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ALISON LAURIE-CHALMERS: Watch for behaviour change in your cat as it could be a symptom of stress says vet

By Alison Laurie-Chalmers

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CATS can become stressed easily, and stress can also be a causative factor in many feline disease processes such as feline lower urinary tract disease and feline orofacial pain syndrome.

If your cat is feeling stressed, their behaviours will change. Some of these changes can happen suddenly and be obvious, however others can develop gradually, and be quite subtle.

Signs your cat might be feeling stressed include hiding, eating less, avoiding certain places, pets or people, poor coat quality, slinking low to the ground, crouching or arching with ears back, over-grooming and hair loss, low energy, passing urine inappropriately, meowing or yowling more and aggression.

Many of these signs can also be caused by underlying medical problems, so it is very important initially to contact your vet for a general health check-up.

Cats can be stressed by a variety of different things. It is important to try to identify your cat’s particular stress “triggers”, so you can hopefully take some steps to help them.

One of the most common causes of stress for cats is sudden changes within their immediate home or surrounding environment, including moving house, new pets or family members, new furniture or moving furniture and changes to their bedding.

Cats can also find sudden changes in smell in their environment stressful. So, it is best to avoid using strongly scented diffusers, candles or air fresheners.

Long periods of nothing and boredom can lead to stress, so try to keep your cat entertained and active. Make sure your cat has access to plenty of toys to play with and rotate these regularly and use puzzle feeders.

Many cats like their own company and can find the sudden introduction of people, children and other pets, especially other cats, stressful. They can be quite territorial and enjoy their own space. Your cat may become stressed if there are people in the house more often. This could happen if your working situation changes and you now work from home, or during the school holidays.

Changes in the daily routine can also be stressful for some cats. This includes changes to their feeding times.

Some cats will also have their own fears or phobias which make them feel stressed including fireworks or other loud noises.

Illness, injury, discomfort, and pain can cause stress for cats. This can be especially true with chronic disease conditions which can have a big impact on your cat’s quality of life. It is important that you arrange an appointment with your vet if you think your cat is unwell. Your vet will be able to discuss treatment plans to help your cat feel better and be more comfortable – and less stressed.

For cats that enjoy time outdoors, provide an easy opening cat flap so they can come and go as they please. Make sure that other cats or pets in the home don’t “guard” this cat flap access preventing entry or exit. If you can’t have a cat flap, keep to a set routine for being let in and out, so your cat knows what to expect.

Cats are creatures of habit. If you think the stress is impacting on their health and quality of life, it may be advised that you contact a certified behaviourist for further guidance and advice.

n Alison Laurie-Chalmers is a senior consultant at Crown Vets in Inverness.

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