything they need to stay happy and calm. Try to have this room in the quietest spot in your home as far removed from the noise as possible. Offer them some 'white noise' such as a tv set to something soothing or a music CD for cats. We recommend 'Through A Cat's Ear' (available at Amazon ~ Click HERE to purchase!).
5. Each cat is getting adequate play and cuddle time. Do what you can to eliminate the stress of boredom for your cat by providing plenty of interactive playtime and enrichment activities like puzzle toys. Cats also love what we call 'Cat TV' which is as simple as a comfy perch or two in a sunny window overlooking a yard with birds and squirrels for them to watch.
6. Diffuse calming essential oils such as Lavender or Stress Away in a water-based ultrasonic diffuser available at HolisticOilsForPetsAndPeeps.com! Our cats love napping in their favorite spots with the room diffuser going. It's a powerful calming tool for pets and their people! Use as needed to keep things feeling calm for the cats in your home. We diffuse pretty much 24-7 in our house.
7. As a last resort, some cats may need anti-anxiety medicine to help them break the stress cycle. These medications do have potential side effects and must be carefully dosed. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether one is necessary for your cat and, if so, prescribe it. Never give your cat any medication without your veterinarian's approval. These medications work best when used for a short period of time in conjunction with the modifications described above.