All posts tagged 'feline wellness'

Infographic: 5 Common Cat Allergies

You hear a lot about people being allergic to cats, but did you know that sometimes THEY are allergic to US?

The truth is that you hear very little about what allergies cats suffer, even though a significant percentage of domesticated cats have them. In this month's infographic, we're highlighting five common feline allergies that pet parents should be aware of.

Do you already suspect your cat is suffering from a chronic allergy? Be on the look-out for the symptoms, such as:  sneezing, coughing or wheezing; itchy skin and watery eyes; ear infections; vomiting or diarrhea; noticeably louder snoring; and swollen or irritated paws. Some of these symptoms aren't what you would expect, so keep a journal (or at least a running list) of any health-related issues. That way, you'll be prepared to discuss all the relevant details should a vet visit become necessary.

In the meantime, here’s our handy infographic that reveals the most common causes of cat allergies and what pet parents can do to help their feline companions feel better. To view the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below.

PDF DocumentPDF Document

The Best Way to Pet a Cat

cat-petting

If you haven't had much experience with cats, or if you want to teach your kids how they can be affectionate without worrying about getting scratched, we’ve got the inside scoop on how felines want to be petted.

So, what’s the correct way to pet a cat? You may think, no one needs to tell me how to do a simple thing. But the truth is that petting a cat isn’t something you can do by intuition alone. If you’ve never had a close relationship with a cat, maybe because you had a bad experience before, don’t worry. We can help you change all that with a short tutorial. Simply follow the guidelines below and you too can begin to know the joys of feline companionship.

If there’s one rule to keep in mind, it’s that petting a cat is very different from petting a dog. While dogs usually love a good belly rub, cats typically do not. Why is this true? It boils down to psychology. Generally speaking, dogs are usually pretty secure in their identity as a predator. You may even know of a few tiny dogs who believe themselves to be big bad wolves (looking at you Chihuahuas and Terriers). However, cats are more cautious, because in the wild, they identify as both predator and prey. That’s why cats remain on high alert much of the time. If a cat feels threatened – like when someone they don’t know unexpectedly touches their soft underbelly - he will act defensively to protect his vital organs. Better you than him, he would say.

right-spot

So, the secret spots where cats enjoy being scratched are where a cat’s scent glands are located: in the cheeks, the top of the head and at the base of the tail. When a cat rubs against a piece of furniture or your leg, it’s referred to as bunting. Bunting is how a cat spreads his scent. It’s his way of saying, “Hey, I like you and want to include you among the things that make me happy.” Bunting releases pheromones, making objects – or people - in his environment smell familiar. It also has the added benefit of reducing stress!

Around the head is a sure-fire hit with most kitties. Rub your cat along the crown at the top of the head, gently under his chin, in front of the ears and cheeks behind the whiskers. Hit this last spot just right and your cat will actually rotate his whiskers forward, indicating interest and friendliness.

With cats, it really pays to be observant about how each individual responds to different kinds of touches. Most cats like it when you run your hand along the spine. Some even enjoy gentle pressure at the base of the tail. In fact, they’ll let you know by sticking their tails straight up. If you notice any growling or tail-swishing, these are clues that your cat is becoming overstimulated and may lash out. For cats with heightened sensitivities, it’s best to stick with gently scratching their head and neck.

kitty-scritches

If you’re interacting with a timid kitty, always let them come to you first. As you might imagine, chasing someone down is not a good way to start a new relationship with a cat (or anyone, for that matter). Instead, try a “peace offering.” When approaching timid cats, give them a couple of tasty morsels, like our Gourmet Cat Treats for Skin & Coat Health, to show that you’re friendly and mean no harm. This positive reinforcement for affectionate behavior could have your cat saying, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

We hope you find these tips helpful for tuning you in to your inner cat nature, and that you too will now feel completely at ease with all kitties.

Cat Adoption Made Simple

kitty-cuddle

June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month and we are ready to celebrate! Even though adopting a cat is rewarding, it is a big step. To make it more doable, we’ve broken that big step down into a bunch of manageable steps. 

