Cat stress involves a lot of the body on a physiological, emotional and mental level. When cats are stressed, their heart rate increases, blood flows quicker and their breathing changes. Digestion and consumption changes can result. Blood pressure increases. The immune system can be momentarily suppressed.
Your cat may have increased discharge from eyes and mouth. Sneezing can pose an issue.
Cat stress can also re-trigger previous viruses your cat may have had such as cat herpes infection. Bladder conditions could become an issue with toileting changes and create breeding grounds for infections such as feline interstitial cystitis.
Now think about the symptoms of cat stress in terms of longer periods of time
If breathing, pulse rate and heart are working overtime, increased strain is placed on the body. High blood pressure and more heart activity can create issues with the heart, lungs and circulation. The changes in digestion and diet can influence your cat and bring upset stomachs, loose stool, pain, nausea and dietary problems along with it. An immune system under stress means greater susceptibility to health issues and disease.
The greater the issues with toileting and bladder control, the longer and more likely infections become.
You can then add in the impact on their general feelings and symptoms such as over-grooming leading to hair loss and things start looking sorry for your family kitty cat.
Living with a restless mind and body that feels ill and plagued by stress is bad for your cat. It can even have lasting health impacts and shorten life expectancy.
Treating stress when you notice the changes gives you the ability to reduce the impact on your cat’s overall wellness. The longer it is left, the harder it can be to reverse the stress cycles and impacts.
What you can do with a stressed cat
The first port of call with cat stress is to bring them into Fox Valley Animal Hospital. Our vets can listen to the situation and work with our vet nurses to monitor the physical impacts. We can also undertake a health check to see how the cat is functioning physically.
Next, we can talk through the actions at home and the situations that may have increased stress. This allows us all- vet team and pet owner- to come together as one for a stress reduction plan.
Some of the common cat stress reduction techniques include:
- Positive encouragement and support during stressful situations. If there are triggers to stress and anxiety, consider treating your cat to frame it in a more positive light
- Think about distraction techniques – puzzles, play and game when you cat might be stressed can really help keep your cat centred and focused on something fun instead of whatever is creating stress
- Increase the petting and soothing times- make more time to talk, pet, brush and lavish your cat with attention to offset any deficit they may be feeling
- Think about your cat’s environment – can you create more places to relax, de-stress, play and unwind? Would scratching equipment work? Are platforms helpful? Think like a cat that wants to relax and design safe spaces away from sources of stress such as small children and other animals
- Consistent routines – feeding, playing with and spending time with your cat can help return a disordered world to something less stressful and easier to navigate
- Isolation from stress triggers – moving your cat away from other animals and triggering family members may help alleviate their immediate concerns and allow for re-introduction later
- Creating cats only spaces – this includes hiding places and places to escape to when baby or dog or life becomes too much to handle
Some veterinary aids you may need to consider include:
- Changes in diet and/or exercise in consultation with your vet
- Enrichment and stimulation such as active play and specific games
- Cat pheromones to calm anxious nerves and promote a peaceful home association
- Herbal remedies- should only ever be used in consultation with a vet
- Medication – anti-anxiety medication can be used in short, medium and long-term situations but again should only ever be used in full knowledge and in consultation with your vet