Pet owners are often surprised to learn that cats can experience emotional upset, such as depression and stress. Much like humans, intense change in the daily routine can cause stress in cats. Unfortunately, the problem rarely ends with the mere feelings of anxiety, but often grows and results in numerous unwanted behaviors, such as scent marking and excessive baldness caused by nervously chewing and/or licking the hair.
In order to stop scent marking behaviors, as well as prevent such a reaction in the future, it’s important to identify and resolve whatever it is which is causing the cat undue stress.
Common Causes of Stress in Cats
Introduction of new pets
If you have recently introduced a new pet into the household, it is likely causing your existing kitty to mark out of stress. Contrary to popular belief, a new dog can cause cats to stress mark just as much as the presence of a new cat.
Getting rid of the new pet is rarely an option when it comes to most animal lovers. But just how can you resolve the stress that the presence of this new pet is causing your cat? Simple: find a way for the animals to bond (recommended for multiple cats and cat/dog pairs only). This includes group play and sharing an eating environment. If the two pets cannot find peace through gentle bonding, drastic measures may be necessary, such as giving the two a bath together.
That’s right, moving is just as hard on pets as it is on their human counterparts. The cat is not only feeling very lost and frightened by the loss of its former home and its strange new environment, but it may also be smelling the scent marking of pets that previously lived in the home.
While less easily resolved than other stress-inducing situations, spraying caused by the introduction to a new home can be stopped – with a little patience, that is. To make your kitty feel at home in its new environment, surround it with objects that he/she is already familiar with: a favorite piece of furniture, a reliable old blanket and beloved toys. This familiarity creates comfort, reducing stress and the urge to spray.
Unfortunately, even outdoor cats can cause their indoor brethren to become defensive and territorial, resulting in scent marking. Whether you can see it or not, your cat may have suffered aggressive exchanges with an outdoor cat – and can certainly smell its rival’s marking.
If the outdoor cat belongs to you, it’s time to consider new location. If the cat cannot be introduced to the indoors, attempt to house it in an out building that is not attached to the home, such as a garage or barn. Outdoor cats belonging to neighbors require simple wrangling. Explain the stress that their cat’s presence is causing your indoor cat and request that the pet be kept away from your property. Stray or feral outdoor cats typically require a phone call to local animal control agents.
New people living in the household
While less likely to cause severe stress in felines than the introduction of a new pet, new people suddenly living in the household can trigger scent marking behavior is some cats. This is not limited solely to adults, but young children and even babies are known to cause stress.
Marking caused by a new roommate or child is easily resolved. Allow the cat to check out the newbie through sniffing, and then create a way for the two to bond. This is best done through play.
Cat – The Complete Guide by Claire Bessant