Overcrowding stress in cats
Tips to keep your cat's stress levels at minimum
Pat Head Summitt
GABRIEL BIENCZYCKI/ZEBRA VISUAL
I love cats. I love their companionship, their quirky personalities and that they are constantly bossing me around. If I could I would be a cat hoarder, taking in all those abandoned strays that end up in shelters. There is nothing more adorable than having multiple cats that get along well. They play together, explore together, groom each other and sleep next to each other. However, more often than not, cats just don’t like other cats. I see it all go wrong a lot more often than I see a Brady bunch family of cats. For that reason I’m not getting any more cats.
Cats like to have their own space. Space to eat, sleep, scratch their nails and go to the toilet. If they feel like their territory is being impinged upon they start getting stressed. Stress may show up in many different ways. For some cats you will see overt aggression or territory marking with spraying or inappropriate toileting. With these obvious signs I often find that not only are the cats stressed but their owners are as well! For other cats the stress response is subtle such as recurrent inflammatory bladder irritation, the occasional vomit or over-grooming.
If you want to get multiple cats, the best chance that they will get along together is to get two kittens from the same litter. The next best option is to get two kittens of a similar age. If you are planning on adding to your family of cats then be prepared for an adjustment period. Ideally, you may be able to get a cat on a ‘trial’ basis initially.
Should you already be in the situation where your cats don’t get along then you probably have too many cats. Re-homing one of the cats may be an option for some owners. Otherwise you can ease the stress by providing separate facilities for your cats – comfortable beds, different places to eat and separate access to litter trays. You can also have a chat to your vet about other changes you can make around the house to reduce tension such as pheromone sprays. In some cases anti-anxiety medication can be successful.
Dr Aish Ryan is a veterinarian, pet owner and pet lover. She runs Vets at Home mobile veterinary clinic in Melbourne. She loves her job and making vet care easier for pets and their owners. Preventative care is a strong focus of her visits and house calls give her more time to get to know her patients and their owners. She combines western medicine with acupuncture, tui na massage, food therapy and lifestyle advice for optimum care.
Dr Aish shares her life with 3 fur babies, 1 dog and 2 cats. Her day doesn’t feel like it has started until her dog has been walked. At night she turns quietly on the bed so she doesn’t wake the cat. She thinks we can all learn a lot about the important things in life from our pets.
See Vets at Home for information on services provided by Dr Aish’s homevisit clinic