Thursday, August 6, 2009

STOP THE MADNESS!! Stress and Behavior Problems in Cats

Being an exclusively feline veterinary practice we often see cats who are exhibiting some type of behavioral problems. Once a medical issue is ruled out it's time to take a look at what is going on at home. Most cat owners don't realize the everyday stresses that are put on their kitties. From irregular feeding times to lack of mental stimulation, stress on felines can be damaging. Whether the stressor is emotional or not, it will trigger chemical changes within your cat and your cat will begin to experience a variety of physiological events. Long-term exposure to fearful or adverse events can cause neuro-chemical changes.

By understanding what stress is for a cat, we as cat owners can prevent these situations from occurring. Your first step should be to evaluate your cat's behavior and environment to see if that can be a cause of their stress. Now, a complete absence of stress is impossible to obtain and some level of stress is necessary to develop pliant neuroendocrine and behavior responses. However, we do want to minimize stress that can be harmful.

Some examples of harmful stress are unfamiliar handling, changes in social (home) environment such as a baby, new animal, a different work schedule of the owners and loud unfamiliar noises. During the development time frame of 3 to 9 weeks owners need to be preparing their kitten for a life without fears. Owner should be exposing their cat to a variety of stimuli. Novel noises, places and people are just a few examples of stimuli. Even though the process will take some time, owners can prevent stress, fear and anxiety by gradually introducing their cat to new situations.

Many behaviors that cat owners see are due to a lack of mental and physical stimulation or situations that are associated with fear and anxiety. Common indicators of stress, anxiety and fear include: decreased or increased grooming, litter box changes, hiding more often, changes in appetite and decreased play. If a cat is very stressed, owners may observe him crouching, having pupil dilation and /or panting. The easiest way to avoid this is to anticipate and prevent stressful situations when possible. The key for owners is to meet the cat's emotional needs socially and mentally by promoting proper toys, giving praise and providing human and other feline interaction.

For more information on cat care visit our website or call us at 480-970-1175.

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