They can also get sick due to stress and anxiety.
Stress can manifest in various ways, including illnesses such as cystitis and inappropriate elimination, said Lorie Huston, DVM, in “10 Tips for Creating a Stress-Free Environment for Your Cat (Helping Cure Your Cat’s Amxiety)” in PetMD.
“If your cat’s behavior changes suddenly in any way, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. He or she can rule out any underlying medical issues as well as make suggestions to help lower your cat's stress level,“ Huston said.
To prevent stress in cats, here are some tips from Huston:
1. Provide the right litter box.
All cats need a litter box. But providing one is not enough. You have to provide the right size, consider the location and check the cat sand you will use.
Cats prefer unscented cat sand. Most of the fragrance used in cat sands are chemical-based and can be bad for your cat.
They also need a litter box that is big enough for them to use.
“In a multi-cat household, there should be at least one litter box for each cat plus one extra. Litter boxes must be kept clean. They should be large enough for your cat to fit comfortably in the box and the boxes should be placed in quiet areas of the home where your cat will not be disturbed while using them,“ Huston said.
2. Provide quality cat food.
Ask your veterinarian for high quality, complete and balanced food to keep your cat healthy.
“Most cats prefer to graze and should be fed small quantities several times daily. This can be made more difficult in a multi-cat home. Cats in a multi-cat household should be fed measured amounts and not free fed, to protect them from becoming overweight,“ Huston said.
“You may also need to provide more than one feeding station if you have a cat that guards the dish or bullies the other cats at meal-times. A cat that has to worry about defending himself from another cat while eating may become stressed and anxious, and may not eat adequately as a result, “ Huston added.
3. Always provide water.
Observe your cat as some cats do not drink enough water. This may lead to stress, dehydration, and a kidney problem, among others.
You can give a little amount of canned food to provide some of your cat’s water requirement.
Some cats also like drinking from a flowing water supply. You can set up a water fountain or open a faucet while you are playing with your cat.
Huston suggested that separate water stations be made available in a multi-cat household.
4. Cats love perches.
Cats enjoy elevated areas as this will allow them to survey their surroundings and see any approaching danger (like an antagonistic feline housemate), Huston said.
“There are many forms of cat perches, including cat trees, cat shelving, or other objects on which your cat can climb or jump. Consider placing a cat bed, blanket, or towel on the perch for your cat’s comfort. Placing a perch near a window will allow your cat to survey the outdoors, which many cats find entertaining. Again, there should be ample perches for all cats in the home. If you have multiple cats, don’t expect them to share, “ Huston said.
5. Provide scratching posts or areas.
Your cat’s health and well-being improve if they can scratch surfaces.
“Deny your cat a scratching post or scratching area and you deny your cat the ability to mark his territory as he prefers. This, in turn, may result in stress and even anxiety. Your cat may even choose his own scratching area—like your furniture or carpeting—which will annoy you and create a more stressful environment for your cat, “ Huston said.
Huston added: “Provide your cat with both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces. Make sure there is at least one scratching post/surface for each cat in your home. Additional scratching surfaces cannot do any harm and may be appreciated.”
6. Provide hiding places.
Your cat needs a private place to retreat to so he can feel safe when overwhelmed or threatened.
A hiding place can be a box or a carrier where your cat can seek shelter.
In a multi-cat household, you can block the sight between cats by putting up a solid barrier, specially if you have a bully or an aggressive cat.
7. Play with your cat often.
Your cat’s mind is stimulated and stress is reduced if not eliminated when he exercises and plays.
You can experiment with different kinds of toys.
“Some cats prefer toys with feathers that mimic a bird, while others prefer those that more closely resemble a mouse or small rodent. Laser pointers can be entertaining for some cats as well, “ Huston said.
Play with your cat at least 20-30 minutes a couple of times daily.
8. Set aside a cuddle time.
Cats enjoy their owners’ attention.
“Spending some time with your cat on a daily basis, whether it is cuddling or some other activity, can also be a great stress reducer for most cats. This time will also allow you the time to observe your cat’s behavior for any changes, “ Huston said.
9. Do not make sudden changes in your cat’s environment.
Cats typically do not like change. Changes can actually stress them out.
Please keep changes to a minimum and your cat’s daily routine constant to prevent or alleviate stress and anxiety.
“Consult your veterinarian to see if pheromone products, which work chemically to relieve stress and calm anxiety, would benefit your cat,” Huston said.
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