Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10 Tips for Keeping Your Cat's Environment Stress-Free

You may think it strange that your cat can suffer from anxiety. However, a stressed-out cat is much more common than one would think. Even worse, stress and anxiety can affect your cat’s health negatively, manifesting itself in a variety of ways including illnesses like cystitis and inappropriate elimination.

If your cat’s behavior changes suddenly in any way, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. He or she can rule out any underlying medical issues as well as make suggestions to help lower your cat's stress level. But why wait? Here are some basic cat needs, and tips for creating a stress-free environment in your home today.

1. Never Trivialize Litter Boxes

Litter boxes are a necessity for all pet cats, but simply providing a litter box is not enough. Consideration needs to be given to the size of the litter box, the location, the type of litter used, and the daily care of the litter box. There are many types of litter available, however, try to choose the one that your cat prefers. In general, heavily fragranced and high-dust litters are not appreciated by most cats and should be avoided.

In a multi-cat household, there should be at least one litter box for each cat plus one extra. Litter boxes must be kept clean. They should be uncovered and large enough for your cat to fit comfortably in the box. Also, the boxes should be placed in quiet areas of the home where your cat will not be disturbed while using them. Be sure to give your kitty an "escape route" and don't place litter boxes in places where your kitty can be "ambushed" by people or other pets. Privacy is just as important to your cats as it is to you. 

2. Buy a Good Quality Cat Food

Food is another cat necessity, but which cat food is the best? Consult a pet nutritionist or do your own research to choose a high quality, complete and balanced food that is best to keep your cat healthy. Feeding a cheap, low-quality food may save you money up front, however, will end up costing you more down the road with potential health issues from pet foods that are devoid of proper nutrients and full of chemicals and by-products. Know what's in your pet's food! Learn more about quality pet food, treats, and supplements at:

Most cats prefer to graze and should be fed small quantities several times daily. This can be made more difficult in a multi-cat home. Cats in a multi-cat household should be fed measured amounts and not free fed to protect them from becoming overweight. You may also need to provide more than one feeding station if you have a cat that guards the dish or bullies the other cats at meal-times. A cat that has to worry about defending himself from another cat while eating may become stressed and anxious, and may not eat adequately as a result.

3. Give Your Cats a Good Water Supply

Water is one of the most important nutrients for your cat. However, many cats don’t drink enough water and live on the verge of dehydration, which may contribute both to disease and undue stress. Encourage your cat to take in moisture by feeding a canned diet (at least in part). Some cats also enjoy drinking from a flowing water supply so water fountains and / or dripping faucets may be helpful for encouraging your cat to drink more water. Separate water stations may be necessary for multi-cat households. Also, do not place water supply stations near feeding stations as cats generally do not drink near their food source.

4. Provide Some Perches for Your Cats

Most cats enjoy perches because being in an elevated position allows them to survey the surrounding area and see any approaching danger (like an antagonistic feline housemate) before the danger becomes a threat.

There are many forms of cat perches, including cat trees, cat shelving, or other objects on which your cat can climb or jump. Consider placing a cat bed, blanket, or towel on the perch for your cat’s comfort. Placing a perch near a window will allow your cat to survey the outdoors, which many cats find entertaining. Again, there should be ample perches for all cats in the home. If you have multiple cats, don’t expect them to share.

5. Establish a Few Scratching Areas 

Scratching surfaces are important for your cat’s health and well-being. Deny your cat a scratching post or scratching area and you deny your cat the ability to mark his territory as he prefers. This, in turn, may result in stress and even anxiety. Your cat may even choose his own scratching area ~ like your furniture or carpeting ~ which will annoy you and create a more stressful environment for your cat.

Provide your cat with both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces. Make sure there is at least one scratching post / surface for each cat in your home. Additional scratching surfaces cannot do any harm and may be appreciated.

6. Give Your Cats Plenty of Hiding Places

Your cat requires a private place where she can retreat to feel safe when overwhelmed or threatened. Failing to provide such a place will add stress and anxiety to your cat’s life. Hiding places can be a box, a quiet closet, or even a carrier in which your cat can seek shelter.

In a multi-cat household, blocking the line of sight between cats with a solid barrier can be useful, especially when one cat tends to bully or aggravate the other. 

7. Make Regular Playtime with Your Cat a Priority

Keep your cat’s mind stimulated and help reduce stress with exercise and interactive games. There are many types of toys available, so experiment and find out what type of toy your cat likes best. Some cats prefer toys with feathers that mimic a bird, while others prefer those that more closely resemble a mouse or small rodent. Laser pointers can be entertaining for some cats as well, however, since they are unable to "catch" a laser beam, allow your cat to "catch" his prey with another type of toy. Otherwise, being unsuccessful will stress kitty out even more. 

Spend at least 20-30 minutes a couple of times a day actively engaging your cat in play. Your cat will appreciate the time with you, get more exercise (helping to keep him fit), and be less anxious.

8. Don't Forget Snuggle Time

Attention from their owners is something that most cats enjoy. Spending some time with your cat on a daily basis, whether it is snuggling or some other activity, can also be a great stress reducer for most cats. This time will also allow you the time to observe your cat’s behavior for any changes.

9. Try to Avoid Sudden Changes in Environment

Cats typically do not care for change. In fact, changes in environment or routine can be quite stressful for your cat. Trying to keep changes to a minimum in your cat’s environment and keeping your cat’s daily routine constant can be useful in preventing or alleviating stress and anxiety.

10. Consider Stress-Reducing Products

You may want to try the plug-in pheromone products, which work chemically to relieve stress and calm anxiety, would benefit your cat. However, there are also chemical-free ways to calm your kitty, such as diffusing essential oils with a cold air ultrasonic diffuser (never heat essential oils as this breaks down the healing properties). Young Living has pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils that work wonders for calming pets. Our kitties prefer Lavender or Peace & Calming or Stress Away, which are just three of many choices available. Learn more about essential oils for pets at:  

Raven is a Holistic Lifestyle Consultant, Aromatherapist, Energy & Spiritual Healer, Animal Reiki Practitioner, and Plant-Based Nutrition Specialist. Her offerings include healthy, holistic lifestyle products, resources, recipes, Earth-friendly advice, and lots of other cool stuff to make holistic living a worthwhile journey for you and your pets! 

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