Many cats are well-adjusted pets, and handle the challenges of day-to-day existence with little or no problems. For a significant percentage of our moggies, however, life is a continuum of stress, anxiety and fear. We can help our moggies with a little understanding and coping skills…..
The more fortunate cats have been dealt a winning hand, with a good nature/nurture mix. The less fortunate pets can still have a rewarding life, and repay their owners with affection and loyalty. The key to a win/win relationship with your cat is firstly, to understand it’s behaviour; and secondly, to have a plan you can roll out when the going gets tough.
Understanding your cat
The cat is a solitary species, and feels this solitude most when anxious. When he senses danger he will usually seek out a safe place where he can be alone. It’s also important to remember that your cat’s behaviour is mainly predicated by three key factors:
- Genetics – a cat may inherit the temperament of its parents
- Breed/species – some types are more aggressive/passive than others
- Formative development – the rearing environment, especially in the first eight weeks, can be crucial to determining a feline’s temperament
A calm feline may be the beneficiary of good genes and a nice, calm, well-loved first couple of months on the planet. This cat will be sociable, well adjusted and passive. She’ll be slow to bite or scratch, and won’t be easily scared. She won’t run when the doorbell rings, and she’ll be comfortable with strangers.
On the other side of the spectrum is the cat that will spend a good deal of the day out of sight, only re-emerging in the evening when the house has settled down. He can be occasionally aggressive, and will shun most human contact. Many owners feel that such cats are living a life of misery, buried under the bed or in a closet for most of the day. The reality is that these pets are so fearful of everyday life they live with constant anxiety, and are relieved to have someplace safe to retreat to. These cats can suffer from health problems, usually urinary, as a result of the constantly high anxiety levels.
And, of course, there are all those kitties in between who need that extra bit of TLC, but will return the favour in spades! Having an insight into your cat’s behaviour can be an important step towards managing behavioural challenges. Having a few handy techniques to calm your kitty can make the difference between just tolerating a cat and rewarding pet ownership:
Twelve top tips for cat and kitten owners
- Be aware that it’s normal for a highly-strung cat to run away from the most unthreatening of situations, and feel safest up somewhere looking down! A cat’s complex reasoning process, combined with a hardwired continuous red alert status, can turn a normal everyday event, like a visitor or a sudden noise, into a perceived life-threatening situation.
- Refrain from trying to pet or cuddle your cat when she’s in avoidance mode. She feels safe and relieved. She wants to be alone, and attempted physical contact may make her feel threatened, antagonize her and cause further anxiety. Ignoring a nervous cat can be a good strategy; try to avoid speaking directly to your cat or making eye contact. You may find that, in time, your cat will feel more and more relaxed around you, and may even initiate contact with you – a hugely rewarding experience for the owner!
- Try to be relaxed and calm around a nervous cat. Act normally and don’t walk on eggshells. Cats are very sensitive, and can quickly detect owner anxiety.
- Cats love games – this we know! Play games with your cat that enables some distance between you both. The traditional ball of wool game didn’t happen accidentally – a nervous cat or kitten will prefer to play at a distance.
- Small tasty treats, used appropriately, can help break down barriers caused by your cat’s anxiety. Feed them directly from your extended hand to improve contact; position some treats strategically around the house to get her comfortable moving from room to room.
- Follow these tips at Halloween and any other seasons when there may be fireworks or other expected noise:
- Keep you cat indoors – missing animal stats peak at these times of the year. In addition to microchipping, every cat collar should be ID-tagged with the owner’s phone number. This will greatly increase the chances of a quick and happy reunion in the event of your cat straying.
- If you can at all, stay indoors with your cat. Close the windows and blinds, turn on the lights (to camouflage outside flashes) and turn on the TV or play some music (to cover the firework noises).
- A relaxed, calm owner will reassure the kitty that there’s nothing to worry about.
- An anxious cat won’t feed. Try to feed your cat before the fireworks start, and ensure she has plenty of water. Anxiety can cause increased breathing rate, which in turn increases thirst.
- Make sure your cat is secured before the trick-or-treaters come knocking. She’ll be out the door in a flash!
- Don’t scold your kitty. Reassure her with your company, kindness and contact. She’ll love you forever!
KalmAid – Safe and effective nutritional supplement for nervous cats
Try KalmAid Cat Calming Supplement – researched, developed and manufactured by Nutriscience. KalmAid contains L- Tryptophan and L-theanine, essential 9.09 amino acids which stimulate the production of serotonin. Serotonin plays an important role in maintaining calm and relaxation in cats.
KalmAid comes in caramel flavoured liquid and beef flavoured tablets to suit all tastes.
KalmAid also comes in a specially formulated gel which is applied to the cat’s paw. Almost all cats will then lick off the gel, making for easy and stress-free feeding, especially in cats that won’t tolerate tablet feeding.