The week before

  • Gather supplies! Most cats prefer a dust-free, unscented clumping litter. They also usually prefer a litter box without a lid. Your cat will need water and food bowls, toys and something to scratch. You already know where to go for the perfect cat food!
  • Create a cozy space. As a species that can be both predator and prey, cats like somewhere they can feel secure and safe. There are added bonus points if this space has some height, which is one of the reasons cats love tall cat trees so much.
  • Prepare a room. During the first few days, plan to have your cat contained to a smaller space like a laundry room or bathroom while she adjusts to her new surroundings. Once she’s feeling braver, she'll be ready to explore on her own.
  • Prepare family members. If your family isn’t used to having a cat around, make sure they understand the basic rules about gentle play, and giving the cat space when they make it clear they would rather be alone. Older kids can be assigned chores such as feeding, brushing and litter box cleanup (they love that one.) Younger kids, especially toddlers, will need direct supervision as they often do not understand gentle play.

comfy-kitty

The first day

  • Congratulations, your cat is home! Now leave her alone. OK, maybe not entirely alone, but give her some time to explore her new surroundings without being stared at by multiple sets of strange eyes. If you have a dog, make sure he’s not sniffing loudly under the door or pawing at it thus scaring the heck out of the cat.
  • Make sure you have food. Cats can be very finicky, and many refuse to adjust to a sudden change in food. Plan on several days minimum, and maybe even several weeks or more, to adjust to a new food. It will be worth the effort.
  • Make a vet appointment. Always start a new life together with a clean bill of health! Vaccines may need updating, de-wormers may need to be given, and you’ll want to know if there are any health issues to be aware of.

nuzzle-cat

The first few weeks:

  • Be patient! Social kitties may come out and cuddle right away, but others need a little more time. Don’t push a cat who’s not ready to be held or petted. Over time their personality will shine through!
  • Make that first vet visit. Ask the veterinarian if they are cat-friendly or use Fear Free practice guidelines, a new way of low-stress handling that minimizes the pet’s discomfort during visits. This is a great way to ensure a lifetime of good health!
  • Course correct as needed. Remember, you and kitty are going through a transitional period. She needs to learn about you just like you’re learning about her. If she scratches in the wrong place, doesn’t want to sleep in the new bed you bought, or kicks litter all over the floor, take a deep breath and remember that it’s all going to be all right. Don’t be afraid to enlist the advice of a vet or cat behaviorist if you are concerned.

Just keep in mind, any new pet relationship may encounter some bumps, especially at the beginning. But, with love and patience, you too can make that deep connection and begin to forge a bond that will last a lifetime. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it to bring in a new family member!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

The Amazing Reason Why Cats Purr

Whisker-Kitty

Most people believe cats purr when they are content or happy, end of story. While cats do purr when they are content, researchers attempting to uncover the answer to this 3,000-year-old mystery are finding the answer more complicated – and fascinating - than an expression of happiness.

All domestic cats purr, as do many wild cats, and purring occurs in a variety of situations. When cats purr in the presence of other unknown cats or kittens, the behavior may serve as a friendly greeting or to convey submissiveness. While it’s true that cats purr contentedly while on their pet parent’s lap, they also purr when they give birth, when they are frightened or even injured. Because kitties clearly cannot be content in all these situations, contentment or friendliness cannot be the only reason they purr.

So why else would they purr?

Natural selection tells us that a particular behavior or trait will persist through multiple generations only if it aids survival. For purring to exist in both domestic and wild cats, there must be something vital about the behavior. Purring is created by the vibration of the cat’s larynx and diaphragm, and therefore requires an expense of energy. If a kitty is sick, surely they wouldn’t burn calories unless it resulted in some sort of benefit, right?

