The UK’s Felines are Stressing Out and Meowing for Help

PetPanion Issues Cat Parent Alert Ahead of National Cat Celebrations

Ahead of National Cat Day (October 29), an App focused on putting pet healthcare and wellbeing on a par with that of humans says the UK’s feline population is showing signs of being cats on hot tin roofs.

PetPanion, which encourages pet parents to focus continually on those signs displayed by their animals that may suggest something is not quite right, by making use of its Wellness Score feature, has analysed the behaviours and health issues of pets on its user base.

That analysis has discovered that, according to their parents, 61% of cats are suffering from nervousness or anxiety and a further 15% from territorial behaviours, also suggestive of mental health issues and strains.

There could be a number of reasons for this. Cat anxiety is a fairly common phenomenon and one that can emanate from a number of causes, making its observation and monitoring of enormous importance.  It can be a sign of the cat being in pain, or suffering from an illness, toxicity or infection.  It could equally stem from a life of former abuse, or a recent trauma.  It can also be caused by changes in circumstance – new pets, babies, furniture, visitors or pressures within the household, the latter even including the stress being taken on board by humans and detected by the cat.

Lockdown may well be responsible for many cases, with cats suddenly devoid of the space they need, or not getting the outdoor strolls that are the norm, because they do not wish to miss out on what is going on inside.

There are more potential human interactions for them to cope with than normal and a major disruption to their routine.  A massive boom in pet ownership and adoption during lockdown may have led to there being more cats on a cat’s patch, increasing anxiety and territorialism.  There could be a new cat or dog in the house causing annoyance and frustration, or even a sense of rejection.  If that pet has not been neutered or spayed, because of the difficulties of finding a vet able to do this during lockdown, that can have an impact on a cat which has been.

Even a cat’s diet and mealtimes may have changed, altering the whole structure to the day that it had come to enjoy.  PetPanion’s data shows that 35% of cats have two meals a day, 32% four meals and 24% three feasts. Mealtimes are a big deal. Over half (53%) are also over the age of three, so have had time to get used to structure and routine within the household.

Then there is potentially a lack of understanding of how to treat a cat.  40% of the cat pet parents who use PetPanion are newbies to the role, as first-time owners, and 22% of the felines monitored are aged under one year.  Additionally, 39% of felines are not registered with a vet, so may well not be enjoying those occasions when a vet can pass on hints and tips to their mums or dads.

With the possible impact of separation anxiety yet to come for many of the newly homed pets, the situation is worrying.  PetPanion’s founder, Qian Huang, says: “Cat owners need to look out for classic signs of cat anxiety – hiding, trembling, being less active or more destructive, grooming excessively to the extent of creating bald patches or sores, not eating or urinating in the house.

“If this is happening, especially if it is out of character, the cat may need some help in coping with lockdown impacts but it is also vital that owners stay on top of their monitoring, as passing it off as increased stress could mask a severe underlying health problem.

“By using PetPanion and building it into their routine, cat owners should be prompted to pay closer attention to what is going on with their pet and use that information to determine the pet’s Wellness Score.  If that score starts to dip, it is time to take action, get registered with a vet’s surgery and find out what the issue could be.”

Ways to keep a cat happier include play and interaction but also keeping a distance when necessary.  Providing a cat with a good vantage point from which to view the outside world, a structured routine and using scent therapy, via calming diffusers, sprays or plug-ins, can also help.  If there is no underlying health condition to be detected, the next action is probably that of consulting with a pet behavioural expert or, if it is a cat that has been rescued, trying to discover what in their past might be a trigger for anxious behaviour.

“One thing you should not do,” says Qian, “is give up on your cat.  If you can get them over their nervousness, and through this trying spell, they should be your best stress buddy for many years to come and return the favour many times over.”

PetPanion is free to download at the App Store or Playstore.  More information is at www.mypetpanion.com

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