Bunny's Tips for Anxious Pets

Just like with people, some pets suffer from anxiety disorders. The signs of stress vary between dogs and cats, with dogs often showing obvious signs such as barking, salivating and chewing up or destroying bedding and other household items. Cats being much more refined creatures (if I do say so myself) usually show more subtle signs. Anxious cats are more likely to hide and avoid contact with other family members. They may show changes in normal behaviour patterns such as spending more time inside or outside than usual, rest more or feign sleep and be less active or avoid playing. Some cats act out with aggression towards people or other animals, or just become jumpy. Many people don't recognise these changes as stress related and it is not until cats develop problems such as toileting in inappropriate places that their owners realise there is a problem.

Any disruption in the home can cause anxiety. This may be a new person or pet coming into the household, changes in routine, house renovations, high numbers of cats outside the house or a strange cat invading the house, for example coming in through the catflap. As a clinic cat, I am faced by many of these challenges myself every day. I am a fairly confident individual but even I sometimes find the intrusion of strange cats into what is essentially my home too much to cope with. This sometimes puts me off my food. Where I normally finish all of my biscuits at meal times, on stressful days I often leave my food behind til everyone has gone home and it is more peaceful.

On a couple of occasions where I have been highly stressed, I am embarrassed to admit that I have urinated on items in the clinic instead of in my litter tray. This is termed "inappropriate urination". It is the most common behavioural problem we see cats brought into the vet clinic for. Toileting on the floor, bedding and items such as clothing can be caused by idiopathic or stress cystitis, however it is important to rule out other causes such as a bladder infection first. We have to collect a fresh urine sample - often by using special crystals called "Catrine" in the tray instead of cat litter. The urine will be tested for signs of inflammation and may need to be sent to the lab to rule out infection. If infection is present this will be treated with medications.

Stress cystitis can be more complicated to resolve. Successful treatment involves -

  • identifying any triggers and trying to eliminate them, such as blocking access for intruder cats by installing a microchip activated cat flap
  • using pheromone products like Feliway to reduce stress
  • making your house cat friendly - ensure every cat has their own litter tray, feeding and sleeping areas to reduce competition for these resources
  • anti-anxiety medications.

Some cats may need to be re-trained to use their litter tray if the problem has been long standing. It is essential that the soiled area is cleaned thoroughly and correctly. The girls at the clinic can provide you with advice on cleaning  and also litter re-training.

 


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