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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

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Thanksgiving, for most of us, is a day for family and friends; a pleasant day with lots of great food and often a houseful of guests. However, for your cat, Thanksgiving can be a living nightmare.

With lots of people coming and going, the doorbell ringing constantly, and major changes in the household routine, Thanksgiving can be an extremely stressful time for your cat. Unfortunately, stress and cats do not generally go well together.

Stressful situations can make your cat anxious and frightened. They can also cause your cat to become ill. There are many stress-related feline diseases, with interstitial cystitis (urinary tract disease) being among the most common and most well-known of these diseases. Other diseases that can be caused by stress include intestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and even respiratory diseases like asthma can be antagonized by stress.

While it may not be practical to keep to your regular household routine on Thanksgiving, there are steps you can take to make your cat more comfortable and reduce the stress level for him.

  • Make sure your cat has a quiet, safe, private area that he can retreat to if he feels the need. This area should be restricted from your house guests so that your cat can rest undisturbed. An unused bedroom or bathroom will work for this purpose.
  • Provide your cat with a litter box and with a food and water station in his safe place. A bed or a soft towel or blanket which keeps your cat comfortable while resting should be provided as well. If your cat is acclimated to his carrier and feels safe there, consider placing his carrier in the safe room with him. Leave the carrier open so that your cat can enter and exit at will.
  • Play a radio, television or CD in your cat’s safe room to provide background noise and mask the sounds of the festivities in other areas of the house. Classical music is a good choice.
  • Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that can be used to reduce your cat’s stress level. It is available as a diffuser or as a spray. Either form is effective and can be used to help calm your cat during stressful periods such as Thanksgiving.
  • There are also other natural remedies, such as Rescue Remedy for Cats, which can be helpful in providing a calming effect for your cat. Never use any remedy for your cat that does not specifically say that is safe for cats on the label. Some medications, natural or pharmaceutical, are safe for dogs but not for cats.
  • If your cat becomes especially anxious or fearful, sedatives such as alprazolam (Xanax) can also be considered, particularly if the natural remedies prove to be ineffective or only partly effective. Talk to your vet about whether this would be appropriate for your cat.

Your cat will thank you for giving him the opportunity to escape from people and activity with which he feels uncomfortable.

Of course, there are some cats that enjoy the added attention and the tempting smells that come with Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving dinner. If your cat is in this category, let him enjoy the festivities. Having his own private room or even an open carrier he can sneak away to will still give your cat the opportunity to take a break from the action if he finds it necessary.

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Cat Hiding! by Jason Paul Smith / via Flickr

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