There are many potential stressors in a cat’s environment that can lead to anxiety. Being aware of these potential stressors and making a concerted effort to give them due consideration will go a long way to making your cat home as harmonious as possible.
What Qualifies as a Stressor?
A stressor is anything that causes your cat anxiety. Usually it is linked to some sort of change in the environment. This may cause your cat to be uncomfortable, nervous or fearful resulting in changes in behavior. Cats have been known to over-groom, hide, become aggressive or change elimination behavior. Common cat stressors include:
- Transitioning an outdoor cat to an indoor situation
- Moving to a new home
- Separation from human and feline family members (and sometimes canine!)
- Strange places
- Introduction of new pets or family members (including a new baby)
- A trip to the veterinary office (unless they know they are seeing Dr. McCaw!)
- Visualization of strange cats/animals through a window
- An outdoor cat urinating/marking doorways and windows
- Loud or strange noises (like renovations/construction/music…)
- Strong fragrances like colognes/perfumes/plugins
- Change in work schedule or home routine
- Poor litter box hygiene or even just a change in litter type
- Grizzly bear in the Living Room (just checking to see if you are awake)
How Can I Reduce Their Anxiety?
Avoiding stressors to begin with would be the ideal approach. This, however, is impractical (at the least!). But, attempting to maintain a sense of order and routine in their environment will be beneficial to your cat’s psyche.
If you are a traveler and plan on taking your cat with you either routinely or just from time to time it would be wise to acclimate your cat to travel when it is a kitten. There is a whole section (and video) on this website designed to acclimate your cat to its carrier and to car travel. Be patient, especially with mature cats, as this process can take time.
What Are Pheromones?
Good question! Pheromones are signal-carrying hormones that are released as a form of communication between individuals within a species. We can’t smell cat pheromones but they can. The Feline Facial Pheromone is released when a cat rubs its face on an object. This pheromone is a “feel good” hormone. It lets other cats know that all is good in the environment!
Feliway brand is a synthetic version of this pheromone sold at many pet stores and online. There is a plugin form that constantly emits pheromone into the environment and a spray that can be used. The spray is most commonly used on a pad placed in your cat’s carrier before travel. This pheromone product is not a “cure-all” but can be of benefit in stressful situations.
Some stressors are unpredictable and unavoidable and some cats are less social and more “skittish” than others. It is important to make sure your environment is cat friendly. The more your cat is allowed to “be a cat” the more comfortable it will be in its environment. The Ohio State University has set up a very informative website for just this purpose. We encourage all cat owners to visit their page: Indoor Pet Initiative.