We humans have come to think of scratching and other destructive past-times as part and parcel of having a pet cat. However, these behaviours can sometimes be symptoms of an underlying anxiety issue our feline friends are struggling from. Dr Cherlene Lee, vet and owner of My Vet Animal Hospital in Sydney, says while there’s definitely a spectrum of anxiety for cats, and some are more likely than others to suffer from it, cats in general need to feel very secure. “When this security is breached cats can become very anxious,” says Cherlene. “Signs of anxiety include inappropriate urination, diarrhoea, scratching up carpet, hiding, it can really depend on the cat.”
“More and more people are realizing that their cats aren't just ‘misbehaving’ or ‘punishing’ their humans. Many problems are often rooted in anxiety and it's great to be able to improve welfare for both the cat and the pet owner. The key is to recognise that each cat is an individual and it's silly to pretend that every cat can be fixed with one thing.”
What can cause cat anxiety?
“Anything from moving house to changing the type of litter or having strange people over can cause anxiety in cats,” says Cherlene. “The key thing here is to remember that cats thrive on routine and familiarity to give them a sense of security. Any change can result in anxiety.”
What can we do to help?
“The best thing you can do is pre-empt anxiety. Where possible, reduce stimuli that can make cats anxious and, where it is unavoidable, speak to your vet,” says Cherlene. “Very often a tailor-made plan is the best way to help ease your cat's anxiety, there's no one-size-fits-all solution.”
What treatment is available?
“Because there's no cure-all for anxiety, something that works on one cat may not help another. However, one of our favourite products is the Feliway diffuser because it's easy to use and works in the majority of our patients,” says Cherlene.
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