Living through the pandemic over the last two years has been a stressful, anxiety-inducing time for all of us. UK Depression rates have doubled and along with many other exasperated mental health conditions are fueling a mental health crisis.
For many of us, our cats have supported our well-being during this time. Interacting with your cat can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Cats can help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship.
But, did you realise your feline family members could be hiding an emotional health crisis of their own?
A recent survey by a leading animal charity highlighted some concerning results;
64% of owners reported they did not know the signs of anxiety to look out for in their pets.
With a rising pet population and many first time owners, we need to share our knowledge and promote positive mental health for the whole family. Our pets deserve our understanding and care.
How will I know if my cat is stressed?
Recent studies by leading dog and cat charities give us an insight into the mental state of the nation's pets.
The 2021 ‘Cat Report’ produced by the Cats Protection noted 42% of UK cats are exhibiting at least one of the top six stress behaviours, as shown below.
So, with almost half of our cats (in reality this could be higher as cats hide everything) showing symptoms of distress your pet could very well be one of them!
Can My Cat’s Mental Health Affect Their Physical Health?
Much like humans, the physical health conditions of our pets can manifest from emotional distress. Chronic stress can affect the immune system, digestive system and bladder function of our cats to name but a few.
Overgrooming caused by anxiety can cause skin problems, it is well reported that there is a link between emotional well-being and idiopathic cystitis in cats.
To keep our pets in tip-top condition we need to embrace a whole body preventative care program, both physical and mental.
Our Top 5 Ways To Help Your Forlorn Feline
As one of the first lessons we are taught in feline medicine at vet school is ‘A Cat is NOT a small Dog’ This is one of the many reasons we set up our cat only clinic. SimplyCats are proud to hold a gold standard accreditation from the ISFM as a cat-friendly practice. We provide a veterinary experience focusing on your cat's needs. Canine needs and rules of medicine often don’t apply in a feline world, even when their homes overlap.
Take a look at our simple changes you can make to benefit your feline family member:
Move food and water bowls away from litter trays - cats do not like to eat near their toilet, and let's face it neither would we! This is a natural instinct to avoid the contamination of food and water supplies.
Have at least one litter tray per cat and one spare - ideally in separate locations. and quiet areas with low footfall.
Cats live in a 3-D world - There is a very good reason why cats like to find higher ground……... the ability to spot enemies or in fact prey before they are spotted themselves. Your cat may be domesticated but has never forgotten its roots, millions of years worth of tree climbing ancestry. This added bonus of vertical territory greatly expands their ‘home range’ too, not to mention climbing is fun. Try and add some safe climbing areas for your cat, an elevated bed also provides a safe place for 40 winks.
Enrichment - Lack of enrichment of our domestic cats can cause significant stress, compared to their free-roaming ancestors. Invest in a puzzle feeder or make your own treasure hunt. Here is a short video of Piper fishing from her puzzle bowl. If possible offering access to an outdoor secure run, or in the garden on a harness (if tolerated) may be beneficial and stimulating. Simple measures can be of huge benefit, set aside playtime each day with some of your cat’s favourite toys, rotate toys to avoid boredom. Our two mini tigers, Marmalade and Jasper love to play after school, as you can see below.
Choosing a cat-friendly Clinic - or better still cat-only, but these are few and far between. Chances are if you are reading this blog, you are already one of our fantastic clients. If not feel free to take a virtual tour of our clinic SimplyCats clinic includes cat-friendly facilities, no doggy smells, minimised stress through handling techniques, roomy accommodation with access to hiding places and perches, allowing patients to express their natural behaviour and use of calming pheromone diffusers throughout the practice.
Cats Protection has some fantastic online resources, including a free e-learning course to better understand your cat’s needs and behaviour. It even includes an interactive house plan where you can check the best location for your cat’s litter trays, bowls and beds.
What Should I Do If I Am Worried About My Cat’s behaviour?
Remember, mental and physical health are closely linked. Changes in your cat’s usual behaviour could be a reaction to feeling unwell or pain.
If you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian and arrange a health check to first rule out any medical condition. Our experienced team of professionals can also offer a range of options to support conditions such as anxiety, noise phobia, cognitive dysfunction and stress ranging from environmental and behaviour advice to pheromone diffusers and medication.
If you have found our blog on improving your cat’s mental well-being helpful why not share our blog with your cat-loving friends? As always, if you have any concerns regarding your cat’s health please contact the clinic team.