Striking-Kitty-Face

We're all familiar with the expression “cats have nine lives”. Similarly, veterinarians have an old saying that if you put a cat who has broken bones in a room with other cats, the breaks will heal. In fact, cats are amazing self-healers: they have fewer post-operative complications than dogs, have a lower incidence of bone and joint disease than dogs, and 90% of cats survive high-rise falls! What could account for this remarkable set of facts, and is it related to purring?

In fact, there’s striking evidence that purring has healing properties. Researchers have found that vibrations in the frequency range between 25-50 hertz promote bone strength, stimulate healing of fractures, provide pain relief and help heal tendons and muscles. Bioacoustic researchers studied the purring of dozens of both domestic and wild cats, paying particular attention to frequency, pitch, loudness and duration of purring in relation to the cat’s behavior. Guess what they found? The purring is in the range of 25-50 Hz, the exact range associated with healing properties such as increased bone density!

Maybe this has something to do with a cat’s uncanny ability to heal. And just maybe purring is part of the reason why, when we fall ill, having a cat sit on our laps can actually make us feel better! Whether it is simply the comfort of having a friend nearby, or the vibrational frequencies of your kitty’s rumble, the joy of a cat purring on your lap is priceless.

References:

Rubin C, McLeod K. Promotion of bony in growth by frequency specific, low amplitude mechanical strains. Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research, 289, 165-174, 1994.

Elizabeth von Muggenthaler The felid purr: A healing mechanism? Proceedings from the 12th International Conference on Low Frequency Noise and Vibration and its Control. Bristol, UK, September 18-20, 2006.

Chen et al, The Effects of Frequency of Mechanical Vibration on Experimental Fracture Healing. Chinese Journal of Surgery, 32 (4), 217-219, 1994.

Leduc A, Lievens P, Dewald J. The influence of multidirectional vibrations on wound healing and on regeneration of blood and lymph vessels. Lymphology, 14(4), 179-85, 1981.

Rothschild BM, Rothschild C, Woods RJ. Inflammatory arthritis in large cats: an expanded spectrum of spondyloarthropathy. J Zoo Wildl Med. 1998 Sep;29(3):279-84.

Garman R, Gaudette G, Donahue LR, Rubin C, Judex S. Low-level accelerations applied in the absence of weight bearing can enhance trabecular bone formation. J of Orthop Res. 2007 Jun;25(6):732-40.

Lundeberg TC. Vibratory stimulation for the alleviation of chronic pain. Acta Physiol Scand Suppl. 1983;523:1-51.

Celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month!

toothy-grin-dog

There is a reason why an entire month is dedicated to spreading awareness about the oral hygiene of our dogs and cats: it’s an easily remedied problem with potentially dire consequences. So, every February, we celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month in hopes that we’ll reach pet parents in a way that results in a change. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats will need dental care by age three. This is often due to genetics, neglect or poor diet. Sadly, tooth and gum problems in domesticated animals are nothing new. In fact, two Ancient Egyptian fossils of cats showed signs of tooth decay!

Does My Pet Need a Dentist?

According to the American Dental Association, almost 80% of adults brush their teeth daily. And on top of that, it is natural for us to schedule professional cleanings into our annual calendar. Why should the standard be any less for our precious companions?

There are several warning signs of an unhealthy mouth. Some are obvious and others, not so obvious. As a pet parent, it is important to investigate your pet's mouth on a regular basis and check for the following:

  • Breath: When your pup swoops in for a kiss, do you detect a foul odor? Unhealthy-smelling breath is a good indicator of the presence of unfriendly bacteria in your pet's mouth.
  • Teeth: Lift the lip and inspect the teeth. Are they healthy white or are they coated in a brown film? If it's the latter, it means your pet is long overdue for a cleaning.
  • Gums: Color should be medium pink, although some dogs and cats will have black or gray spots on the gums, which is normal for some breeds. If the gums are bright red and angry looking, that could indicate a serious problem.

