Stress in cats is manageable, new data shows

Like humans, our feline counterparts experience stress. And it happens, as you’d guess, from the same triggers: change, conflict, and a feeling of having little control over a situation.

But stress is manageable. And new data, published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery by the School of Veterinary Science at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, in Spain, published on June 22, shows how. It outlines the causes and cures of stress in owned cats.

Stress results from changes in the environment and an environment that doesn't allow a cat to be a cat and do what cats do--hunting, scratching, and climbing. It also results from a poor cat-human relationship, or inter-cat conflict with another family cat.

The researchers also learned that it is not the conditions that necessarily create the stress—be it physical, social, or the way a cat is handled by his/her owner. It can be a cat’s ability to predict and control those outside influences. A cat’s temperament, which is part genetic and part early experiences, also contributes.

Stress-related behavioral issues such as elimination problems, aggression, or compulsive behavior can result in owners giving up their cats or, worse, euthanizing them.

Stress can also lead to serious diseases, including anorexia, feline hyperesthesia syndrome (FHS), and pica, i.e., eating non-food items.

Finally, the researchers suggest multiple ways to prevent or minimize stress, notes Science Daily. Stress-reducers include using a three-phase protocol for reducing inter-cat conflict, creating a rich physical environment, and offering a “safe area” for the cat to de-stress.

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