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Reducing Stress in Domestic Cats

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Although cats have been domesticated for thousands of years, they still retain many of the same characteristics from their ancestors. Their emotional and physical requirements have not changed much.  So being able to cater for these needs is an important way of reducing stress in domestic cats.

So what Does a Cat Need?

In the wild cats are solitary hunters and spend a large proportion of their time hunting for prey. They have choice about where they go and are not restrained. So providing an environment that fulfills or mimics some of these natural behaviours is a key component in having a happy cat.

Here are some top tips for both indoor and outdoor cats:

Top Tips

  1. Provide opportunities for cats to play and carry out predatory behaviours. You can use interactive toys such as rods with feathers, toy mice that move, scrunched up paper that rustles, feathers tied in bundles, toys that are fur-lined or with bells. Some cats are more likely to engage with a toy containing catnip. To prevent possible injuries, don’t encourage cats to play with your hands. If they have a tendency to chase your legs and feet, distract and divert by using toys rolled in a different direction (discreetly so they can’t see that you did it). Don’t forget to rotate toys so they don’t get bored.
  2. Allowing your cat to find their own food gives them an outlet for hunting behaviours and mental stimulation. Use interactive and puzzle feeders. Make it easy to begin with so they can get the hang of it.
  3. Cats often like to get high up so 3D space is important. Cat trees, cat shelves or radiator cradles are favourites.
  4. Cats like to hide, especially if they feel under stress. Cardboard boxes make a cheap refuge. For multi-cat households make sure there is an exit and entrance cut out so they can escape if required.
  5. Quiet and secure sleeping and resting areas for each cat are important. Chose quiet, warm sites at separate stations so they can have some time alone if they desire.
  6. Provide separate feeding and drinking stations – cats are not naturally social eaters and often, if given the choice, prefer to eat alone.
  7. Scratch sites help keep muscles supple and is a method of scent marking. Provide vertical posts, horizontal hessian mats and scratch boxes.
  8. Disruptions to the cat’s environment should be avoided or done gradually. This is especially important for sensitive and timid individuals
  9. Indoor cats may have more stimulation by having an outside run. However it is important that they have plenty of hiding places and shrubbery around the perimeter so they do not feel vulnerable.
  10. Each cat is an individual so give them choices about their environment.  Once you know their preferences you can provide them with their ideal surroundings.

If you would like to learn more about feline behaviour, I do run courses throughout the year. Or if you have a problem with your cat please contact me about arranging a behaviour consultation.


Caroline Clark

Caroline Clark

I am a fully qualified member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) and a registered clinical animal behaviourist with the Association of Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC). I have a Post Graduate Diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling from Southampton University and am a Registered Veterinary Nurse. I also hold a professional teaching qualification. My courses on Pet First Aid and Canine Health & Welfare are now fully accredited and approved by the Continuing Professional Education Standards (CPD Standards).

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