Stress Awareness Month: Spotting Signs of Stress in Cats 

* Adapted from katzenworld.co.uk

Cats can easily become stressed when there are changes to their environment, so it’s important to identify any triggers that can cause anxiety. Like us, our furry friends have individual personalities and will therefore be affected by different things. 

PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “Changes to a cat’s surroundings can sometimes have a negative effect on his or her behaviour which can lead to further medical problems if left unmanaged. Luckily, there are lots of tips and tricks to help you to understand why your feline friend might be showing signs of distress.”

What are the signs? 

“Often the most notable sign of an unhappy cat is a change to their eating habits – those who usually enjoy their food may show less interest at mealtimes.

“Negative body language such as an arched back, coupled with antisocial tendencies, are also tell-tale signs that your furry friend is struggling. You may notice they are more vocal than usual and that their coat is deteriorating, which can indicate over grooming.

“Urinating outside of their litter tray and spraying, along with more worrying symptoms like passing blood, sickness and weight loss, can mimic other medical conditions, so be sure to consult your vet for a proper diagnosis.”

Changes to their environment 

“Significant changes to their environment can be a major cause of stress in cats – this includes any redecorating, renovations or replacing of their belongings. When making any major adjustments, ensure they still have a safe space with separate areas for their food, water, litter tray, and scratching posts – as well as a comfy place to sleep.”

Social changes 

“Many cats are territorial and tend to prefer their own company and space. Changes such as the arrival of a new pet or baby can be very stressful – as can any loss, so it’s important to help your cat through these stages. Our feline companions also like routine, so try to stick to a regular feeding schedule and make time to play with them each day.”

How do I stop my cat from getting stressed? 

“Ensuring your cat’s main welfare needs are met is the best way to avoid a stressed-out puss. Just like us, keeping them active may also help reduce stress, so make time for games and activities each day.” Check out the PDSA website or the Katzenworld shop for lots of fun toys.

“For furry friends who enjoy time outdoors, consider a cat flap so they can come and go as they please. It’s best to choose a microchip option to stop unwanted cats from entering your home.”

“If you are anticipating something that could be stressful for your cat, consider investing in a pheromone diffuser or natural essential oil diffuser which provides comfort and prevents urine marking and unwanted scratching.” Please do note though that in terms of the essential oil diffuser it is of utmost importance to use a species appropriate product such as Pet Remedy and only in it’s intended way. Cats especially react sensitively to oils and improper use or using the wrong one can be dangerous.

Moving Home With Your Pet

Adapted from katzenworld.co.uk

Moving house can be one of the most stressful experiences in life, both physically and emotionally, especially with the added complications of social distancing. So imagine how confusing this time can be for our pets, who can’t understand why all these changes are taking place.

PDSA vet Anna Ewers Clark said: “Worrying that your pet might struggle to settle into a new home can add yet another layer of stress to the moving process. But there are steps owners can take to help their pets feel more relaxed.”

“Even confident pets can be daunted by all the comings and goings ahead of moving day, so try and keep at least one room free of too much change, where they can get away and find a bit of normality. Leading up to the move, gradually place food and water bowls, litter trays, toys and beds into this room. On moving day they should then be happy to remain in one secure room for a number of hours, with regular visits to go to the toilet and for reassurance.”

“Some pets may benefit from staying elsewhere to avoid the flurry of moving-day tasks. Once you’ve had a few days to settle in and everything smells more like home, you can then introduce your pet to your new home.”

Dirk sat on top of the upright bed keeping an eye on things

There are plenty of things you can do to help your pet settle quickly. Here are some simple tips:

  • Ensure your pet’s microchip details are up-to-date to increase the chance of you being reunited with your pet should they go missing or escape during the house move.
  • If your move involves a fairly long drive in the car (or a plane journey!) talk to your vet about calming supplements. I would recommend Zylkene which I used when we moved to London and Dirk had to be in the car with us for 7 hours. Talk to your vet to discuss which supplement would be most suitable for your pet.
  • If your pet seems nervous and doesn’t want to eat, small amounts of their usual food throughout the day will be gentler on their tummy while they are feeling anxious. Some pets (mostly cats and dogs) can feel the effects of travel sickness, so if your pet is affected don’t feed them too close to travelling time especially if it’s a long journey.
  • At your new home, place some of your pet’s toys and bedding into one room with a piece of clothing that smells of you. Dogs will usually prefer for you to spend some time with them to help them settle, but most cats will be keen to explore and may prefer some time alone to investigate their new surroundings. With small pets, try to put them somewhere quiet and make sure they have their familiar cage and bedding to help them feel at home.
  • If your cat is initially nervous and hiding (under the bed for example), don’t worry too much and give your cat some space. Most cats feel more confident exploring their new home at night when everything is quiet.
  • Once they seem confident, you are all moved in and you’ve checked there no hazards for your pet like nails or wires, let them explore the rest of the home. Cats should be kept indoors for a few weeks to help them become familiar with the home, so that they know it’s their new base once they are allowed outside.
  • Your vet can recommend a diffuser such as Pet Remedy or Feliway which can help your pet feel more relaxed.

