Saturday 4 December 2021

Anxious cats are pushing up the price of pet insurance in the UK

The Times newspaper has a headline which interests me: "Why anxious cats and dogs are pushing up the price of pet insurance". They refer to a guy, Sean Feast, who had to work from home during the pandemic lockdown. Until then he was unsure why he is cat, Marble, a four-year-old tabby, was difficult. She was hard to control and "bitey". 

Marble and Sean Feast
Marble and Sean Feast. Photo: The Times. Great newspaper. Highly recommended!

In other words, Marble tended to bite people even though they were kind to her. She was always aggressive towards people. He discovered why while he was at home durning the extensive lockdown. A neighbouring Bengal cat frequently came through the cat flap for a visit. This dramatically disturbed Marble's life. It was a massive intrusion onto her territory which made her anxious. It would seem that the Bengal cat was quite dominant and that Marble is quite timid by comparison. She had no outlet for her anxiety. It would come out in aggressivity towards people who wanted to be kind to her.

This is called redirected aggression in the cat world. Sometimes people think that their cat is simply aggressive and nasty. There is always a good reason why a cat demonstrates apparent unprovoked aggression. And redirected aggression is not uncommon.

RELATED: Domestic cat attacks their own tail because of redirected aggression.

But the purpose of this short article is in the title. I'm concerned that there are more anxious cats than people are aware of. I believe that cat caregivers should be alert to anxiety in their cat. I believe that it is not that far from the surface. Domestic cats are inherently very alert to what is going on around them and it does not take a lot to energise them. I believe that this predisposes them to anxiety. It is inherent as part of their survival strategy. And as they live in the human world, a land of giants, a slightly timid cat may suffer an almost continual level of slight anxiety.

Certainly, Covid, and the long lockdowns followed by the caregiver going back to the office has disturbed the routines and rhythms upon which the domestic cat relies so heavily. This, too, is likely to heighten anxiety levels. There is, if we are honest, a great problem with cat owners who have to be away from home all day, sometimes for long hours. 

RELATED: Picture of a young cat with a large elderly dog whose separation anxiety was cured by this confident cat.

Under these circumstances cats will often become anxious. It'll be a form of separation anxiety. This can be manifest in health issues such as cystitis and behavioural issues brought about by isolation and boredom if they are confined to the home. And of course cat owners who are away all the time are not able to observe their cat to notice the kind of pressures that they might be under from neighbouring cats if they are allowed outside.

I believe that it is beholden upon cat owners to prioritise the confidence levels in their cat. They should do all they can to boost their domestic cat companion's confidence to make them feel as calm and relaxed as possible. This means plenty of routines in their life which makes them feel more secure. It also means being around as much as possible and creating a calm environment in which they are allowed to express natural behaviour which at heart is wild cat behaviour. 

RELATED: Study says that cats are prone to separation anxiety in homes with two female residents.

This is the raw cat as Jackson Galaxy calls it. The raw cat within - the wildcat within. If you meet the demands of the wildcat they feel whole. If you add to that a friendly and predictable environment they feel whole and content.

I wasn't able to read The Times article but I suspect that the increased insurance premiums arise out of the fact that with feline anxiety you get health problems. The classic one is cystitis commonly called idiopathic cystitis. This causes inappropriate elimination. But there will be other perhaps more insidious health issues.

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