Thought your cat was loving all the extra attention they’ve been getting lately? Think again. Since the pandemic started, most of us have said goodbye to the office and hello to working from home…and our cats don’t appreciate it one little bit. According to the latest research, the change in our habits has damaged our cat’s daily routine and led to a dramatic rise in feline stress. In some cases, the stress has reached such chronic levels, it could even be life-threatening.
Vets Warn Cats are Experiencing Life Threatening Stress at Home
When coronavirus struck early last year, the message was clear: protect lives, stay home. So we did… with mixed results. Our dogs loved the extra attention. Out cats? Not so much. According to the Daily Mail, our feline friends have found the increased attention too much to bear, leaving them stressed out, worn out, and in desperate need of some alone time. Unfortunately, stress in cats doesn’t just leave them feeling a little blue. It can lead to a host of dangerous, even life-threatening conditions. Over the past 18 months, the number of conditions like blocked bladders in male cats and cystitis in both males and females has skyrocketed. According to vets, it’s all linked to stress.
Creatures of Habit
Cats are creatures of habit. They have their routine, we have ours, and if everyone sticks to the schedule, everything’s rosy. The problem is, the moment the pandemic struck, the schedule went out the window. Our homes turned into our offices. The kids stopped going to school. Suddenly, cats couldn’t catch a break. Whenever they wanted a quiet moment, there we were. Their safe spaces got taken up with laptops and files. Their naps got interrupted by Zoom meetings. The first couple of days, they put up with it. 18 months down the line, they’d had enough “Some cats may have become more stressed during the pandemic,’ a spokeswoman from Cats Protection explains. ‘Changes to a cat’s routine have the potential to cause stress, as they are creatures of habit. As well as this, ‘safe’ or ‘quiet’ places that a cat could have escaped to previously may have been repurposed as a home office, so the cat no longer has a quiet place.’ Veterinary nurse Debbie James from Vet’s Klinic in Swindon, agrees, saying that numerous, stress-related conditions are now being reported at a rate unheard of before lockdown.
How to Detect Signs of Stress
If you’re worried that you’ve been lavishing your cat with more attention than is good for them, there are certain things you can do to ease their blues and get them back on track. The first step is to learn the signs of stress. According to WikiHow, some of the most common symptoms of stress in cats include:
Changes in Toilet Habits
Unpleasant though it sounds, keeping an eye on what’s going on in your cat’s litter tray is one of the quickest ways to spot a stressed kitty. Stress hormones can cause the bladder lining to become inflamed, resulting in urinary discomfort and a change in bathroom habits. Keep a watch on how often your cat visits their tray (if it’s more frequent than normal, the might be a problem) and check for any signs of blood in their urine. Some cats can become distressed enough for it to upset their stomachs, so be on the lookout for diarrhea too. Another telltale sign of stress is if your previously clean cat starts defecating around the house.
Cat don’t talk to each other, but they’ve got no problem in yabbering away at us, especially if they’re feeling insecure. If your cat starts vocalizing more than normal, it could be a sign of stress.
Cats sometimes get bursts of energy, and while that’s normal enough, a cat who fidgets constantly, paces around, or who can’t go for more than a few seconds between grooming sessions may be feeling the effects of stress.
If your previously sociable cat has started withdrawing from company and spending their time hanging out in dark corners, they might be feeling insecure and desperate to escape whatever it is that’s bothering them.
How To Tackle Stress
If you suspect your cat might be suffering from stress, the first thing to do is to get them checked out by a vet. Stress can cause physical problems, but likewise, physical problems can cause stress. Play it safe and get them thoroughly checked over before you do anything else. If the vet gives them a clean bill of health, you can start making changes to their environment to help reduce their anxiety and restore their equilibrium. Some of the best tips to try include:
Get Back to Normal
As battersea.org.uk notes, cats like their home and routines to be predictable and consistent as this helps them to feel more in control of their environment. Regardless of whether you’re working from home or self-isolating, try to keep your cat’s routine as similar to normal as you can. If you always fed them before heading out to work, keep feeding them at the same time. If you played with them when you arrived home for the day, keep doing it. The more normal their home environment is, the more normal they’ll feel.
Keep It Down
Cats are sensitive to loud noises. If you’ve taken home office as an excuse to keep the TV or radio on all day, turn the volume down a notch.
Some cats might enjoy being fussed over, but other cats can only take so much before they start finding it uncomfortable. Learn to read the signs, watching for any body language or behavior that suggests they’re not enjoying the experience. Always make sure your cats have the option to remove themselves from a situation they find uncomfortable – avoid holding them as you stroke them, or petting them while they’re tucked away in a hiding space.
Give Them a Safe Space
If your cat doesn’t have somewhere safe to retreat to when needed, they’ll quickly become stressed, Make sure they have plenty of high perches they can safely watch over things, along with plenty of dark cupboards and hidey-holes to shelter in. Even a few cardboard boxes scattered around can make a big difference.