Cattitude!

Posted on: September 11, 2013
Tags: Stress in cats
Office cat

Anyone who has ever met a cat can tell you that they are very special creatures. They are smart, independent, and extremely observant. Sometimes they are so sensitive to their environment that the slightest changes can cause incredible stress, and this can lead to significant medical problems.

What can cause stress in a cat? Just about anything out of the ordinary for them. Replacing the rug or cushion they normally lay on, loud noises from a passing truck, visitors in the house, or seeing a cat through the window outside are all examples of minor things that a person typically wouldn't even think about, but can send a cat into a tizzy. Their exceptional senses of hearing, sight and smell alerted their ancestors to potential food and danger, but can sometimes cause sensory overload in the modern cat.

What kind of medical problems can be related to this stress? Chronic stress can lead to chronically elevated blood sugars, which in turn causes more insulin release, and can bring on insulin resistance, or decreased response of the body to the insulin that it has, much like in people with type 2 diabetes, and can lead to diabetes in cats. Stress has also been implicated as a major factor in causing bladder inflammation, or cystitis, in cats.  This disease causes cats to urinate outside the litter box, strain or be painful while trying to go, and can even lead to urinary obstruction, a life-threatening medical problem.  Inflammatory bowel disease has been linked to feline stress, as well as all kinds of behavioral problems, from not using the litter box to aggression.  If cats are stressed enough that they are not eating, particularly overweight cats, they are at risk for developing fatty liver syndrome, which can be very dangerous.

How can you prevent stress in your own cats?  Look at things from your cat’s perspective.  Yes, that music or television show is entertaining for you, but imagine how loud it might seem to your cat.  Make sure they have a quiet place they can go if they want to get away, and that their important resources, such as food, water, and the litter box are accessible in those quiet areas.  If your cat has an area in which they spend a lot of time, remember that changing that area can cause stress, so be aware and monitor for any signs of illness or abnormal behaviors if you do make a change. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone, similar to the pheromones cat spread with cheek rubbing, that can decrease levels of stress hormones.  Make sure your cats have plenty of hiding places, things to climb on and scratching areas, as these are all important, natural cat behaviors.  Having lots of positive interactions with you and your family is also key to your cat’s happiness.  Offer play toys like a laser pointer, cat dancer, or a ball to chase, and, of course, always lots of affection and petting.  Brushing your cat is another positive interaction, which also decreases the amount of hair that will end up on your couch!  Some cats will enjoy toy puzzles, which can be filled with food and the cat has to work to get the food to come out. 

There are many things we can do to make our feline companions more comfortable and, hopefully, healthier!  Call us if you have any questions about your cat’s health or happiness!