Cats and Anxiety- what are the signs? It is not unusual for your pet cat to experience anxiety. Behavioural problems are one of the leading causes of pet abandonment. Shelters are full of cats with behavioural problems, which are often the result of breeding or inadequate socialisation. Rescued cats do not magically turn into house pets, they require a huge investment of your time to help them acclimatise to their new surroundings.
“Get a cat, they look after themselves!”
If you’ve been given this advice- it’s bad advice
Pets do not & cannot care for themselves – you are the caregiver
All felines are descendants of hunters. They carry many traits and behaviours of their wild ancestors. Cats are intelligent, self aware and compared to dogs, fine tuned machines. Imagine being this precision machine, locked up in a home all day, everyday with nothing to do except look out a window? Some do not even have that luxury.
Frustration and boredom can only give way to what human beings term bad behaviour. If you are vigilant, you’ll begin to notice subtle signs from your cat- pay close attention to these clues. A cat, or any animal, exhibits behaviours before it reaches the point of attack. Animals give us warnings and the signs we just do not know how to read them. It benefits us and our companion cats to understand each other. If you need to make adjustments to your home to keep your cat comfortable and provide a feeling of security it is a necessity not an option.
A rescue cat comes with a past which may or may not be known. In a nurturing enhanced environment they learn to live comfortably and with confidence. It is important to keep in mind that animals with a traumatic past may never fully recover. As our companion animals it is our duty to provide for their welfare- physical and mental. If you buy a cat (please try not to), be sure to go to a breeder who is reputed and does not breed indiscriminately as a business.
What may cause anxious behaviours? And how can you recognise them? 2 technical terms to understand Genotype and Phenotype. A genotype is the collection of genes from which a cat inherits behaviours from its parents. Phenotype is the ‘visible’ display of these behaviours. Selectively breeding cats has and continues to play a part in the behaviour and traits of our domestic felines.
The truth is anxiety in cats or any animal or person is difficult to quantify. There is no ‘cure’ or instant remedy for an anxious person or pet. However, anxiety which is ignored can manifest itself in physical ailments. The key is to be patient, just as you cannot beat a child to teach it effectively, you cannot punish a pet into good behaviour.
Aggression may be broadly classified
1.Predatory – linked to hereditary traits of hunting and stalking
2. Play – trying to assert dominance or over stepping boundaries
3. Temperamental- maybe genetic or from an abusive situation
4. Territorial- resource guarding is common in multi cat households
(Source: Feline Behaviour and Welfare, A. F Fraser (as outlined by Chapman (1991) )
If you are serious about cat care please refer to this comprehensive guide.
In addition to these types of aggression, are different circumstances and actions which may trigger feline aggression. Pain is a major factor, left over from their wild genes is the ability to hide pain. Because in the wild an open display of pain is a sign of weakness. “Stroke Bite” or “Petting Aggression” 2 is exactly what it sounds like. Our need to humanise our pets is often at the expense of their welfare. Stroking or petting your cat is fine, just don’t over do it!
Think back to your childhood. When your cheeks were pinched or your hair tussled. Most of us hated it, and acted out our displeasure by throwing a tantrum or stamping our feet. That’s what your cat is doing!
Recognise cat body language like this crouching watchful cat- what should you do? Disengage.
Stop looking the cat in the eye. Do not make sudden movements and move away. If the cat attacks you defend yourself, not violently, maybe a blanket or pillow. If you can subdue the cat with a blanket or rug until it calms down do so. If the cat wins the first time, it learns to repeat the behaviour.
We hope this basic material will make it easier for you, and give you a starting point! Never, never medicate your cat after consulting Dr. Facebook or Professor Google! Always consult your vet and if your situation requires it your vet may include the services of a behavioural expert.
We’re not collecting information to spam you or your cat! Your responses and suggestions will help another feline family deal with an aggressive or anxious cat. Put down your thoughts, no matter how trivial they seem! There may be behaviours or activities that are unique to your pet and their situation. As a pet community we learn and grow from each other and one more happy cat in a home, is one less unhappy cat in a shelter!
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2 Lachman and Mickadeit (Feline Behaviour and Welfare, A Fraser) A
Photo 1 – Cover- Pixabay
Photo 2- Oliver Pet Care
Photo 3- Janko Ferlic