Like humans, cats experience times of stress. This is not a big problem if this is a transient phase. But if stress becomes chronic, it can have serious consequences on your beloved cat. To what can this situation be due, how to recognize it and what solutions?
Depending on its character, the cat will manifest its stress in a different way. But like usual, it is mainly the change in behavior that is the main red flag. What signs should you watch out for?
- Nervousness, aggressiveness (against humans or other animals), over-excitement. Or on the contrary: the withdrawal into itself, the cat hides, it adopts an avoidance attitude, it no longer plays.
- Change in appetite: the cat eats little or in excess.
- Excessive licking (to the point that lesions appear on the skin), self-harm.
- Hair loss: it can be linked to excessive licking or metabolic disturbances. The loss occurs mainly in the belly, inside of the legs and on the tail.
- Unwanted urine marking, defecation anywhere in the house.
- A dogging frenzy.
- Much more frequent meows.
As in humans, chronic stress can have health consequences. One of the most characteristic of cats is the development or worsening of interstitial cystitis (inflammation of the bladder without an infectious cause).
Why do cats get stressed?
There are many possible causes. The root of the problem lies in the disruption of the cat’s familiar environment. Cats hate when we interfere with their routine. We can take many examples: moving, changing the location of furniture, replacing a sofa or a carpet, moving the litter or the bowl, the arrival of another animal (probably the most difficult to manage!), change of food brand, prolonged absence of a family member, birth of a baby, new neighbors, etc.
As we know, cats are deeply independent animals (and solitary, which obviously does not exclude contact) and extremely attached to their territory. This means that when they feel the need, they must have access, without being disturbed, to a space that they have clearly defined and where they feels comfortable. Anything that goes against this need can compromise their well-being and become a (major) source of stress.
How to react ?
Logically, first, by trying to identify the cause of the stress. The veterinarian’s intervention is necessary both to rule out a physical origin (the cat’s unusual behavior may be linked to illness) and to advise on the best way to handle the situation.
From there, it is crucial to be patient and especially not to coerce the cat. Spend more time with him or her, encourage him or her to play, yes, but without pushing too hard or to force the cat. In the event of cohabitation between several cats, it is necessary to ensure that each of them can have a “private” place to eat, drink, sleep, isolate themselves and do their business (the litter must be clean at all times. !).
The scratching post can be useful for letting off steam, as can the installation of a cat tree, which will serve as a rest and observation area (cats feel much more comfortable – and therefore less stressed – in height). Another thing to consider is diet: cats like to eat in small portions, spread throughout the day. A kibble distributor can appease the cat, since he will understand that he can feed himself when he wants and that he does not have to worry about running out (which happens when he is given for example two rations a day, that the cat swallows very quickly, and asks for more just as quickly).
Finally, getting upset is useless, on the contrary: if you are stressed, your cat will be even more so.