Our Independence Day, the 4th of July, can be a troublesome time for many of our pets. The anxiety experienced by our canine companions is often easy to spot but sometimes it’s easy to overlook the effect the festivities are having on our cats. Many cats exhibit subtle signs or simply head for “parts unknown” and hide out until things return to normal when the situation becomes overwhelming. This can make it difficult to notice how much anxiety and/or stress your cat is experiencing.
Why is it important to be aware of your cat’s anxiety and stress level? Because anxiety and the stress that accompanies it can have a negative effect on your cat’s health. Simply put, stress can make your cat sick. Stressed cats may develop urinary tract issues (idiopathic cystitis), may groom excessively causing trauma to their skin, may stop eating, or may experience other health issues.
What can you do for your cat to make the holiday less stressful? Here are some suggestions:
- Keep your cat indoors. Doing so will be safer for your cat and will also allow you to observe your cat for evidence of anxiety.
- Be aware of the signs of stress and anxiety. Each cat will react differently, but in general, watch for changes in appetite, excess vocalization, trembling, hiding, abnormal grooming behavior, irritability, aggressiveness, and restlessness.
- Make sure your cat has a safe place to retreat. If you are planning on having guests in your home, consider placing your cat in a room away from all the activity. Be sure your cat has food, water, a litter box, and a comfortable bed or blanket on which to rest. Giving your cat a box or crate in which to seek refuge and hide may be helpful also.
- Turn the lights out for your cat and close the window shades to hide the outdoor activities. Play soothing music in the background for your cat or leave a television playing.
- Comfort your cat by petting and speaking soothingly. Keep in mind though that a frightened cat may become aggressive and may strike out, even at a trusted human companion.
- Feline pheromones such as Feliway can be used to calm your cat and reduce anxiety. A completely natural solution, these pheromones are safe to use with very little if any risk of side effects. A Feliway diffuser can simply be plugged into an electrical outlet.
- Pressure wrap devices such as the Thundershirt can also help relieve your cat’s anxiety. These devices wrap tightly but gently around your cat’s torso and provide relief from anxiety for many cats. Allow your cat to become accustomed to wearing the apparel prior to the holiday.
- There are herbal remedies that can be used to help calm your cat also. Always consult your veterinarian before using any medication for your cat. Many remedies that are safe for you or even for your dog may not be safe for your cat.
- Use essential oils, even those with calming properties, cautiously around your cat. Cats can be quite sensitive to the effects of these oils and some may even be toxic.
- For cats with severe anxiety, your veterinarian can prescribe an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medication.
Understanding that your cat can suffer from anxiety and knowing how to alleviate that anxiety for your cat can make the holiday a much more pleasant experience for both of you. It may also mean the difference between keeping your cat healthy or dealing with a sick cat after the fact.
Dr. Lorie Huston