Help! Is My Cat Stressed? Was it Something I Said?

If your cat has gone from mellow to mean or nice to nasty, they just may be trying to communicate to you their frustration so you can help them change from being a bad cat into a loving cat, writes Marika Ray, researcher and writer at Natural Cat Lovers.

“Stress is too often an unrecognised problem behind the problem,” says veterinarian Paul McCutcheon of Toronto. “It can play a tremendous role in nearly every condition that a veterinarian treats.”

Causes of Stress in Cats

As humans we can become stressed by not liking our jobs, money or difficulties at home. With cats, some causes of stress can be from:

* Boredom from staying indoors 24/7 and 365 days a year

* Missing an owner who does not spend enough time with them

* Lack of variety and stimulation or exercise in their life

* Interpersonal relationship difficulties with pets being dominant or territorial

* Unpleasant environmental conditions

* Past abuse from a present or former pet owner

* Upset when there is tension and arguing between human household members

* Unnoticed illness or pain

What Problems Can Stress Cause?

Just as in humans, stress can be caused by a variety of cat situations and circumstances. You may feel baffled, confused and angry at your cat’s frustration but try looking at it from their perspective.

PHYSICAL STRESS: As the stress builds up from those problems, it can begin to make the adrenal glands overwork. When the adrenals become too stressed, that burden will cascade into other organs and may eventually undermine the entire immune system. In addition, if the adrenals become exhausted, the cat will have a hard time coping with that physical stress and any added emotional stress will increase the burden.

SOLUTION: First, take your cat to your veterinarian to make sure there is no physical ailment. Then, make sure your cat gets some exercise and time to play every day. Set up a regular play time for at least 15-20 minutes. The more you get your cat moving and feeling stimulated by chasing, jumping and attacking play toys, the happier your cat will feel. The stress will be relieved by the play time and your attention.

INAPPROPRIATE URINATION: Another common target of stress is your cat’s bladder. If you notice inappropriate elimination of urine outside the litter box, your cat could be trying to tell you that it feels stressed because the litter box may not be clean or perhaps it’s too perfumed or too confining.

SOLUTION: Clean your cat’s litter box more frequently. Twice a day is ideal. If you do it first thing when you get up and first thing after you get home, your cat will appreciate it..and it will only take seconds to do. Also make sure that your cat has plenty of room to turn around in the litter box and try using an unscented litter. A cat’s strongest sense is its nose so perfumes are not welcome.

TERRITORIAL STRESS: Another related bladder problem is urination in front of the owner or it might be urinating on beds, furniture or clothing. That message may carry several meanings. It could be a sign of a severe health problem or loss of bladder control. It might also mean that the cat is trying to say that a person is the source of his or her anxiety. More often than not, the cat is just trying to tell you he misses you and has separation anxiety. S/he may be trying to mark your belongings as his territory because the cat misses your attention and is trying to claim you back. Or perhaps you are giving more attention to another human and forgetting your cat companion.

SOLUTION: Make sure your cat does not have a health problem. Then, after you play, your cat will be ready to relax and spend some time grooming and petting. Trim nails twice a month. Get a good brush or slicker and comb through the fur. Give your cat a nice massage especially on the cheeks and back of the head. That’s really relaxing for them and they often purr, which relaxes you so you get something out of it, too.

Whatever Happens, Be Compassionate

Do your best to be compassionate, even if a cat gets angry or aggressive. Remember that they haven’t created the stress to irritate you. They are just acting out what they feel inside which is probably extreme frustration. They’re just asking for help.

“Examine the animal’s lifestyle and relationship with you, other people or other animals in the household,” recommends Dr. McCutcheon. “Is there a new addition or major change in the household that is affecting the pet? Are you spending more time away from home?
If you take the time to look beneath the surface of the symptoms, you will often find the real reason for the animal’s stress. Then you can try to modify the situation.”

The goal is to have a better, healthier relationship with your cat so that you both can spend a happy, carefree lifetime together.

SOURCES: “The Veterinarian’s Guide to Natural Remedies for Cats” by Martin Zucker and CatsInternational.org, a non-profit educational organization to help people understand their feline companions. Natural cat lovers.

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