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Calming food for cats: How diet can help reduce feline anxiety

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Cats, much like humans, can experience stress and anxiety. Changes in their environment, loud noises, new pets or family members, and even routine veterinary visits can all trigger anxiety in cats. While behavioral interventions and environmental adjustments are essential in managing stress in cats, diet also plays a significant role. Certain food contain natural compounds that can help calm your feline friend and promote a sense of well-being.

The Role of Diet in Reducing Anxiety

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require a diet rich in animal proteins and fats to thrive. However, beyond their basic nutritional needs, certain food and nutrients can influence their mood and stress levels. Some can be found as ingredients in their regular wet and dry cat food. Adding these calming food in your cat’s diet can help alleviate anxiety and promote a more relaxed demeanor.

Dr. Jean Morris, in the “5 Calming Tips for Cats” published in the Pet United website, gave a list of different natural food that can help your feline friend achieve a state of calm:

1. Turkey

Turkey is a well-known source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being. By including turkey in your cat’s diet, you can naturally boost their serotonin levels, potentially reducing anxiety. Lean cuts of turkey are preferable to avoid excess fat which can lead to obesity and other health issues.

2. Salmon

Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is not only beneficial for your cat’s skin and coat but also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce stress.

“Omega-3s play a crucial role in brain health, improving mood and cognitive function. Regular inclusion of salmon in your cat’s diet can help them feel more relaxed and less prone to anxiety,” Morris said.

3. Pumpkin

Pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber, which aids in digestive health. A healthy gut is closely linked to a stable mood, as digestive issues can often worsen anxiety. Pumpkin also contains antioxidants that reduce inflammation and support overall health. Adding a small amount of pureed pumpkin to your cat’s meals can promote digestive health and contribute to a calmer demeanor.

4. Blueberries

Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamins that can help reduce oxidative stress, which is linked to anxiety and other stress-related issues. Incorporating a small number of blueberries into your cat’s diet can provide a natural boost of calming antioxidants. Be sure to introduce them slowly to avoid digestive upset.

5. Spinach

Spinach is rich in magnesium, which is crucial for nerve and muscle function. Magnesium deficiency can lead to muscle tension and nervous system imbalances, both of which can increase anxiety. Including spinach in your cat’s diet can help ensure they get enough magnesium, contributing to a more relaxed state.

6. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes provide complex carbohydrates that help stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing mood swings that can arise from fluctuating glucose levels. They also offer a steady source of energy, which can help keep your cat’s mood stable. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins and minerals that support overall health.

7. Chamomile

Chamomile is well-known for its calming properties in humans and can have similar effects on cats. It soothes the digestive tract and has mild sedative properties that can promote relaxation.

“Offering chamomile tea (cooled and in small amounts) or finding cat foods that include chamomile as an ingredient can help reduce anxiety,” Morris noted.

8. Catnip

Catnip contains nepetalactone, a “feel-good” stimulant that replicates pheromones, which can have a stimulating effect followed by a period of relaxation in cats. While not all cats respond to catnip, those that do may find it to be a useful tool in reducing stress. Offering catnip in moderation can help some cats unwind and reduce anxiety.

9. Chicken

Chicken is another excellent source of tryptophan, making it a valuable addition to a calming diet for cats. High in protein and low in fat, chicken helps maintain energy levels and muscle health while also contributing to a more relaxed mood. Feeding your cat lean chicken can help keep them calm and content.

How to Incorporate Calming Foods into Your Cat’s Diet

Introducing new food to your cat’s diet should be done gradually to avoid digestive upset. Start with small amounts and monitor your cat for any adverse reactions. Ensure that these food are prepared in a cat-safe manner—avoid adding salt, spices, or other seasonings that can be harmful to cats. Consulting with your veterinarian before making significant changes to your cat’s diet is always recommended.

“A balanced diet that includes natural calming foods can significantly impact your cat’s stress levels and overall well-being,” Morris said.

“By incorporating ingredients like turkey, salmon, pumpkin, and chamomile into their meals, you can provide nutritional support that helps reduce anxiety,” Morris added.

Combined with a stable environment and plenty of affection, a diet rich in calming food can help your feline companion lead a happier, more relaxed life.

About the Author: Niko Gabriel Salgado is a graduate of consular and diplomatic affairs from De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, and worked at the House of Representatives. He is now an entrepreneur and a volunteer of the animal welfare group Save Animals of Love and Light- Save ALL.

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