Take Your Cat To The Vet Day

It is ‘Take Your Cat To The Vet Day’ today. This doesn’t mean we should all be taking our cats to the vet today, but it is important to take your cat to the vet for regular health checks. ‘Take Your Cat To The Vet Day’ wants to raise awareness about the importance of preventive health care.

Royal Canin and International Cat Care are advocating the importance of feline health care. How often your cat should see the vet depends on their age and health, but as a rule healthy adult cats should see the vet once a year. They can get their vaccinations and you can stock up on flea and worm treatment. Your vet will also want to keep an eye on their general health and check your cat’s teeth, weight and body condition.

Older cats should see the vet twice a year, just because they are more prone to serious health problems such as kidney disease. Cats are very good at hiding signs of illness and early detection is crucial in order to prevent the illness getting worse. This will help improve your cat’s life and may make managing an illness a lot easier for both you and your cat.

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Celebrate International Cat Day this Sunday!

The 8th of August marks International Cat Day! A day to celebrate all of our kitties 🙂

International Cat Day was originally created in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare as a way to celebrate the relationship that cats have with people and to support the wellbeing and welfare of cats. It is also a day when people can go to their local animal shelter and rescue a cat.

I’m sure you’ll give your cat some extra love on International Cat Day, but why not celebrate by supporting a cat charity? Check you local Cats Protection website to see if you can help by becoming a fosterer or volunteer. Or support a cat charity through a donation. Not sure which one to support? International Cat Care, Cats Protection and Battersea are a few of the bigger cat charities, but you can also support a more local charity, such as Catcuddles Cat Sanctuary in London.

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Coping With Blindness in Cats

* From my partners at katzenworld.co.uk

Advice from Vet Charity PDSA

A cat losing their sight can be traumatic, both for them and their owners. However, with some adaptation, blind cats can often continue to lead normal, happy lives.

PDSA Vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan said: “Conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma can lead to sight-loss in pets, but these illnesses usually affect older cats. In younger animals, sight-loss might be the result of an injury. Luckily, cats have an extremely well-developed sense of smell and hearing which they use to help compensate for blindness.”

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This is Flash, a blind cat I used to look after (he has sadly passed away now). He was hit by a car and lost his sight and his jaw was damaged too. This meant he needed to be hand-fed. Flash used to be a street cat but had to adapt to being blind, depending on people feeding him and living with people.

Owners concerned about their cat’s vision should speak to their vet. In some cases pets can develop eye conditions if they’re suffering from other diseases, such as cataracts, which can occur in patients suffering from diabetes. Other diseases, such as glaucoma, can be extremely painful and require immediate treatment.

The progression of certain conditions could also be slowed with treatment, so early diagnosis and treatment is very important.

Olivia added: “Your vet will check your cat’s eyes and general health to see whether there is an underlying condition affecting their sight. If a medical condition is diagnosed, they will discuss treatment options and provide guidance and support.”

How cats react to sight-loss depends on several factors. If they learn new skills quickly, then they will often adjust more easily to any impact on their vision. Older cats may already have a reduced sense of hearing or smell, so they may find it harder to adapt, though because their loss of sight is usually more gradual they often learn to compensate well.

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Flash adapted to his new life very well. He loved playing chasing games – though his carers had to be careful about making sure his environment was safe! He also enjoyed going outside and hearing the birds, sniffing interesting scents, walking around in the grass and experiencing the sunshine, wind and fresh air.

Olivia added: “Confident cats may adapt better than more anxious ones, but the amount of support an owner provides is also a big factor in helping pets adjust to sight loss.”

There are several steps owners can take to care for a cat suffering from impaired vision:

  • It’s important to help your cat learn their environment and surroundings, so keep furniture in the same place. It’s worth assessing your home and garden to make sure there are no sharp edges or items your dog could injure themselves on. Access to hazards such as fireplaces, balconies and open staircases should be blocked off and never leave anything on the floor that they could trip over.
  • Keep their bed, food and water bowls in the same place to avoid confusion. This will help your cat feel more confident in the house.
  • When allowing them outside, make sure they’re in a secure area.
  • Talk to them regularly as they will find your presence reassuring.

Olivia said: “Once they’ve adapted to the loss of vision, many pets lead normal active lives.