Stress in Cats

It is a known fact that stress is part of or the start of most common cat behavioral problems and even some diseases that are common in cats. Unlike other species, cats tend not to let humans know how they are affected emotionally and instead they become quiet and withdraw in their anxiety. To be able to help their cats owners must be aware of the kinds of signs of stress their cats are showing. In a cat’s body, several physiological systems regulate stress. The two that deal with usual short-term stress in a cat are the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) and the sympathetic nervous system. These are the systems that regulate if the cat will fight or give flight while under stress. Unfortunately, these systems are not able to deal with chronic or long-term stress that plays a major role in behavioral problem development and diseases related to stress in cats.

The development of physiological systems begins even before the kitten comes into this world. If a mother cat is stressed while she is pregnant or if she has received poor nutrition during pregnancy her litter might be prone to stress development and the non-adaptive coping strategies which form the basis of lots of common behavioral problems in cats. Owners might recognize stress in their cats if their behavior changes abruptly. An unexpected incident or threat can cause acute stress and this type of stress is easily recognizable in cats. Some of the signs can include immobility, the body crouched on all fours and shaking or holding the tail close to the body among other kinds of signs.

It is more difficult to recognize chronic stress as it can develop over a longer time period  and the signs might be more subtle. Some signs can be uninhibited urination, lack of appetite, hiding and even defensive aggression toward other cats and people. You can find a full list of signs to look out for online so you can begin to help your cat overcome his or her stress. Factors that can cause stress in cats have to do with their interaction with both people and the environment. Problems with stress can show up if the cat has to share its home with other cats it does not get along with or if the cat has to live in a neighborhood that has a high cat population.

Owners sometimes cause problems for their cats if they want to interact with their cat more than he or she is ready to so or if the cat becomes uncertain as to how to respond to their owners at any certain time. Then the cat tends to become anxious and in the end, stress can result. The main thing is to first identify the stress in your cat and then help him or her by making sure that you have a cat-friendly home environment and keep the cat as happy as you can as their stress lessens. As a cat owner, you cannot expect your cat to get through their life never experiencing stress but you can help minimize the problems that can trigger stress and thus help your cat avoid an episode of chronic stress.

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