“Duke” was well named. A big, handsome, long-haired Silver Tabby cat, he had a distinctive air and a swagger when he walked. “Duke” was used to having his home territory just as he wanted.
During lockdown however, his home had become extremely busy and he soon took to hiding himself away under the bed in the master bedroom. He started overgrooming himself and soon had a bare skin area over his tummy and down his back legs. More of concern though was his recent, frequent visits to the litter tray to pass urine, and he had also started to urinate in various corners of the house, something which he had never previously done.
His owners quickly brought him to the practice for a check-up, where he was treated successfully for stress induced FLUTD (Feline Urinary Tract Disease). His owners had not realised that he was so stressed, and along with his medical treatments, they quickly made some changes to alleviate this for him within their home.
Before the Covid pandemic our pet cats had the luxury of relaxing in solitude during the day when their home was quiet. However, now in busy homes with more activity than usual, this peaceful time is no longer there. Now the routines and dynamics are completely different, and it is no wonder some cats are not handling this well and are now showing some stress induced health and behavioural problems.
Cats are creatures of habit, very set in their routines and protective of their home territory. In these unprecedented times our pet cats have been recently forced to share their territory, their sanctuary and safe space. Some social cats might love this extra attention, however, most of them are finding this time really quite stressful.
Signs of stress in cats can be very subtle. Some symptoms are: Hiding away, increased vocalisation, pacing, over grooming themselves, unusual aggression, licking at and ingesting fabric or wool, stress-induced frequent and uncomfortable urination, and toileting around the household, other than in their litter trays.
If your cat tries to urinate, repeatedly visit the litter tray, and is passing nothing, then this is an emergency situation , so do contact your Vet immediately.
To alleviate any stress, if your cat normally eats once the house is quiet, consider moving his food and water stations to a quieter area of the house. Also, have their litter trays in a quiet area with no heavy “traffic” or noise. Provide plenty of beds, hiding areas and also raised, high -up climbing places. These need not be expensive, empty cardboard boxes with some scrunched-up paper balls will give hours of entertainment.
If your cat likes to be left alone, then resist the urge to repeatedly pick them up to pet them. Excessive handling can actually cause additional stress to some cats. Also, teach children how to handle and touch a cat gently and respectfully.
Try to keep things to a set routine to so your cat knows what to expect. for example, routines for feeding times and quiet time. Create a quiet area where your cat can have some undisturbed peace and quiet to relax in. A temporary "baby gate" to create an undisturbed “safe space” can work well. Various plug-in, friendly, cat pheromone diffusers are also available, and these can be useful at this time.
Contact your Vet if you have any concerns, we will still be able to advise you and see your pet if there are any health concerns during these difficult times.