The Stressed Cat

I write a lot about dogs but this week I was asked twice by two different people to help them out with almost identical cat issues so I thought it was time for some comments on cats.

Cats and dogs vary from their feeding needs right through to how they deal with stressful situations. Cats are very much quieter in their actions, having evolved from big cats that survive by not letting their enemies know what they are thinking or planning. Dogs, on the other hand, are more vocal creatures and when upset or angry tend to let us know loudly and clearly by barking or whining. Cats however tend to go quiet and hide and when really pushed come out with nails that can cause considerable damage very quickly; sadly owners are often in the wrong place at this time and can get badly hurt as a cat lashes out in fear or anger. When a cat’s living situation changes it often results in the cat/s reacting badly and hiding or exhibiting actions such as spraying or inappropriate elimination.

In the first conversation on Tuesday night the owner had a multi- cat household in which four cats were not getting along. Recently her boyfriend had moved in bringing in his two cats to co-habit with her two cats. Not only did the cats have to establish new relationships but so were the two owners and the human and animal stress levels in the household were high as stress can also be a factor even when good events are occurring. The different personalities of the four cats were clearly evident from her description. One of the cats had taken the easy road, rolling with the changes and making the best of the new situation and was clearly establishing friendships with everyone. Another however was determined to be disruptive until all of the players in this new situation were sorted out to his criteria and was sassing and hissing his needs and sometimes striking out with sharp nails. A third cat, despite being de-sexed was urine spraying. De-sexed cats are able to urine spray, it is uncommon and bears no relationship to age of de-sexing, but is a strong indicator that the cat is suffering from territorial stress. However as with all behavioural issues a full veterinary check up is required to rule out any physical causes.

In the second situation a new cat has been brought into the household of an elderly single cat. The elderly cat was very unhappy with the new situation and had responded by scratching the owner badly, resulting in an infected hand wound and a stay in hospital for the owner. This elderly cat was having nothing to do with the new cat and wanted to hide in a separate room, desperately trying to pretend the new cat was not there.

Cats are not pack animals, you can see cats and kittens curled up asleep but unlike dogs, they are animals that need their own territory with unique elimination, feeding and sleeping facilities. In order to successfully have a multi-cat household you need to allow this need for a private space and accept that all the cats eating, eliminating and sleeping together is not in the best interests of their health. The common rule is to have a kitty litter for each cat and one spare, with them placed at various places around the house. Multiple feeding stations, scratching posts and hammocks likewise need to be placed in various areas around the house. Leave doors to cupboards and wardrobes open, especially those high up and the cat feeling the most stress will feel more secure with a special place to hide.

Cats can take months to adapt to changes in their environment and need to do it in their own time. Years ago when I moved from Sydney to the Mid North Coast my old cat spent the first six months after our move living under the double bed in the bedroom. I placed her food and kitty litter under there and she gradually made her way out into first the bedroom and then the rest of the house over the second six months of our stay there. Cat are pragmatic creatures and normally given the ability to establish separate areas within the household are capable of co-existing together with the minimum of hissing, fighting and spraying but it does need owners who understand the needs of cats and are prepared to be patient with individual needs and give each cat the time it needs to feel comfortable in the changed circumstances.

Until next time………….
Stay safe and remember to Kiss the dog, hug the cat and tell your goldfish you love them.

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behaviour, training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors


Posted on March 11, 2012, in Behaviour, Health, Training and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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