As all cat owners know, CATS ARE SPECIAL…
They are not small dogs and remain for the most part wilder and more independent than any pet dog does. That’s not to say they don’t enjoy a fuss and a cuddle or sleeping under the duvet with you but it’s always on their terms and not yours!
Many cats are happy to live in busy households with other cats and even dogs but for some this life is too stressful. Stress in cats often results in a withdrawn, unfriendly creature that is only seen scuttling around at the edges. You are more likely to see (and smell) their urine as they mark the walls and furniture to try and secure their place within the home.
How can we help our feline friends to settle down and enjoy life? The problem might be temporary such as moving house, building work going on, friends or relatives staying or more permeant. Either way there are some simple things we can do to help.
Cats need a place to hide in and feel safe, these are best closed in, high off the ground with no access by others.
They need space to spread out. A multi-cat household should have a bowl for every cat and one extra. These should be spread out through the house so feeding time is not a time of stress. It is worth placing the bowls in different ways, on the floor, on a counter top or in a cupboard to cater for even the most secretive of eaters.
The same for litter trays. If your cats are indoor cats then you need one tray per cat plus and one extra. If you are struggling with litter box training think about where these are placed, what type of litter you are using, is it a closed or open tray and how often you clean the tray?
If your cats are indoor / outdoor cats you may find it is preferable to have more than one entrance/ exit point so none get stranded outside due to fear. Also be careful that other cats are not using these to enter your home (your cat’s territory!) which will likely result in great stress and an increasing in urine marking.
Take it slowly! If you need to introduce a new person or pet allow your cat to take their own time, don’t ever force them. If you will have to use a cat box and your cat is not used to this, leave it around with a favourite “blankie” in it so the cat can get used to it and maybe even use it as a sleeping place. If you have moved house place them in a secure room to start with to settle, then open the door and allow them to venture out when they are ready. Ideally this will be after you have your furniture in place and all is unpacked and homely.
There are many products on the market to help sooth cats, most are based on pheromones which are naturally secreted by cats. These products have synthetic pheromones which are recognised by cats and help soothe and relax them. They come as collars, sprays, plugins and atomisers. Use of these is highly recommended for any stressed cat or when you are anticipating a stressful time for your kitty.
A physical manifestation of stress is FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease). This is when a cat has difficult passing urine. Not all stressed cats will develop FLUTD and not all cats with FLUTD are stressed cats but very often there is a link. If you notice your cat is straining to urinate, has increased frequency of urination, is urinating in strange palaces (this is different to spraying which usually occurs on a vertical surface) or is over grooming their belly causing hair-loss they may have FLUTD. This can be very serious and needs veterinary intervention.
Stressed and fearful cats need time, patience and sensitivity. Everything must be on their terms. You need to be quiet and calm with them. Allow them to make the first move and allow them to do it in their own time.
Some cats are naturally more fearful and stressed than others. Some were not well socialised when young kittens, lacking exposure to people, other pets, loud noises, fast moving children and the general melee of life. For some a pervious scare or a stressful situation that was handled badly will impact on their future life.
With time and patience and a little help from cat pheromone products many cats will improve and become more integrated with the rest of the household. There will always be some that remain aloof and prefer to live alone with minimal interactions and this should be respected.
Very nice article with in-depth info.