Whilst our beloved dogs may be thrilled to have us at home more these last few months, and some cats like extra company, some feline characters actually become increasingly stressed and anxious at the first changes of habit. Stressed kitties are certainly not what you want, and one of the problems suffered by such cats include cystitis. Our friends at Milton Keynes have put together some information on how to reduce stress in cats and we highly recommend trying the tips they have. They have also created a really helpful presentation which you can listen to here.
Our cats love routine. They get on well in a routine and they often don’t like anything disrupting that routine. On a normal work week we tend to be out of the house for multiple hours, allowing them to catch up on some well needed sleep, explore the quietness of the garden and just doing whatever they see fit!
During lockdown, as we are spending more time at home, this is disrupting their usual routine. Normal things for us could be considered stressful for your feline, such as moving furniture, painting that room you’ve always been meaning to do, or even sorting those dreaded weeds in the garden.
Try to allow your cat to continue with their normal routine as if you weren’t there. This means feeding them at their usual time, and if you don’t have a catflap, letting them outside at their usual time. Also, try not to disrupt them when they’re sleeping.
You may be tempted to spring clean the house with all this extra time on your hands. Cats will navigate through environments using pheromone detection and often create their own “scent maps.” Cats create a scent map by rubbing their cheeks, releasing a pheromone, on walls and furniture. This allows them to trace familiar areas and once reunited with the pheromone, they feel relaxed and calm. When spring cleaning, moving furniture, or decorating, you are removing these smells which can cause them to feel anxious. Try to avoid moving furniture that they often sit or sleep on, or try a plug-in pheromone product, if you do need to clean that area as this will help them stay calm in the meantime.
Cats like having their own resources and tend to not like sharing them. You can help them out by providing some resources for them.
Scratching posts. It is a good idea to have some scratching posts around the flat or house, if you do not have any spare, you could also try making your own. Cats use scratching posts to not only scratch and sharpen their claws, but to territorial mark their space. Their paw pads leave scent from the paw glands and so helps keep away neighbouring cats. Ensure the post is sturdy enough to not move when they scratch, and ensure the post is big enough to allow them to properly and effectively stretch. Putting the scratching post somewhere where they sleep is also a good idea so it is there when they wake up.
Ensure your cat has plenty of water available in multiple areas around the place. Separating the water from the food could help them drink more. Believe it or not, cats have very sensitive taste buds, and are able to taste the difference between water. Some plastic bowls could affect the taste of water so it is worth making sure they have different options. Ensure that the bowl you do provide them with is big enough so that their whiskers do not touch the side of the bowl. If your cat is struggling to drink water, you could try adding some to their food to increase their intake, especially if they are struggling with symptoms of cystitis.
Cats generally have small appetites and it is easier now, more than ever, to over feed them. Especially when you’re bored, and they’re bored, the easy thing to do is eat! Try not to overfeed them and try to stick to their usual feeding routine as much as possible. They will also appreciate if you put their food in a separate place to their water and litter tray. Cats are very hygienic creatures and like to avoid contamination. A good way to prevent stress is to also put the food somewhere where the cat can still see around. They may become anxious if they are eating and are unable to see their full surroundings.
Litter trays are really important. If at all possible, try to have two trays per cat and avoid putting them in areas that are busy and noisy. A private, quiet area will be appreciated by your furry friend.
Cats always need to have access to a “safe place” as their natural response is to retreat to somewhere where they feel safe. It is worth providing multiple safe areas around the house or flat for them. Maybe mix them up by having some higher up, as your cat may feel safer up high. Once your cat has found their safe space and are in it, make a habit to never disturb them in there and do not wake them if they are asleep as this may cause anxiety and make them no longer feel safe in that particular space.
If your cat is struggling with symptoms of cystitis or is appearing more stressed or anxious than normal, you should contact your local vet practice directly. For examples of emergencies, you can take a look at our infographic here. Thank you to the lovely Milton Keynes Veterinary Group for providing us with all this useful information! To listen to their presentation regarding the things you have read in this article, please visit their Facebook page.