As autumn approaches, changes in the weather and our behaviour as families can bring a surprising amount of stress and anxiety to our feline friends. The cooling weather, the return to work and school schedules, less outdoor time (for indoor/outdoor cats), and the smell of the furnace turning on can all put cats on edge.
Stress and anxiety are often not evident in our cats’ behaviours. Displaying vulnerability didn’t benefit our housecat’s ancient ancestors. So even today, domestic cats continue to conceal their tension. Instead, the signs of stress can appear as appetite changes, digestive issues, over-grooming, hiding, aggression, house soiling, and even illnesses such as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease.
You can help to reduce your cat’s stress by creating a calming environment and providing good outlets for natural cat behaviours and instincts.
Have Plenty of Resources
Make sure your cat does not have to compete for resources. Food and water dishes, litter boxes, bedding, and hiding spaces should be readily available throughout your home and not difficult to access. Water and litter should be located on each floor of your home, and you should have one litter box and one water dish for each resident cat, plus one extra. Feed cats separately. If you have a dog or small children, make sure your cat has a place to escape for peace and quiet easily.
Invest in Play
Play opportunities allow cats to get active and exercise their innate predatory skills. These are both excellent stress-busters. Invest in a few good-quality cat toys such as a laser pointer, feather wand, classic stuffies, and tunnels. Rotate your toys so that you can present something new and exciting every few weeks. Get creative with catnip, bells, and cardboard boxes. Reward your kitty after a great session of bonding and play with a low-calorie cat treat.
Indoor cats need lots of variety in their environments. Scratching posts, treat balls, and cat trees are traditional ways to provide variety. Window ledges offer the opportunity to patrol the outside world, and shelves allow cats to jump and perch.
Some families contemplate adopting another cat to provide enrichment and companionship for their bored kitty. Be cautious of this approach. Adult cats are territorial and often prefer to be solitary pets. The addition of a new cat to the household can be a stressful and lengthy transition for both cats involved and may result in fights, resource-guarding, and negative behaviours.
Find Calming Aids
Many non-drug calming aids are available to help your cat through difficult transitions or stressful seasons. Pheromone diffusers, such as Feliway, mimic the calming pheromones that cats leave behind when they rub their chins on objects and each other. This non-sedating plug-in can be placed near bedding, litter boxes or perching areas to combat mild to moderate anxiety. It is particularly useful when moving, renovating, introducing a new pet, or changing the daily routine.
Diets or dietary supplements containing the calming nutrients Vitamin B1, L-tryptophan, L-theonine, or alpha-casozepine, can all provide a drug-free approach to combating anxiety. Even veterinarian-approved herbal supplements and alternative medicines can be used to help calm your kitty.
Start introducing play, environmental enrichment, and calming aids before any changes in your routine or household to best prepare your cat for any lifestyle changes. If you notice any health changes, such as weight loss or gain, skin, or coat changes, vomiting or house-soiling, don’t forget to contact your veterinarian immediately to rule out a medical issue.
Here’s to a cozy and calm autumn with your cat!