Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
Cats particularly can be very easily stressed and several common disease conditions are caused or made worse by stress and Christmas can be a very stressful time of year for them.
Examples of things which can cause stress to a cat include:
- Changes in the members or numbers including visitors (human and otherwise) in the household
- Changes in the household environment, such as putting up Christmas decorations!
- A stay in a Cattery over the Christmas holidays.
Stress in cats often does not look like stress in humans and as a result stress behaviour can be misinterpreted as bad behaviour. Signs include:
- Increased scratching behaviour (this is the cat marking his territory to reassure himself)
- Increased urine territorial “marking”
- Increased aggression
- Inactivity, and withdrawn behaviour
One very common illness in cats which has known association with stress is idiopathic cystitis which is part of the FLUTD complex: Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. Cats which are stressed for any or all of the reasons above are much more prone to developing cystitis. Having to compete for food or share a litter tray with other cats is a particular factor. If there is more than one cat staying in a household there should be one tray per cat, plus a spare tray kept in a different area of the house to try and reduce litter-tray stress.
If you think that your cat may have cystitis it is important to seek veterinary advice, particularly if your cat appears to be in any distress and struggling to pass urine.
There are several things which we can do as owners to reduce the stress in our cats. As well as minimising stress triggers described above, any cat which appears to be suffering from stress can benefit from the use of pheromone sprays which can be used as a spray, or as a plug-in device, placed where the cat spends most of his or her time. These pheromone sprays are available from your Vet and are synthetic copy of the facial pheromone which cats use to mark their territory. It provides a familiar and reassuring scent which helps your cat to feel safe and secure in their environment. There are also now oral anxiolytic treatments which can alleviate the stress symptoms.
Dogs also suffer from stress too and as with cats, the behaviour they exhibit can be misinterpreted as bad behaviour. Stressful situations for dogs can include:
- Stays in Kennels
- Staying home alone
- Visitors to the household.
Dogs can often reflect their stress in submissive, fearful behaviour. Some outward signs of stress can be:
- Hiding away and submissive behaviour
- Aggressive behaviour
- Soiling in the household
- Destructive behaviour
- Off food or changes in their normal appetite.
Again, Pheromone Sprays and Plug-ins and oral anxiolytic treatments are also available for dogs and should be used well in advance of any predicted, stressful times ahead ...
Please do phone the practice for any advice regarding these products before the busy Christmas and New Year period to keep your pets happy and stress free.
Have a very happy and stress-free Christmas!