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How Stress Affects Your Cat’s Health

We’re all familiar with anxiety. Whether you feel that tightening in your chest several times per week or only when you see flashing red and blue lights in your rearview mirror, it’s a reality for all us humans.

But did you know cats can get anxiety, too?

It’s true. In fact, feline anxiety can actually manifest in the form of serious medical problems.

Here’s what you need to know about feline anxiety, how it affects your cat’s health, and how it may show up in your cat’s PrettyLitter.

Cat Anxiety

Cat anxiety is, unfortunately, rather common. Cats are highly emotional creatures and they’re prone to getting stressed out when things don’t go their way. In particular, cats can begin to experience anxiety if:

  • Something in their environment drastically changes, like living with a new baby or animal
  • You move and your cat has to get used to a whole new environment
  • Your cat feels threatened, such as by a visitor, new pet, or an animal outside
  • Your cat is upset by loud noises or violent weather
  • Your cat doesn’t get enough attention
  • Your cat doesn’t get enough peace and quiet
  • Your cat suffers a traumatic experience such as a house fire, an attack from another animal, or abuse
  • Your cat develops an illness or disease
  • Your cat has gained weight due to overfeeding, unhealthy foods, lack of exercise, or an underlying medical condition
  • Your cat was recently spayed, neutered, or underwent another medical procedure

Cat anxiety can take on many forms depending on your unique cat. Be sure to look out for signs of anxiety including:

  • Urinating or depositing feces outside of the litter box
  • Destroying furniture or toys
  • Excessive scratching, beyond what’s normal for your cat
  • Becoming extremely vocal (meowing, wailing, or hissing)
  • Hiding more often or staying secluded for long periods of time
  • Unusual aggression
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Over-grooming or pulling out fur
  • Neglecting grooming altogether

Anxiety can affect cats at any age, so be sure to look out for the signs and help your cat as soon as possible.

Separation Anxiety

Despite your cat’s cool-kid attitude, it is possible for him to suffer from separation anxiety. Some cats become so accustomed to living with their human counterparts that your absence can be stressful.

Cats are most at risk of suffering from separation anxiety if your schedule suddenly changes. If you normally spent your days at home but recently got a new job, or if your work hours dramatically shift, your cat may not like the change.

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis

Feline idiopathic cystitis (also known as FIC or feline interstitial cystitis) is a type of urinary tract disease. FIC is caused by the presence of inflammation, but veterinarians are not entirely sure what causes the inflammation or subsequent problems.

Many vets believe it’s a condition caused by stress, but it’s difficult to measure and test for cat stress. If bacterial infections, viral infections, and other diseases have been ruled out, your vet may diagnose your cat with FIC.

Signs & Symptoms

Both male and female cats and old or young cats can develop FIC. Signs of the illness include:

  • Difficulty urinating or painful urination
  • Urinating outside of the litter box (many cats will urinate throughout the house trying to find a place that’s comfortable)
  • Blood in the urine (you may not be able to see it in the urine itself, but your PrettyLitter will turn red)
  • Going to the litter box more frequently
  • Howling while trying to urinate
  • A blocked urethra, as evidenced by a full bladder or no signs of urination for several hours or days

One of the most dangerous symptoms is a blockage of urine. A blocked urethra can cause the bladder to become full and the kidneys to become backed up. This is an extremely serious and lethal condition.

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If your cat has not used the bathroom for several hours, seems unable to urinate, or seems to have a full bladder, call your doctor immediately for an emergency visit.

Possible Treatments

Because veterinarians are not entirely sure what causes FIC, your veterinarian will likely recommend a constellation of trial-and-error solutions, including:

  • Helping alleviate your cat’s stress and anxiety (more on that below)
  • Playing with your cat more often
  • Cleaning your litter box more often or getting an additional litter box
  • Putting your cat on a canned food diet to increase his water intake (as dry food contains virtually no liquid)
  • Putting your cat on a special prescription food
  • Increasing the number of water bowls around the house to encourage more drinking
  • Adding a glycosaminoglycan supplement

Cat Stress & PrettyLitter

Because cat anxiety can actually cause changes in your cat’s physical wellbeing, you may notice changes in your cat’s PrettyLitter.

Stress can cause urinary tract disease and changes in your cat’s pH. Most often, you’ll notice your cat’s PrettyLitter has turned blue, which means your cat’s urine is more alkaline than normal.

In some cases, stress can lead to the development of crystals in cat urine or bladder stones in cats, which can cause bleeding in the bladder or urethra. If this is the case, your cat’s PrettyLitter may turn red.

If you notice any changes in your cat’s PrettyLitter color, please call your vet right away. PrettyLitter is designed to alert you to any health problems with your cat so you can catch and fix the problem early. Don’t ignore the warning signs.

What To Do

First and foremost: talk to your veterinarian. Because anxiety plays such an important role in your cat’s health, your vet should be aware of it. Also, stress and anxiety can sometimes be caused by illness. If your cat isn’t feeling well or has developed a medical condition, she may be feeling anxious because of it. Your cat’s anxious behaviors could be a sign that something is wrong and a vet can diagnose your cat.

If your cat’s anxiety seems to be without a cause, your vet may prescribe medications. However, there are natural remedies for anxiety, such as the Homeopet supplement or the Feliway oil diffuser. Always talk to your doctor about what’s best for your cat before choosing any treatment method.

Oftentimes, though, your cat’s anxiety can be solved with some simple changes. Some cats need more stimulation, in which case we recommend toys like the Doc & Phoebe Indoor Hunting FeederTower of Tracks cat toy, and the Catit Food Digger.

Take a look at your cat’s environment, as well. Make sure she has plenty of places to hide, climb high, and access food and water without being bothered by other cats or animals.

Above all, make sure to give your feline friend plenty of love and attention. Sometimes a few minutes of lap time and a gentle scratch behind the ears is all your cat wants. If your cat walks away, don’t force her to stay. Just remain open and let her know she can come to you anytime she’s stressed.

We love seeing kitties relaxed and happy. Share with us your favorite snapshot of your chill cat.

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