New research by the UK’s leading feline welfare charity, Cats Protection, has found that too many owners are letting their love for their moggies cloud their judgement when it comes to providing a stress-free home.
The findings come ahead of a new BBC Two Horizon documentary series (Cat Watch 2014: The New Horizon Experiment) starting on Tuesday 7 October, which follows the lifestyles of 100 cats.
Cats Protection, which took part in the series, questioned 1,300 cat owners and found that when it comes to dealing with their stressed out pet, more than half (53%) would give it a cuddle.
“Being held or stroked for too long can be very stressful for some cats,” said Cats Protection’s Behaviour Manager, Nicky Trevorrow. “Space and peace is often what they need – they’re not small furry humans so what would comfort us won’t necessarily comfort them.”
In line with the findings of the BBC programme, Cats Protection’s survey found that cat owners in the UK find it difficult to recognise signs of stress and many are at a loss as to what to do about it. In particular:
More than half of owners (55%) didn’t realise that living with another cat or dog can be stressful for their pet.
Half the owners (50%) were unaware that other cats coming into the house could be a cause of stress.
More than a third (35%) let neighbouring cats in, either through a door or window, or their own cat’s cat flap.
More than half of respondents (51%) failed to identify wetting and soiling in the house as a sign of stress.
Only a quarter (26%) knew that grooming a particular area all the time was also an indication of stress.
“Owners love their animals and want them to be happy,” said Nicky. “But our research has highlighted a lack of understanding of stress triggers for cats and how to deal with them.”
Nicky will answer owners’ questions about stress in an expert Q&A session on Facebook this Friday 3 October at 11.30am. This will be followed by a series of live online question and answer sessions in subsequent weeks for owners to learn more about their cats.
The charity has also produced five top tips to help relieve stress in cats:
1. Try not to overly stroke or cuddle a cat which is showing signs of stress as it can make it worse.
2. Always provide your cats with easily accessible places to hide and let them stay in there for as long as they want to. A hiding place makes them feel safe and secure and can be something as simple as a cardboard box on its side or upside down. Or you could buy an igloo-style cat bed.
3. Cats feel safer if they can view their surroundings from up high, so make sure they can access somewhere like the top of the wardrobe or a high shelf.
4. Make sure there is enough food, water and litter trays for the all of the cats in the household. The ideal number of litter trays is one per cat plus one extra.
5. Install a microchip or magnetic cat flap, which lets your cats into your property and keeps neighbouring cats out.
For owners who want to understand more about feline behaviour, Cats Protection offers an online learning tool which can be accessed here: http://learnonline.cats.org.uk/content/ufo/