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Cats and Anxiety!
Appetite along with weight changes, depression, digestive problems, nervous behaviour, and loss of sleep are not only symptoms of human anxiety but also cat anxiety too as cats can suffer from anxiety in many ways like humans do, and which anxiety in many cases can be prevented.
As cats experience anxiety too, it is then their human carer's responsibility to be in tune to the cat's behaviour and mental state and pick up on changes that might indicate the cat is suffering from stress. Cats experience anxiety because of psychological, physical, and environmental factors and without intervention, the results of a cat's stress may become harmful to the cat's overall health by comprising her immune system and making it susceptible as a result to many illnesses.
Every cat shows signs of anxiety in her own way. This is why it is important that any change in the cat's behaviour is noticed as soon as possible by the human carer. Some possible signs of anxiety can be:
Changes in appetite or weight
Changes in elimination habits (such as urinating outside of the litter tray)
Compulsive behaviours such as excessive grooming or even fur pulling and self-mutilation
Lethargy or depression
The onset of sudden destructive behaviours (such as furniture scratching)
So if your cat is showing any signs of stress and anxiety, it is very important that you talk with your vet first to rule out any possible medical problems that might cause such behaviour.
If the cat is physically healthy, then ideally you should try and at least speak to a cat behaviour specialist for advice on how to deal with the cat's anxiety.
It is also very important that you try and determine the cause of the cat's anxiety: For example could any of the following be the cause of the cat's anxiety?
When there have being long periods of separation from family (because of holidays perhaps)
Lack of exercise or interactive play
Some form of fear such as loud noises, other cats, certain people or objects, etc. (especially if the cat is very timid and nervous by nature)
Health problem / pain or some form of discomfort
Insufficent space (when more than one cats are sharing the same environment)
Sudden changes to daily routine
Loss or addition of a family member (a new baby or cat or any other pet)
Along with talking with a cat behaviour expert to establish cause and possible treatment there are also several things that a cat carer can do to try to minimize stress and anxiety in the cat's life (such as making first of all the cat's well-being a priority is the first step to prevent and even stop current anxiety).
Then the human carer should try and enrich the cat's environment with sufficient toys and games and also by trying to play with the cat with interactive toys such as a laser pointer or a mouse/bird/snake like toy or even feathers at the end of wand or hanging from a small fishing pole and then move it around like a small prey so to give the cat the opportunity to stalk and eventually catch her prey. By also providing some catnip or cat grass or even by adding a couple of new scratching areas around the house. Providing also high-quality, nutritious cat food, fresh water, and sufficient attention and care to the cat could also help.
Treating anxiety can be a long and tedious process so the human carer would need to be persistent if he/she wants to help the cat overcome her anxiety.
Cats, like humans, they also experience emotional stress, and it is something that it needs to be taken seriously and treated accordingly by their human carers.
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Loud and persistent meowing
(at night time...)
More frequently though loud meowing in the middle of the night is a more common behaviour in older cats, who due to age and lack of agility tend to feel less secure and to be more attached and dependent on their humans and to want reassurance by having their humans checking on them. But in some cases younger cats will also use loud meowing especially when they are perhaps suffering from some form of disability (e.g being deaf or blind) or because of stress ( for example when they have being changes in their environment), even when the cat is grieving because of the loss of a another pet or human companion, or when they are suffering from separation anxiety, etc.
Cat's usually don't communicate with each other with a lot of vocal sounds(some growling and hisses perhaps), as they will normally use body language, but they'll use many different meows to communicate with their humans (being intelligent themselves and having figured out that this is the right way to get what they want when they wanted it...as humans tend to be very talkative themselves!). So they will normally use different meows for their different needs (to get some attention and or in other cases, food or to be let outside,etc).
Cats that meow for attention at night time usually they tend to also meow during the day as well and always get the attention they want but it is the night time yell that sounds louder and more demanding. So in such situations the best thing that a human carer can do is to learn to ignore the cat and to be as persistent as the cat perhaps. Inconsistent behaviour from the carer's part will only make things worse and the cat more than likely would carry on meowing because he/she knows that when he meows his human will give him the attention he wanted in the first place (as the carer often without realising is reinforcing this kind of behaviour... )
Of course trying to ignore a cat when he meows or yells at night time or early in the morning is not that easy so it is important that cat is not being encouraged by acknowledging him when he does meow but also for the carer to make sure that the cat has things to do when he is up and about, if he is busy, has enough food and to make sure that he has used some of his energy earlier through play and exercise...
Cats need to have routines and schedules which can help prevent any future stress, and at the same time can help the cat feel relaxed and secure and in charge of their environment. That routine should not only include feeding but also attention and play times. Playing will help the cat to get often some needed exercise and to alleviate stress and at the same time make the cats feel that they are getting enough attention and they are not being neglected. This play time should be on regular basis and the play sessions should try and mimic cat's natural hunting behaviour as much as possible. For example by using such toys that can imitate prey by making such noises as those of a flapping bird or by trying to simulate mouse movements. Carers should also always try to end the play session by allowing the cat to capture the toy and they should be long enough for the cat to get tired ? probably 15 - 20 minute..
After the end of the session the carer should feed the cat as this mimics what would happen at the end of a real hunt ? the cat would eat his catch. Most cats they will take a long nap after a play session. These sessions should take place normally at times when the cat is quite active and the carer feels that she/he can give the cat sufficient time and attention and always at the same time every day. Also the cat at home should always has plenty of safe toys available (which the carer should try and rotate them to make them more interesting) as well as also hiding some treats around the house for the cat to find or even part of his food.
In most cases also the use of some of the Bach Flower Remedies can help a cat to feel relaxed and not in need of reassurance from his care all the time...(the most common and often used one is the Rescue Remedy, ideal for first aid emotional 'crises', such as sudden trauma, visits to the vet, very fearful reactions, panic attacks, etc).
For more information and advice on the remedies and their uses contact me at email@example.com
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