Methods For Correcting Stress And Anxiety In Cats


Are pets really stressed too? You can definitely answer "yes". This article will focus specifically on cats, since many methods require an individual approach, and the solution to behavioral problems in cats, dogs, birds and other species is fundamentally different due to the peculiarities of the physiology and psychology of a particular animal.

First of all, I would like to list the stress factors that provoke anxiety in cats. The article itself will be devoted to the analysis of typical mistakes. We will also discuss with you the right actions to help relieve stress in a cat that is experiencing anxiety for various reasons.

Stress factors

Poor health, illness or rehabilitation period, moving, change of environment, inability to retire and feel comfortable, change of owner, nervous situation at home, extraneous noises and smells, new family members or animals, aggressive behavior of the owner, etc.

Signs of stress

• Problems with the toilet

• Apathy

• Lack of appetite or increased appetite

• Outbursts of aggression and abnormal activity

• Excessive licking

• Any behavior that differs from the usual pattern

Analysis of the situation

The reasons for the problems with which the owners most often turn to a zoopsychologist for an appointment can generally be divided into two large and non-mutually exclusive (this is important) categories - a physiological component (health status and hormonal background) and a direct behavioral deviation , most often caused by incorrect conditions of detention and an unfavorable psychological environment.

It is a mistake to believe that medical intervention is a panacea for all ills, despite the fact that many requests addressed to a specialist begin with the words: "maybe there are some droplets? .."Of course, there are sedatives (we will talk about them later). But in most cases, they do not solve the problem by themselves. In the future, we have, unfortunately, only a worsening of the situation. The solution is a complex error correction, the ultimate goal of which is to establish the lost contact between the owner and the animal.

The first step is the owner's awareness of their pet's needs. A pet is a full member of the family, which also needs care, good conditions of keeping, communication, activity and rest. Mutual respect creates a healthy environment in the home and family. Perhaps this approach may still seem strange, but these times, fortunately, are a thing of the past. An animal is not an accessory or a piece of furniture (although it is still formulated differently in the current legislation of the Russian Federation), but a living being that can experience pain and joy, fatigue and happiness, anxiety and affection. And since for some reason it was in your care, it is in your power to provide him with conditions that would correspond to his specific needs.

One of the important attitudes to remember when dealing with any problem is that there is always a reason . Our task is to work together individually on each situation and identify this very reason.

Consider a specific case ...

A cat goes to the toilet in the wrong place. One of the common questions. What is actually happening from the point of view of the cat?

There can be several reasons for toilet problems , and they are also not mutually exclusive , it is important to understand:

• feeling unwell, pain, cramps (for example, sand in the urinary tract, any chronic disease, parasitic infestation or inflammation, feeding inappropriate for the species needs of the animal);

• hormonal levels (the animal is not castrated, is in heat or actively looking for a partner, or is provoked by the smells of another non-castrated animal nearby);

• lack of cleanliness in the litter box (cats are quite clean creatures, and the slightest dirt can force them to go to the toilet in a more suitable place);

• uncomfortable location of the litter box (during the toilet and while eating, cats are quite vulnerable, so it is not allowed to put the litter box in an open place, in drafts, near feeding places);

• catscary after moving, or she does not feel protected in front of guests, because of the presence of children in the house, noisy clarification of relations within the family, etc.;

• a large number of animals in the house, crowding, when territorial and hierarchical showdowns force the cat to behave in a similar way;

So where do you start?

1. Deal with the state of health of the animal - take tests (clinical and biochemical blood tests, urine analysis with sediment analysis, coprogram), do an ultrasound of the abdominal cavity, identify abnormalities. Normalize feeding or choose a veterinary diet based on the results of the examination;

2. Neutering a pet(an extremely desirable procedure for any animals that are not of breeding value, besides, the prevention of diseases is always easier than their further treatment from a moral and material point of view);

3. Analyze the conditions of keeping the cat (see above) - are the trays clean, try changing the litter and put another tray. Covered trays-houses have proven themselves very well. You can try using an absorbent silica filler; 

4.The smell of marks or traces of excrement is perfectly removed by household chemicals and disinfectants, for example, "Line". From household chemicals, I would like to recommend eco-friendly brands with a minimum content of surfactants and natural flavors that will not harm pets (Frosch, Ecover, etc.). It is categorically impossible to use products with bleach, since the smell can provoke further marks, and the fumes are quite dangerous. The surfaces themselves can be covered with foil to temporarily make them uncomfortable for the pet, sometimes it is effective to use special sprays designed to wean them from going to the toilet in the wrong place; five.Of course, eliminate or mitigate the main stress factors as much as possible - limit the cat's contact with irritants, create cozy places for her to rest somewhere higher (this can be a refrigerator, wardrobe, shelves, from where she can watch what is happening without taking direct part, but while in the couch). Do not feed animals that are aggressive towards each other, separate their trays, allocate each of them their own "zone". Conduct explanatory conversations with children and relatives on the subject of treating smaller brothers, etc., etc.

