Stress in pet cats—how it manifests and how to manage it

June 22, 2015, SAGE Publications
Subtle behavioral changes, such as hiding away for long periods of time, as well as more obvious changes, such as over-grooming to the point of losing fur, are all potential signs of stress in pet cats. Credit: Marta Amat, School of Veterinary Science, Autonomous University of Barcelona.

A variety of day-to-day events - from conflicts with other cats to changes in their daily routine - can cause cats to become stressed. This can trigger a number of behavioural changes and be detrimental to their welfare.

A group of veterinarians from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, in Spain, have published a review today in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery that discusses how stress manifests in cats and describes strategies that can be used to prevent or reduce it.

Stress can lead to a range of behavioural changes. In some cats, stress inhibits normal behaviour; for example, reducing exploratory behaviour or affiliative behaviours such as social grooming (allogrooming). Such cats may hide away for long periods of time and the owners may be unaware that their cat is stressed. Other cats may show more obvious signs of stress, such as increased urine marking and compulsive disorders such as over-grooming. Behavioural problems such as these can negatively affect the human-cat relationship, potentially leading to the relinquishment or euthanasia of a cat. Regardless of how cats display signs of stress, it has a detrimental effect on their welfare and can also increase the incidence of disease. Minimising or eliminating stress is thus important.

There is a range of strategies that can help to prevent or reduce stress. Within the review, a three-phase reintroduction protocol for reducing conflict between in a household is described; examples of environmental enrichment for improving welfare by increasing the physical, social and temporal complexity of the environment are provided; and the use of a synthetic analogue of the feline facial pheromone is recommended. As is also dependent on the temperament of a cat, breeding and husbandry strategies that help a cat to develop a well-balanced temperament are also suggested to be very useful.

Subtle behavioral changes, such as hiding away for long periods of time, as well as more obvious changes, such as over-grooming to the point of losing fur, are all potential signs of stress in pet cats Credit: Marta Amat, School of Veterinary Science, Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Explore further: The environmental impact of cats on native wildlife

More information: Amat M, Camps T and Manteca X. Stress in owned cats: behavioural changes and welfare implications. J Feline Med Surg. Epub ahead of print 22 June 2015. DOI: 10.1177/1098612X15590867.

Related Stories

The environmental impact of cats on native wildlife

March 6, 2015

A team of researchers, led by Dr Wayne Linklater from the Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology at Victoria University of Wellington, recently surveyed veterinarians and cat owners to understand their attitudes ...

Cat shelter findings: Less stress with box access

February 8, 2015

Out of all those cat videos that keep your eyes glued to the screen far longer than you would care to acknowledge, you may have seen some showing little and big cats trying their best to snuggle into big and too-little cardboard ...

Stroking could stress out your cat

October 7, 2013

A new study by an international team of animal behaviour specialists suggests that cats who reluctantly allow their owners to stroke them could be more stressed out than moggies who carefully avoid being petted.

Gold standard management of the diabetic cat

March 3, 2015

The International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), the veterinary division of International Cat Care, has convened an expert panel of veterinary clinicians and academics to produce practical guidance to help veterinary ...

Recommended for you

Space-inspired speed breeding for crop improvement

November 16, 2018

Technology first used by NASA to grow plants extra-terrestrially is fast tracking improvements in a range of crops. Scientists at John Innes Centre and the University of Queensland have improved the technique, known as speed ...

Cells decide when to divide based on their internal clocks

November 16, 2018

Cells replicate by dividing, but scientists still don't know exactly how they decide when to split. Deciding the right time and the right size to divide is critical for cells – if something goes wrong it can have a big ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.