If you detect any of these warning signs, your companion animal would greatly benefit from a veterinary dental screening. But why wait for warning signs? Why not be more proactive? The combination of routine home checks, regular veterinarian checks and a quality diet could go a long way towards ensuring your pet's lasting dental health.

happiness

Head Shape & Dental Health

Believe it or not, the shape of your pet's head (particularly the size of his or her muzzle) affects tooth alignment. And why is tooth alignment important for dental health? Well, perfectly aligned teeth naturally push food particles away from gums, while poorly aligned teeth can result in plaque buildups, possibly leading to an increased chance of infection.

While poor tooth alignment is typically a genetic issue, a pet's activities can also result in alignment problems. For example, tug-of-war games with towels or ropes played often over the course of years, can move teeth from their normal position. Therefore, you might want to limit such activities.

Try Something New This Month

We're incredibly pleased to announce that starting February 1st, Life’s Abundance will be celebrating National Pet Dental Health Month with exclusive savings on select products.

This is the perfect occasion to try something new and integrate it into your dog’s dental care regimen. Throughout the entire month, Gourmet Dental Treats for Adult Dogs, Buffalo Bully Sticks and Porky Puffs are available at their discounted Autoship prices ... up to 18% savings off retail!

There's never been a better time to provide your dog with yummy, nutritious treats that can actually help to maintain a healthy mouth.

Which Holiday Character is Your Pet?

Yorkshire-Holiday

No matter how old I get, I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow my inner child when it comes to excitement over the holiday season. The characters in this play of life may vary, yet one thing remains the same: as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is done, my holiday season begins.

My pets may not know what Christmas is, but they do know something is happening: the furniture moves around, someone’s always cooking and they get to spend their nights curled in front of a fire (well, as many as our warm SoCal evenings allow). Most of our December evenings are spent watching some sort of holiday movie or show. After so many years, I know all the beloved casts of characters by heart.

Part of the fun of revisiting these classics is imagining which roles my companion animals most closely resemble. Like people, our dogs and cats each have their own distinct likes, dislikes and personality quirks. Does your dog or cat remind you of any of the following pop-culture favorites?

The Grinch

Does your dog skulk around the house with a Grinch-like frown? Does your cat steal random ornaments and hide them away in the fireplace? Could be because the holidays can be stressful for many companion animals who are disturbed by the extra activity, changes in routine and houseguests. If your pet becomes Grinchy every December, make sure to provide them their own sanctuary. Just as the Grinch needed a cave on Mount Crumpit, sometimes they just need a temporary escape from all the noise, noise, noise, noise!

Kitty-Christmas-Tree

The Bumble

In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the angry, roaring Bumble is reduced to a big old softie after Hermie the dentist removes his teeth. Dental disease is a big problem for both dogs and cats. Often going untreated, the result is many cranky mini-Bumbles wandering around with sore mouths. Want to give your pet a truly meaningful holiday gift? Make sure their mouths are healthy and disease-free. I am astounded at the turnaround many make once their dental disease is addressed and the source of constant pain resolved.

Heat Miser

Who can forget the Miser Brothers angrily hurling snowflakes and lightning bolts at each other in The Year Without a Santa Claus? While cold winter air can be refreshing, seniors (especially those with arthritis) might find winter less than comfortable on ailing joints. If your dog or cat seems to slow down when the temperature drops, shows difficulty negotiating the stairs, or seeks out the warmest spots in the house, make like the Heat Miser and crank up the heat. Cozy orthopedic beds, keeping the house at a comfortable temperature when they’re home alone and providing joint support can help seniors stay comfy even when the weather is frightening. Of course, make sure any new symptoms are brought to your veterinarian’s attention.

Naughty-Nice

Garfield

All Garfield wants for Christmas is plate after plate of lasagna. As a vet, I can tell you he’s not the only one with an ambitious appetite. The holidays are one of the busiest times of year for emergency clinics who witness firsthand the aftermath of counter-surfing Collies and trash-diving Torties. Pancreatitis, foreign bodies and the ever-present carpet-ruining “GI disturbances” are just some of the unfortunate consequences of four-footers gobbling holiday goodies. If your dog or cat has a reputation for sneaking a snack or seven, try not to leave them unguarded. Also, give them some healthy treats instead. Life’s Abundance offers a host of wonderful options that make for perfect stocking stuffers for dogs and for cats!

