Monday 5 May 2014

How Do I Know If My Cat Is Stressed?

Perhaps a good starting point is to know what kind of environment a domestic cat should live in which is ideal and within which a cat should not become stressed.  If, then, the environment is not ideal, it is possible that the cat might be stressed.

An ideal environment for a domestic cat is one that is secure, calm, without too much noise and without stressful interactions from either people, strangers, other cats or other companion animals.  In addition the cat should not be punished but all training should be carried out through positive reinforcement if the owner really wants to train her cat.
Shelters are stressful places for cats.

There should be no abuse, obviously.  The cat should be free of pain because pain causes stress.  The cat should be well fed.  The cat should be healthy and free of disease and parasites etc..  The environment should be stimulating for a cat.  It's what the experts called an enriched environment.  This is because boredom can also cause stress and the more natural a place is in respect of normal intellectual stimulation that a cat would encounter in the wild, the more healthy and de-stressed the cat will be.

As can be seen there are quite a lot of things to think about when creating an ideal environment for the domestic cat.  The classic thing that could cause a cat to be stressed is a background threat of some sort, either from another animal or a person.

A stressed cat would probably demonstrate a change in normal behaviour.  In order to be aware of the change in normal behaviour the cat's owner obviously needs to know what normal behaviour is for this individual cat.  There is therefore quite a lot of necessary observation required in order to know how one's cat behaves normally and then to measure any changes against that.

Specific sorts of behaviour that a cat might demonstrate when stressed would be: over-grooming, usually in easily accessible places like the belly.  Hiding is another form of behaviour that indicates a cat is stressed.  Incidentally, every cat needs a place to hide so the owner of the cat should ensure that such a place exists in the household.  In addition it is useful even necessary to have some vertical spaces meaning places that a cat can climb to, to feel secure.  Height brings security.

A stressed cat might also engage in inappropriate elimination.  There are many reasons for inappropriate elimination and one of them could be a feeling of insecurity and the need to mark territory either through spraying or even defecation.

A stressed cat might also become irritable and more aggressive than usual.  The form of aggression would probably be defensive aggression because the cat would feel a need to be defensive in what would seem to the cat to be a hostile environment or at least an environment that was not calm or secure.

I suppose, a stressed cat might decide to leave.  It is not uncommon for a cat to leave the family home and find another home that feels better.  Sometimes cats which are what I call time-share cats (sharing more than one home) eventually decide to stay at one home which may not be the original home.

A cat who is subservient to another in a household without a secure place to go to will be stressed. Problems can occur at feeding stations and at cat litter trays.

Stress can lead to ill-health. Cats at shelters are exposed to stress and contagious diseases.

The above are some initial thoughts on the matter which I have written about without reference to any web page or book.  You might like to add to the list if you have time to comment.

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