Our pet expert from Howdon has great advice for cat owners

Cats are thought to be confident and fearless felines but often with our domestic moggies they can suffer from life stressors which can impact their health. This article will discuss the health implications of stress for your cat, what the signs will be and the treatment plan that’s required.

Stress can be a common cause of cystitis in both male and female cats. Signs are.
– Straining to urinate
– Blood in the urine
– Urinating in unusual places
– Excessive licking

Male cats can go on to have a urinary obstruction which blocks the emptying of urine from the bladder. Because this is a serious health emergency, is it important to monitor your cat’s urination and output. If there are signs of no urination being passed but are still trying to use the litter tray, please seek veterinary attention immediately. Often, they will become very vocal (crying in pain) when trying to go to the toilet, they can change in behaviour and become aggressive when handled. It is extremely painful, and a blocked bladder can become fatal for cats if left for too long. Always contact your veterinary practice if you have any concerns.

Signs of stress
Cats hide their emotions, and it can be difficult to know if you have a stressed cat. Here are some signs which may help you.
– Avoiding situations or people
– Hiding
– Toileting outside the litter tray or spraying in areas around the home
– Behaviour changes such as increased aggression, inability to relax, vigilant and over stimulated
– Over grooming – pulling at hair, excess hair balls produced, bald patches on fur
– Outdoor cats avoiding going outside
– Scratching furniture
– Becoming increasingly vocal

What you can do to minimise stress
– Provide a safe place – Give your cat somewhere they can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. Making it an area that’s free from noise, foot traffic and free from other pets. Provide a warm and comfortable bedding area for them to relax in. Pheromone products such as Feliway and Pet Remedy can be used in these areas to make the room feel safer.

– Increasing litter tray availability – Not all cats like to be seen when going to the toilet. Placing in a quiet location can allow your cat to feel comfortable. If housing with other cats it is recommended to have multiple litter trays around the house. Cats can be very clean creatures and once soiled the litter tray will no longer be “in use” so regular cleaning after each toilet trip can help ease anxiety for your cat.

– Water source – Having more than one water bowl around the house will allow your cat to access water without feeling on edge. Having one in their “safe place” will help them feel more relaxed. Some cats prefer to drink from the tap so purchasing a water fountain can accommodate those waterfall drinkers.

– Loud noises – Cats can easily be affected by their surroundings which can create anxiety or stress. Home renovations in and around your home can impact your cats stress levels as it disrupts their normal daily routine. Parties or loud music should be avoided if you have a known anxious cat. Fireworks can be terrifying for cats so introducing a different routine to them being allowed outside can help. This should be done slowly as quickly changing their routine can also stress them. Dogs’ trusts have audible files that you can use to gradually introduce noises to your cat.

– Travel – When housing multiple cats and one visits the vets, they will pick up a different scent. When taken back home this can sometimes cause conflict between them. When returning home place, them in a different area of the house for a couple of hours, this will enable them to return to their normal scent. Cats are very intelligent animals and often the cat carrier coming out of the cupboard means they are going somewhere that’s not very nice. Desensitising the cat carrier by bringing out a couple of days before the travel event. Making it a positive environment by adding a lovely cosy bed inside, feeding them tasty treats beside and inside, using Feliway or Pet remedy alongside the carrier can help reduce the stress and anxiety. If placing them in a cattery, take items that have the home smell (blanket, bed, favourite toys, food/water bowl) this will create a “home from home” feeling and surrounds your cat with items which are familiar to them

– New visitors – When having family and friends visiting your home it is important to allow your cat time to adjust. Asking visitors to be calm, quiet, and not to approach the cat unless they are asking for attention. Children visiting can be very stressful so educating children to be gentle, quiet, and calm around them can help. New feline visitors to the neighbourhood can also have a negative effect to your cat. Cats have a very good sense of smell and often can smell new arrivals that are exploring around the house/garden. This is something that cannot be avoided but being aware of new neighbours can help determine any reasons behind behaviour changes. When introducing a new pet to the family you must give your cats time to adjust and adapt. Providing plenty of space and introducing them slowly, for short periods of time to avoid conflict. If possible, this should begin with an item (blanket etc) that has the smell of the new addition on and that item should be placed in the home. The cat will be able to investigate the smell and get familiar to it before the new addition is brought in.