Peanuts

I’ve saved my favorite special for last. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown frets about the consumerism of the holidays. He takes in a sad little tree and transforms it into something beautiful. As much fun as it is to get swept up in buying gifts for our furry companions, or how tempting it is to try and capture the perfect “Santa Paws” pic for Instagram, at the end of the day, the only things our critters want from us is our love and attention. Being with family and making time for each other truly makes the season special.

My dog Brody is a Linus for sure. No matter how many holiday cookies I stress eat over travel plans or finding “the right gift” for someone, Brody is there to offer a constant source of friendship and calm. I can count on him to put his head in my lap and remind me to take a breath, and be grateful for all the gifts I have this season.

I wish you and your family joy, love, and good health this December and in the New Year to come!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

The Future of Veterinary Medicine

orange-tabby-outdoors

Our lives have been immeasurably changed since the dawn of the computer age. It’s hard to overstate the impact of technology on the future of medicine: it’s changed virtually everything. Much of it is already working its way into your veterinary office. So, what does the veterinary clinic of the future look like? Here are my predictions:

1. You’ll Be Taking Advantage of Telemedicine Options

Fifteen years ago, if your vet wanted a radiologist’s opinion on an x-ray, she would have to pack the film into an envelope and send it off. Nowadays, with digital x-rays, an expert opinion is just a click away.

Right now, telemedicine is mostly used as a means for one veterinarian to consult with another one. Having a remote veterinarian examine and diagnose your pet without seeing him or her in person is currently against the law in most states. Expect veterinary medicine to follow the trends in human medicine; I can talk to a doctor I’ve never met before over the phone about my child’s ear infection and get a prescription, so it’s only a matter of time before consumer demand will make veterinary telemedicine more accessible. It won’t happen until state regulatory boards make it legal, though, so don’t expect this to happen anytime soon.

The intermediate step you will probably notice first is either remote consultations with a veterinarian you already have a relationship, or a third-party triage service that can provide general advice without providing a diagnosis or treatment recommendation. Both of those options are legal under today’s laws. Once that becomes the norm, the rest will follow suit pretty quickly.

2. Health Monitoring Technology Will Grow

Each night, my husband and my son sit down to compare notes from the little fitness trackers they wear on their wrists and see who got the most steps in for the day. In the morning, my husband can tell me exactly when he was in REM sleep and how often he woke up. These devices even sync with our scales. The amount of data is almost overwhelming!

Over the past five years, multiple fitness trackers for dogs have come and gone. Most are still too large to fit on a cat’s collar due to the limitations of the battery size, but we’ll get there soon. Some of them just track steps for the day, but the latest versions can look at data such as breathing rate and whether or not a dog is scratching excessively. That’s good data to have if you are concerned your pet is in pain or wondering if those new allergy meds are helping!

In veterinary medicine, these fitness trackers are just the start. For those who live with diabetic cats, a litter box is in the works that can track glucose in the urine, a vital marker for diabetes. Imagine if that same litter box also could tell you when your cat loses a pound, which is a substantial health concern but often subtle enough that owners don’t notice right away. Expect these technologies to help us catch disease processes sooner rather than later, which will undoubtedly save lives!

chocolate-lab

3. We’ll Be Using DNA Analysis to Predict Health

Ever swabbed your cheek and sent it off for a DNA analysis to learn about your ancestors? That’s only the beginning. Genetic testing to see what dog breeds make up your dog’s DNA has already expanded into an enormous database that helps improve our understanding of canine disease. Mapping of the dog genome already allows us to pick up early markers for many genetic diseases such as the MDR1 gene, degenerative myelopathy and Von Willebrand’s disease. Our ability to anticipate these disease processes before they develop will allow us to provide much more meaningful care and prevention.

Having such specific health information about individual companion animals will allow us to make completely individualized treatment plans!

