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Stress can make your cat sick

Prolonged stress has been shown to increase the risk of cats becoming ill or developing problem behaviours. Here you will get some simple tricks to prevent long-term stress in your cat and ensure that it is satisfied with life, just like for us humans.
Grey cat with yellow eyes

Temporary stress is not dangerous for cats. Sometimes being startled by a dog or an unexpected noise is part of everyday life. When such situations arise, hormones are released which, somewhat simplified, make the cat's body ready to flee from the threat or fight. What you should be careful with is long-term stress. Cats are significantly less equipped to handle it. In the worst case, stress can, for example, trigger an inflammation in the bladder and thus make the cat physically ill.

Behaviours that may indicate stress in your cat

  • Excessive cleaning and washing
  • Food refusal/binge eating
  • Increased need for sleep and passivity
  • The cat starts to pee or poop indoors
  • Increased aggressiveness
  • No desire to play
  • The cat withdraws or becomes more dependent on its owner
  • Extreme vigilance and strong reactions to fear

A cat that is exposed to stress for a long time often feels very unwell. It is not uncommon for it to start peeing in the wrong place or, for example, to lick the fur off its belly in an attempt to deal with its situation.

This is how you know if your cat is stressed

Long-term or chronic stress in a cat can be difficult to detect because the development is often gradual. By paying attention to subtle signals, you can determine if your cat is stressed.

What these signals look like largely depends on the cat's personality. It can, for example, be about changed behavior patterns and routines, such as a cat suddenly spending more time outside than usual after a change in the home.

How to prevent stress in your cat

Since it can be difficult to detect stress in a cat, it is very important to prevent stress in your cat. Here are some tips along the way:

  • Make sure to have several litter boxes and food bowls. One per cat plus one extra is a good measure. Remember that litter boxes should not be placed together. Food bowls can be spread out and should not be next to the water bowls.
  • Beds and hiding places for the cat should be both high and low. Just like cats like to sit in trees and lie under bushes.
  • Do not have too many cats in a small area. Not all cats appreciate company, it can be enough for two individuals that do not work together for problems to arise.
  • A new cat or other new family member can mean a lot of stress for the cat.
  • Maintain daily routines so that the cat can often anticipate what is going to happen.
  • Respect the cat when it wants to be left alone.
  • If the cat is outside: let the cat take the initiative to go outside or inside.
  • If an indoor cat: offer a stimulating environment so that the cat does not get bored.
  • Make sure the cat can move at height. Could be a claw tree or a shelf to scout from.

Stress can depend on the cat's environment

There may be something that makes the cat uncomfortable or feel pressured. It may be that the cat feels that it has to compete with another cat for food and space, that it lacks safe places to retreat to or feels bored. By respecting that the cat sometimes wants to be left alone and offering a good environment, you will go a long way. But it is also important to integrate with the cat, but on the cat's terms.

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