Stressed cats can show signs of fear or anxiety in numerous ways, including hiding, inappropriate urination & defaecation (please see detailed article below), aggression and over-grooming. While your cat may still be eating, playing and purring, if they show one or more of the above signs, there could be underlying issues.
What could be causing this?
We must always rule out a medical cause for signs of stress prior to treating the undesirable behaviour. Cats don’t generally cope well with change and that change can be something subtle like a new rug or something major like a new cat or moving house.
Other factors which can cause stress include;
• Friction between cats, (within the household or with neighbouring cats), or dogs
• Poor relationships with people
• Noisy and busy households
• Unsanitary litter trays
• Medical complaints and pain
• Lack of enrichment
If possible, determine what may be causing the stress. Without a definitive cause, it will be a matter of trialling a few things.
FELIWAY – Feliway is a synthetic version of the cat’s natural facial pheromone. (That’s why cats rub their cheeks on things – it’s their way of marking their territory). Feliway comes in a diffuser or spray option. The smell of Feliway can help relax your cat and reduce their anxiety. There are various other products including food that helps reduce anxiety please call 5522 4566 and speak to our knowledgable staff for advice.
LITTER TRAYS – Increase the number of litter trays and offer more than one type of litter. Try using large storage containers so that your cat can jump in to use it. They’ll feel more secure and you’ll get less mess! Ensure the trays are at least 10cm deep of litter. Cats like to bury their mess so we need to provide this opportunity for them. Always keep the litter trays as clean as possible.
MULTICAT HOUSEHOLDS – Lots of cats don’t cope well with other cats. For this reason, each cat should always have their own areas where they can retreat to. Always have at least one more litter tray than the number of cats and in different areas of the house. Some dominant cats will even guard the litter trays and food, making it almost impossible for the others to reach it so ensure there are ample opportunities for all cats to eat, drink and toilet.
If a neighbourhood cat is causing stress in your cat, try not to have the litter tray too close to a window or outside the door. Your cat will need to feel safe and ‘out of view’ of their enemy, when they’re using their tray.
PRIVATE SPACE – If you have a busy household, dogs or multiple cats, it’s a great idea to ensure each cat has their own private space, away from the noise and other animals. They need quiet time and a chance to relax as much as we do.
PROVIDE ENRICHMENT – This is especially important for indoor cats and even more so, for those in small apartments. Enrichment can come in many forms such as toys, playtime with owners, tunnels, and cardboard boxes. If possible, safely taking your cat out in your garden can be a great form of enrichment. Some cats will tolerate a harness and lead if it means they can get outside. We only recommend this in an enclosed backyard and always have the back door open in case your cat spooks. Some people have been able to build a snake-proof cat-max in their backyard or over their balcony, meaning Kitty can safely sit in the sun and watch our wildlife, but not catch them!
INAPPROPRIATE’ URINATION AND DEFAECATION IN CATS
Are you having problems with Puss urinating in the ‘wrong’ places? Do you come home from work to find a poo at the front door? Believe it or not, this is not Puss paying you back for going away! Cats urinate and defecate outside their litter tray for a number of reasons. These include medical and behavioural issues.
Firstly, we must rule out any medical issues which may be causing this.
For example, Puss may have a bladder infection that means he or she simply can’t make the litter tray every time. There may even be a problem with crystals or stones in the bladder causing pain and irritation, resulting in frequent and painful urination. Or Puss may have an intestinal problem or food intolerance, resulting in diarrhoea or loose stools. Please contact us for advice if you’re having any of these problems with your cat. Once we have established whether or not there is an underlying medical cause, we can help you treat the condition.
Once we have ruled out a medical problem, then we can look at behaviour.
The main behavioural reason cats urinate or defecate outside of their litter tray is due to stress and anxiety. Cats are masters of playing it cool, so while we think Puss is happy (eating, playing, purring), he or she is showing signs of stress in other ways. Cats are not big fans of change and these can vary from subtle changes, like a new couch or carpet to big changes like another cat, a new baby or moving house.
Questions we may ask you to help get things right again…
Have there been any changes in the house? And we do mean ‘any’!
New perfume, the new visitor, new carpet, rearrangement of furniture, stress at home and new additions.
How many litter trays do you have in the house and how many cats? Where are they placed?
The general rule is, there should always be one more litter tray than the number of cats;
1 cat = 2 litter trays,
2 cats = 3 litter trays etc.
If there is friction between multiple cats, the dominant cat may even subtly guard the litter trays, making it almost impossible for the submissive cat to use them.
What type of litter does Puss use and how much?
Cats love to dig and bury their waste, so if we don’t supply enough litter, even this can cause stress! Some cats also don’t like certain litters.
Is your cat inside & outside, or just inside?
This can help us determine if there are potential outside factors causing the stress. Even inside cats can feel threatened just be seeing the neighbour’s cat through a window! Maybe Puss has always gone to the toilet outdoors and is now suddenly going indoors. Cats are at their most vulnerable when they’re toileting which makes them a target for rival cats. They simply may not feel safe going outdoors anymore.
When trying to resolve these issues, the most important advice to remember is not to add to their stress. Scolding your cat or even raising your voice when they’ve gone in the wrong place only increases stress and will likely make the condition worse.
If you’re having any of these problems with your cat, please call us for advice on 5522 4566.
Please ask for our handout on helpful ways to manage stress in your cat.
Medical issues must be treated promptly and any behavioural issues should be treated as soon as possible.