4. We’ll Be Using Bioengineered Solutions to Treat Disease

Stem cells are a huge buzzword these days … but do the results really backup the hype? According to many veterinarians who use them to treat dogs, cats and horses, the answer is “yes!”

Stem cells are unique in that they can differentiate into different cell types, which makes them particularly useful in orthopedic disease where regeneration is a challenge. Stem cells can be harvested from a dog or cat’s own adipose tissue, grown at the lab, and returned to the veterinarian to be introduced to the site of an injury. A 2008 study in Veterinary Therapeutics showed a significant improvement using stem cells in dogs with elbow injuries, a notoriously difficult joint to treat.

Another area of research that makes this vet excited is immunotherapy: a cancer treatment that helps the pet’s own immune system recognize cancer cells as abnormal. Scientists are currently investigating the ability to create immunotherapy treatments for tricky cancers such as mast cell tumors, melanoma and osteosarcoma. Imagine a future where an injectable vaccine reduces the need for more invasive treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation!

Technology is both a blessing and a burden. I admit I sometimes long for the days when I wasn’t accessible 24 hours a day, and have to chase my kids outdoors and off their mobile devices. That being said, I am also so very excited to see how these amazing new developments will improve life for both pets and people!

Are pet health monitoring devices something would consider using? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

The Real Reasons Why People Prefer Cats

majestic-white-kitty

On August 8th, we celebrate International Cat Day. To mark the occasion, Dr. V takes a look at why millions of pet parents are more inclined towards cats than dogs. Enjoy! 

Ask any pet lover if they consider themselves Team Cat or Team Dog, and you’re probably going to get some strong opinions. Although the number of U.S. households with dogs exceeds those with cats, felines win in measures of overall numbers. According to the latest survey, about 94 million felines live in the U.S. right now. Clearly, plenty of people play for Team Cat. 

After a long dark era where cat lovers were given a hard time (crazy cat lady stereotypes, anyone?), I’m pleased to see the merits of living with cats far outweighing any negative remarks. In fact, we seem to be enjoying a great renaissance of cat appreciation! Even in the virtual world, cats rule the internet thanks to endless YouTube videos. They're beautiful, mysterious creatures who share a deep and abiding connection with us mere humans. What’s not to love? 

kittens

If you spend enough time talking to people who consider themselves cat people, a few common themes emerge. Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons people find themselves gravitating towards Team Cat … 

  1. Ease of Care. When you bring home a puppy, you wind up with a 10-page list of requirements covering training, harnesses, toys and socialization. Cat parents view such lists with mild amusement. By comparison, cats are pretty low-maintenance. Once you cover the basic necessities such as food, water and a litter box, the rest is just bonus points! 
  1. Independence. Cats are naturally independent, unlike dogs who long to be part of a pack. Of course, certain cats are more social than others, but overall they aren’t as stressed by alone time as your average dog. To many people, this laid-back relationship can be very appealing! Like the cool kid in school who's a bit aloof, you almost love them just a little bit more.
  1. Big Personalities. Interestingly enough, both dog lovers and cat lovers mention personality as one of the reasons they chose one over the other. Clearly, they’re both right. It’s all about who meshes best with the family!

On a purely personal note, certain types of people tend to gravitate towards feline companionship. Folks who describe themselves as introverted, laid-back, shy, refined and independent seem to be naturally inclined toward the feline temperament. There are some who also claim intelligence as a trait of cat people, but as a dog person myself I’m not going to touch that one!

napping-in-bed

As for the notion that it’s mostly women who love cats, nothing could be further from the truth! Cat dudes are loud and proud with their love of all things feline. A few feline fans who just so happen to be famous guys include Christopher Walken, Macklemore, James Franco, Gilles Marini, Russell Brand and Tom Hardy!

Of course, there are many among us who simply can't pick one over the other. In fact, more than half of cat households are also dog households. My son and I are Team Dog while my husband and daughter are Team Cat. We're fortunate enough to have one of each, and we all love them both equally! While it’s fun to play up the differences between dog people and cat people, we’re all animal lovers, and that’s what matters the most.

