Cats can be sensitive creatures, and suffer from stress just like we do. Check out these simple ways to keep your kitty on an even keel.

We all know how stress affects us. It causes insomnia, anxiety, irritability and loss of appetite. Yet many people don’t realize how stress also affects their cat’s behavior. Whether it’s introducing a new cat to a household, or a change in schedule or physical environment, many factors lead to feline stress – which in turn may result in unwanted behaviors. Since behavioral issues are often the number one reason people relinquish their cats, it’s important to understand how feline stress affects a cat’s behavior in order to prevent or treat the problem.

Diagnosing a problem

Many cats are extremely sensitive to even the slightest disruption in their daily routine. Anything from a visit to the veterinarian to new furniture may cause feline distress – frequently resulting in unwanted behavior, from aggressive behavior toward other cats in the household, to vertical scratching and urine marking on furniture and other indoor surfaces. Although these behavioral changes are often a cat’s reaction to stress, many people may misinterpret them and believe their cat is being spiteful. A visit to the veterinarian’s office and proper diagnosis of the problem allow you to learn effective ways to manage and treat the problem.

Methods of treatment

Once behavior issues are properly identified, it is essential to find solutions and begin treatment promptly. As a first step, you can make simple changes around the home, including the following:

Establish a routine. Consistency and predictable interactions and activities comfort cats, so you should keep a regular schedule with regards to playtime, mealtime, social interaction and bedtime.

Provide a safe haven. If the household is unusually chaotic due to visitors, renovations or a planned move, give the cat a room where he can feel safe and secure, with access to necessities (food, water, litter box, favorite toys, a sunny window, etc.) until a regular routine can be reestablished, or the disruption has ceased.

Ease the transition for new feline family members. When introducing a new cat to the family, it’s important to create a separate area for the new cat as a temporary, transitional location while slowly introducing him to the resident cat. During this time, it’s a good idea to first introduce the resident cat to the new one’s scent, and vice versa, before allowing visual access.

Try pheromone therapy. In addition to modifying the cat’s physical surroundings, you can use pheromone therapy to work in conjunction with environmental improvements. It helps prevent feline stress and reduces urine marking, aggressive behavior and vertical scratching by replicating the facial pheromones cats use to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. A product such as Feliway, available through veterinarians, is a synthetic pheromone that is applied either as a spray or plug-in diffuser placed within the room most frequented by the cat. This therapy is scientifically proven, and free of side effects or dependency.

As more people adopt cats and the number of multi-cat households continues to increase, the goal is to keep both families and cats happy and stress-free. Often, simple measures can make this a reality.