Soothing herbal remedies, homeopathy and pheromones for animals - work or not?

Yes, sure. They work. The use of phyto- and homeopathic medicines and pheromones is necessary in a number of cases. But there is a nuance - from a single dose, the behavior of the animal will practically not change, and the effect will be little perceptible. They are used in a course (see the description of each specific drug), herbal teas - 7-14 days, a diffuser with pheromones - and even more, a month. The term of homeopathic treatment is observed by the physician based on a holistic (i.e. complex, holistic) approach to the situation. But also a one-time summer residence is not limited.

The appointment of these funds (Cat Bayun, Fitx, Stop-Stress, Fospasim, Felivey and the like) can only contribute to solving the problem, but will not completely solve it, unless measures are taken against other factors of concern. Again, it is the favorable psychological environment at the location of the animal and its well-being that is primary. But in preparing the animal for moving or traveling long distances, such means will be very useful. You must start giving them in advance. These are mild, gentle drugs, but extremely effective in reducing anxiety levels.

Separately, it should be said about the harm of hormonal drugs. They will definitely not solve the problem (regardless of whether we are talking about sexual behavior, sexual aggression or just anxiety), and in the future they can cause irreparable harm to all body systems, provoking hormonal disruptions up to oncological diseases of the reproductive organs and mammary glands.

Therefore, for ethical reasons, I will not consider the use of hormonal agents, strong tranquilizers and medications in this article.

Punishment and educational measures

Consider actions that owners are used to describing as "punishment." First of all, any punishment is useless , it needs to be rethought, understood and accepted.

There is still a stereotype that methods involving physical punishment can produce the desired pedagogical effect. However, this is not the case at all. The animal does not associate its aggression, or acts of defecation and urination, tags, tattered furniture, etc. with something bad. For him, this is a method of communication with the outside world, quite natural processes. And in order to understand what exactly the animal means by its actions, one must try to understand its language and psychology. It is the owner's direct task - to understand the cause-and-effect relationships in the animal's behavior.

Second thesis -punishment is dangerous !

Punishment, that is, physical or psychological violence, is just a very illogical action in response to the natural manifestations of the animal's nature. From the side of the pet, this will seem to be unreasonable aggression, which can only aggravate everything - cause a response aggression (attack) or provoke various fears and phobias. I admit that this will stir up a protest from the reader of the article: “But how? My cat ripped off the sofa, I punish him, he stopped doing it - the method works! "

The method may have worked, but this did not contribute to a positive relationship, the cat will simply sharpen its claws in another place for fear of receiving a splash of aggression, but not at all because it is more convenient to sharpen its claws in another place. Even worse, some owners go directly against physiology, solving the problem with radical, painful and completely unethical methods, for example, removal of the nail phalanges .

From here we come to another important conclusion: do not prohibit, offer an alternative . Let it be different scratching posts in different corners of the apartment. Take a closer look at why the animal sharpens its clawsprecisely on the corner of the sofa, and not on the horizontal bed, for which "a lot of money was given, but he, impudently, does not want ...". Perhaps it is precisely because the animal likes the vertical arrangement of the scratching post, the optimal height, and the texture of the coating. Sharpening claws is relaxation, relaxation (that is, the most real stress relief) and a physiological necessity. Try to upholstery a corner with carpet, buy cardboard scratching posts, planks, posts upholstered with plaits, interest in the smell of catnip.

Game activity

Games are a great source of positive emotions. Games are a litmus of relationship and trust between a cat and an owner. At the same time, play activity is an important element of cognition of the surrounding world and the formation of certain species patterns of behavior. Through play, the kitten learns the boundaries of entertainment and hunting, educational bites and traumatic pain sensations. In adulthood, the need for play is still an important desire for the cat.

Attempts to play softly with the catSome kind of toy is a great way to try to establish contact with an animal that is experiencing severe prolonged stress (moving, rehabilitation after an illness). Reciprocal movements of the paw on the toy are a sure sign of recovery or that the cat is generally positive and disposed. But you cannot play with cats forcibly, obsessive tactile contact can develop into aggressive attacks. By the way, about aggression. It is this reaction that is an extreme measure, when the cat cannot escape the conflict in another way (believe me, if it was, it would be used).

The lack of games leads to the following: the energy, which must necessarily find a way out, will find it in the form of actively attracting the owner's attention (throwing off objects, aggressive attitude, the cat can bite and scratch, show restless behavior at night) or "burn out", plunging into apathy and illness. Lack of realization of the natural urge to play is truly destructive for the cat and the environment around him. And the degree of destruction depends solely on the temperament and constitution of the cat. From the point of view of the state of mind of the animal, it is better when this destructive vector is directed outward to objects, rather than when it closes in on itself, leading to a breakdown and depressive states.

Conversely, play can not only allow a healthy animal to give a burst of accumulated energy, warm up and have fun with the owner, but also contribute to the healing of a fearful and humble animal. Of course, if you find a delicate approach, without prejudice to the personal space where the cat feels comfortable.

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