Reducing stress for cats starts at home. Cats see the world differently to us. Provision of the essentials (food, water, somewhere to sleep) is great, but cats are sensitive creatures and stress easily if their environment causes them any concern. This stress can manifest itself physically, including skin disorders like hair loss, urine disorders like cystitis, or behaviourally such as hiding or inappropriate urination. Thinking about your home from a cats viewpoint and making just a few relatively simple changes can make such a difference to your life and theirs.
Here are our top five tips for a healthy cat environment:
- Provide a safe space. A safe place is a private and secure area, often in a raised location. A safe space can also function as a resting or sleeping place. Safety is not just about physical safety for cats. It’s about security away from other cats or dogs. Safety is also about what they can smell, see outside the window, and hear. The cat must have safe places to hide.
- Cats are not social animals and prefer not to interact (unless related). Stress is higher in multi-cat households and it is imperative that each cat feels it can go about its normal activities without having to be close to the other cats. For each cat, it is important to provide multiple and key separate environmental resources. This includes food, water and a litter box. Water should not be placed next to food, and litter trays should be away from both food and water. In multi-cat households, cats should not be fed together at the same spot, and the number of resources provided should be the number of cats plus one. The litter boxes should be in different areas and in “safe” areas from which cats feel they can escape readily if needed.
- Provide opportunity for play and predatory behaviour. Provide a variety of toys, engage in play with the cat, and serve meals in puzzle feeders which can include home-made versions such as egg cartons.
- Provide positive, consistent and predictable human-cat interactions. Allow your pet to initiate interactions and to choose when to terminate interactions. Home-made or store bought toys such as newspaper on a string are favourites for cats.
- Provide an environment that respects the importance of the cat’s sense of smell. Sources of odour such as scented cat litter, incense, pot-pouri, diffusers, cigarette smoke, marijuana, can all obstruct the cat’s sense of smell which can lead to increased vigilance and anxiety as the cat is unable to use its sense of smell to help keep itself free of predation. Use of feline pheromones make the cat feel much less anxious about the environment and are especially useful in multi-cat households.
For more in-depth information on making a home cat-friendly, we recommend the article written by International Cat Care (a group whose purpose is to help cats have the best possible life they can), which can be accessed through this link https://icatcare.org/advice/making-your-home-cat-friendly/