What is stress? Why does it affect your cat’s health?
Stress is the bodily reaction to a perceived threat. Chronic stress is an extended response to emotional pressure over time. Both can reduce immunity, contribute to obesity, and damage the heart muscle.
Look for these six signs your cat is stressing out:
1. Inappropriate urination
Is your cat peeing (or worse!) outside the litter box? Check first that the litter box is clean, full of fresh litter, located in a safe spot, and is convenient. Plus, make sure you’ve chosen the right litter box for your cat. A difficult-to-access cat box can upset your animal. Also ask your vet to exclude a urinary tract infection, common among obese cats. If none of these is the source of the inappropriate urination, you may love a nervous cat. Consider what you can do to cut down the stress in your cat’s life.
2. Excessive eating
Most household pets love to feed. In fact, many of us would like to enjoy our meal with same unabashed relish our cats do. But if your cat eats more than your teenager, he may be stressed (the cat, not the teenager). Overeating is a primary symptom of feline anxiety and a considerablecontributor to cat morbidity and premature mortality. It’s too serious to neglect. So try putting cat kibble in a puzzle toy. An entertaining activity like that will lessen your cat’s stress. Plus, eating slowly may cause the cat to consume fewer calories.
Cats vomit. A lot. It’s not automatically a sign that something’s amiss. Typically, it’s cats being cats. With acute vomiting or vomit accompanied by blood, however, check with your vet. If you think your cat vomits too much and the vet can’t find anything physiologically unsound, it could be a stress warning. If you’ve moved, divorced, added a baby, sent a family member off to college, or gained a new dog or cat, stress could be the culprit that’s making your cat puke. Be sure your cat has a safe, quiet space to retreat and plenty of activities to keep him busy until the household returns to normal.
Millennia of breeding for life as a tiny hunter has made cats great at playing hide-and-seek. But if your cat is slinking off to hide in a closet more often than usual or seems distressed if she can’t curl up in a cabinet, it could be a sign she’s stressed. Ask yourself if any strong smells or loud noises in the house might be aggravating her distress. If there’s been a big change, like an older child joining the family or even a second cat moving in, take the time to make introductions. Read our articles on 7 Tips to Help Cats and Kids Bond andThe Ultimate Guide to Second Cat Introductions to help you get started.
Play aggression in cats? Nothing to worry about. They are hunters in the wild after all. Playing with your cat will help stop the sneak attacks on your toes, ankles, and fingers. Serious aggression in cats, however, could be a sign of serious stress and needs more thoughtful intervention. Consult with your veterinarian or a cat behaviorist.
Is your cat licking or plucking fur more than normal? Are you noticing bald patches? Does she chew or lick until sores develop on her skin? Experts have a name for stress-related feline overgrooming—psychogenic alopecia. All excessive preening is not stress related, though, so first go over your cat for fleas, ringworm, or allergies. If these turn up negative, the matter is likely emotional. Breeds like the Siamese, Burmese, and Abyssinian are apt to psychogenic alopecia. So if you care for one of these cat types, keep a sharp eye out for this stress signal.
If you love a cat, you already know cats stress easily. An orderly, predictable household full of toys, gadgets, and games goes a long way to preventing, reducing, or eliminating stress. Let’s work together to keep our cats happy like we do to keep them healthy.
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