So, how about you? Are you a charter member of Team Cat? Share your reasons why in the comments section below.

All my best to you and your lovable companions!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Infographic: 5 Ways Cats Improve Your Life

If you're lucky enough to share your life with a cat, you'll know that regardless of personality, felines make life better. Whether they're low-key couch potatoes or frenetic, live-out-loud adventurers, it really doesn't matter. Each kitty finds a way to bring happiness and companionship. But that's not all! They add a fullness of experience to life, in five amazing ways which we've outlined in the following infographic!

To view the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below. And be sure to share this post with your cat-loving friends and family ... or better yet, those who still need convincing!

PDF DocumentPDF Document

Tips for Calming Stressed Cats

beautiful-whiskery-kitty

It’s a common belief that cats are highly susceptible to stress. How many memes have you seen referencing “neurotic kitty”? But the truth is, a cat’s normal state shouldn’t be stressed, she should be happy and relaxed! If our kitties are constantly showing signs of stress and anxiety, we owe it to them to identify solutions to help them feel better.

So how do you know if your cat is stressed versus just being naturally feisty? Well, the signs are subtle. Oftentimes, it’s a subtle change in behavior that doesn’t even seem to be related to anxiety. Some of the more common changes include …

  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box
  • Isolating themselves from others in the household
  • Excessive grooming
  • Prolonged periods of sleep
  • Excessive vocalization beyond what is typical (remember, some kitties are naturally more talkative than others)
  • Increased scratching
  • Aggression

Over time, stress hormones can contribute to physical symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, changes in appetite or even the painful condition known as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). Be aware that these signs are symptomatic of other medical conditions, so don’t be too quick to assume you’re dealing with feline anxiety before discussing the symptoms with your veterinarian. One of the best ways to minimize the likelihood of chronic medical conditions is to feed your cat a high quality, appropriate diet. Since you’re reading the Life’s Abundance blog, I’m probably preaching to the choir on that topic!

peeking-kitty

Let’s say your cat is exhibiting one or more of these signs of anxiety. You’ve brought her in for a check-up and medically, everything checks out. What next?

First, try to pinpoint the source of the stress and eliminate it, if possible. We tend to view these issues through our human lens, so it’s important to remember that unexpected things can be at the root of your cat’s stress. Some of the more obvious reasons include changes in living conditions – from divorce, moves, a new companion animal in the house, or new babies – to the most obvious physical cause, which is pain. But little changes can also provoke anxiety: new furniture, a neighbor’s dog barking, a dirty litter box, being denied access to their favorite location, a neighborhood tomcat taunting them from the yard, even music they don’t like! As you can see, it’s a long list.

Environmental modifications can make a big difference. For indoor cats, boredom can be a near-constant stressor, so provide lots of vertical space for exploration (they love being elevated). Home-built or store-bought cat trees are a great solution. Puzzle feeders can be a good source of environmental enrichment, as they appeal to their hunting instinct. Pheromone diffusers or sprays can also have a calming effect for some.

blue-eyed-kitty

And lastly, make sure your kitty is getting daily interaction and enrichment with you. It’ll build their confidence and form deeper connections with their caregivers. Believe it or not, many behaviorists recommend clicker training as a great way to bond with your cat. This gives her a sense of control over her environment and also offers the promise of a yummy incentive like Gourmet Cat Treats for Healthy Skin & Coat. Cats can learn amazing tricks with clicker training and treats, but it’s also a great way to reward good behavior generally.

Try to set aside some one-on-one time for your cat in the space where she is most relaxed. Optimally, this is something you’ll do every day at the same time, because cats are true creatures of habit. No distractions, which means leave your phone in another room and turn off the TV. Brush, pet, sing … do whatever pleases your cat the most. It’ll be good for both of you!

A happy cat means a happy you! If you think your cat is suffering from stress or anxiety, try some of these suggestions to help them live the “purr-fect” life.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals,

Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM