STRESS in pets is not just limited to specific times of the year, such as autumn and the fireworks season. Both dogs and cats can experience stress and anxiety all year round in a number of different situations.
Stress caused by environmental changes is common place for pets and this can happen due to a number of reasons, including kennel or cattery stays, travel in the car or moving home. Vet visits can be another stressful experience for pets and for some animals this can be a monthly or even weekly event. As a pet owner it’s important to recognise the signs that your pet is anxious, which can include:
- Increased vocalisation
- Increased sleeping
- Decrease in appetite
- Panting (in dogs)
- Nose/lip licking
- Tail lowered or tucked
- Ears pulled or pinned back
- Scratching and chewing on furniture
In some pets, stress can also lead to other health concerns, such as cystitis in cats.
No pet owner likes to see their beloved companion distressed, but there are some positive things that can help to calm an anxious dog or cat:
Create a safe zone
Make sure your pet has a den or a spot they can retreat to if they start to feel anxious. For your cat, make sure that there are plenty of places available to sleep or hide in peace.
High areas for cats
Provide high accessible areas for your cat, such as shelves or on top of furniture. This allows them to feel safe, whilst still being able to watch and feel included in the family.
Exercise your dog regularly
Stress and anxiety can sometimes create uncontrollable energy. Taking your pet for regular walks or encouraging your cat to play and go outside can help to relieve some of that energy.
Stick to a routine
Fixed routines can help to keep your pet calm. Any changes to your normal household routine can upset and stress your pet. Stick to the same feeding and walking routine and stay calm yourself. Pets can pick up when you’re anxious and that could in turn cause them stress.
Try to keep your cat or dog occupied. Use toys to play with your pet and keep them focused on something else. Play will also help to use up energy and they may sleep through the stressful situation.
Make sure that your cat has access to a scratch post to relieve boredom and anxiety. Stressful situations might make them scratch your furniture if they don’t have a suitable place to do it.
If you have more than one cat, make sure that you have at least one litter box per cat. Ensure that your cat also has somewhere to retreat to and get away from other pets.
Don’t shout at your pet
If they do anything out of the ordinary due to stress, such as toilet in the house, refrain from shouting at them. Reward their positive behaviour with treats and ignore any unwanted behaviour. This can be a reaction to how they feel in a situation and shouting at them could lead to further stress and behavioural problems.
Comfort your pet
Sit close to your pet and stroke them to try and keep them calm. Physical contact could help to make them feel safe and reduce their anxiety. If they prefer to be by themselves, let them wander off to find a safe place to hide. Keep checking on them to make sure they are OK.
If you know a specific event, such as a long car journey or a trip to the kennels or cattery will cause stress, try to prepare ahead. For stressful events consider using a calming aid for cats and dogs, such as nutracalm, which can be given 2 hours before the event. nutracalm is specifically formulated to naturally calm anxious pets.
If you are worried about changes in your pet’s behaviour, speak to your vet who will be able to advise the best solution for your pet’s health needs.