Sunday 22 April 2012

Stressed Rescued Cats

Studies indicate that cats are stressed when moved to rescue centers. This confirms what we know through the application of common sense. Cat caretakers know that when you move to a new place it may take you and your cat up to 6 months or more to settle in. Initially, your cat will be quite anxious and hide. We have all seen that. It took Charlie, my cat, about 2 weeks to simply calm down a bit! He hid under a desk or anywhere he could find for the first couple of days.

Shelter cats show signs of acute stress over the initial period of being at a new shelter. The time taken to adapt depends on the individual cat. That is common sense too.

However, the time taken to adapt will be several days to several weeks. Stress is caused by being in a strange place, strange routine, strange smells, people they don't know, close proximity to other cats, strange smells and importantly for shelter cats there is no where to hide.

I ask therefore how can shelter employees assess a cat's character under these circumstances (and therefore suitability for adoption)? I presume that they at least wait for a few before making an assessment.  But that might be impractical.

It would seem that cats who have nice characters, who are ideal as cat companions but who are slow to adapt to the new environment will be assessed as unsuitable. Or am I missing something?

This chimes with stories you hear of animal control grabbing cats and trying to put them into cages and getting scratched, then declaring that the cat is aggressive and putting the cat down. Totally idiotic, really. But it happens.

Lorraine St John who runs the Kent Wildlife Rescue centre in Kent, England says that the "biggest killer you get at animal shelters is not the illness...but stress". She was talking about the nursing back to health of a fox that had been hit by a car. He was blinded and comatose. He was put in a cage with abandoned kittens. The kittens nursed the fox back to health playing their part with the staff at the centre. The fox and kittens formed a great friendship which made the foxes recovery highly successful. Sadly they were separated when the fox was released back to the wild and the kittens rehomed. See the story.

Associated: Multi-treatments from a vet can cause stress too.

Reference: The Welfare of Cats ISBN 978-1-4020-6143-1

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