Monday 14 May 2012

Cat Health And Stress

Reducing a cat's stress as a way of improving health has not been adequately recognised and tackled. Stress reduction is an important part of medical treatment. This is something that is well recognized in people.

Stress can affect a cat's immune response and therefore the cat is more likely to develop a disease. Once infected, stress can prolong the disease. One aspect of a cat's daily life that can cause stress is being forced into close proximity with other cats that the cat does not want to be close to. This can happen in multi-cat households where the person introduces new cats rather than the cats being related. The person chooses the cat's companions rather than the cat choosing them (as happens naturally in feral cat colonies).

Short-term stress increases the hormone cortisol, which does not reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. The problem is long term stress resulting in long term release of hormones such as cortisol and cytokines.

One disease is repeatedly mentioned as being exacerbated or caused by stress: idiopathic feline lower urinary tract disease (e.g. cystitis). "Idiopathic" means arising for an apparently unknown reason. The well discussed "inappropriate elimination" (not using the litter box but going somewhere inappropriate to the human) can be caused by stress.

Stress can also exacerbate disease through a loss of appetite and poor diet.

In places where cats are thrust together such as multi-cat households, catteries, shelters etc. paying attention to "social stress" can have a positive effect on the welfare of the cats. The domestic cat has learned to be a social animal. Many domestic cats are thoroughly in tune with idea of living in groups and socialising. However cats are individuals and some cats will not wish to socialise. These cats might become stressed if forced to socialise for the long term with little means to escape.

When there is an outbreak of a disease in a multi-cat establishment, one long term strategy should be to look at the reduction of stressors through reorganising the social groups and by making environmental changes.

Associated: Stressed Rescued Cats

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