In ancient times cats were domesticated purely as pest control, but over the years have grown into a much loved family pet. However, living with us in our modern world can cause cats stress that can lead to unwanted behaviors.
Cats are territorial animals. Territory size varies, dependent on gender and de-sexing status. Territories are marked by rubbing, scratching and spraying. Cats use scent and smells as a means of communication – they have scent glands in the digits in their paws, around their anal area and base of tail and around their face. Small changes within the territory can cause stress and can lead to behavioral problems – commonly spraying and toileting inside or frequent hiding.
If your cat suddenly begins toileting in odd places inside, you may think your cat is just being naughty. Actually, they are communicating that there is a problem. There are a number of reasons why this behaviour can occur.
These reasons can include:
- Idiopathic cystitis (stress related inflammation of the bladder and urinary tract which can lead to infection)
- Constipation, urinary tract infection, bladder stones, kidney and endocrine disease
- Litter box aversion (something negative, painful or scary has happened while the cat was in their litterbox, or another animal is guarding their box)
- Arthritis pain: Older cats often find it increasingly difficult or can feel vulnerable toileting outdoors due to arthritis
- Un-neutered male cats, are notorious for territory marking.
- Environmental changes: Moving house, house renovations, new furniture etc.
- New additions to the family (animal, baby or new partner)
- New cats coming into their territory
You can help eliminate stress by:
- Keeping cat numbers in households to a minimum – take note of whether your cat is happy with other cats in the household, or whether this causes them unnecessary stress
- Making sure there is at least one litter box per cat, then one extra and that they are cleaned regularly. Keep litter boxes in a quiet place, away from their food bowl.
- Use of the synthetic cat pheromones (Feliway Diffuser or spray) can help to relieve stress and anxiety by mimicking the cat’s facial hormone that signals the area is safe.
- Keeping the cat in a regular routine- e.g. feeding times, keeping litter the same etc.
- Cats like to hide- make sure they have somewhere ‘safe’ i.e. an enclosed bed or boxes etc.
- Talking to your veterinarian. There are medications and supplements for inappropriate urination such as sedatives, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs, calming diets, and odor eliminators to discourage competitive marking.
Prevention is also key – socialization for kittens is very important and can affect how they deal with stressful situations and adapt to changes later in life. It may help to expose kittens to different people and animals, and a range of different smells and sounds as long as they are safe and healthy. Finally, paying your cat lots of attention and playing with them frequently can help them relieve stress.
Any Questions? Give one of your Anexa vet nurses a call