anxiety

Do You Suffer from Separation Anxiety When You Have to Leave Your Cat?

cat-looking-out-window

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a well-documented psychological condition in which an individual experiences excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from those to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment. And while we usually think of separation anxiety in terms of pets being stressed about being separated from their guardians, I think it exists in reverse, too. For most of my adult life, I’ve felt anxious about traveling – and I actually like to travel. I’m not afraid of flying, and I enjoy a change of scenery, whether it’s visiting friends in familiar places, or whether it’s traveling to someplace I’ve never been before.

But traveling means leaving my cats behind – and that’s something I’m never completely comfortable with.Continue Reading

Review: Music My Pet: soothing classical music for cats

relaxing music for pets

When Tom Nazziola, the creator of Music My Pet, contacted me about reviewing some of the music he created specifically for animals to provide comfort and soothe anxiety, I was intrigued.

Nazziola’s music, ranging from film music to choral and orchestral pieces, has been performed around the world, as well as broadcast nationally and internationally on radio and television. But what really grabbed my attention was that Tom served as one of the principal performers for Disney’s award-winning Baby Einstein CDs and DVDs for more than 10 years. These CD’s and DVD’s are designed to enlighten and entertain children of all ages. “I’ve always been fascinated by the effects of music on people,” says Tom, “and I was curious as to how classical music in particular affects pets – especially those that suffer from anxiety.”

Studies have shown that pets respond favorably to classical music Continue Reading

Conscious Cat Sunday: put a stop to anxiety

Put a Stop to Anxiety

Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry are caused by too much future,
and not enough presence. – Eckhart Tolle.

I’ve previously shared some simple steps to stop worrying. As with so many other things, my cats have been my greatest teachers when it comes to living in the moment, and when you do that, it’s pretty much impossible to worry. I try to listen to them whenever I find myself sliding back into my old worry habits, but when I find that I can’t break the worry cycle, then I know that there’s something else going on. And usually, that means that worry has escalated into anxiety.

Anxiety is worry’s ugly cousin. While worry happens in the thinking part of your brain, anxiety comes from the limbic system, which is responsible for our emotions. While worry and anxiety are closely related, it’s usually a little easier to short-circuit worry. Worry is  centered around something specific, whereas anxiety is a more generalized feeling of unease.Continue Reading

Conscious Cat Sunday: simple steps to stop worrying

Simple Steps to Stop Worrying

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~Leo Buscaglia

I’m a recovering worrier. I have a long history of worrying, and I learned from the master. My dad had elevated worrying to an artform. It wasn’t until the final months of his life when he truly learned to live in the moment. During my last visit with him, when he was already very ill, he told me how he’d learned to “appreciate every flower, and every butterfly.” It sounds trite, but it resonated deeply with me, coming from a man who had spent so much of his life doing the exact opposite.Continue Reading

Helping Your Cat Through a Move

moving with cats

Cats don’t like change, and moving probably ranks high on their list of least desirable activities. If cats had their druthers, they’d stay in the place they’re alredy comfortable in for the rest of their lives.

Moving is stressful for humans, and it’s even more stressful for cats.  Unfortunately, at some point in their lives, most cats will have to make a major move with their humans. Making the transition as stress-free as possible for your cat can go a long way toward avoiding problems associated with moving, such as fear-based house soiling, hiding, and aggression.

There are three phases to helping your cat through a move with as little stress as possible: preparation, the actual move, and settling into the new home.

Preparation

Get your cat used to his carrier. Leave the carrier out where the cat can always see it. Leave a few treats in the carrier every now and then so your cat can discover them on his own. You can also try feeding your cat in his carrier so he will associate it with something pleasant. If your move involves a lengthy drive, start taking your cat on increasingly longer rides in the car so he can get used to it.

Put moving boxes out several days, or even weeks, before you actually start packing so you cat can explore the boxes, and get used to their presence. Most cats consider boxes fun toys, and allowing them to become familiar with the boxes can create a pleasant association. When you actually start packing, watch your cat closely. If she seems to become agitated or nervous watching you pack, you may want to confine her to a quiet room away from all the action.

If your cat is easily stressed in general, this is the time to think about using anti-anxiety medications or natural anti-anxiety products. I highly recommend Stress Stopper,  a holistic remedy developed by feline behaviorist Jackson Galaxy. I also like Composure Calming Treats. Some people also have good success with the Comfort Zone Feliway Diffusers when it comes to managing stress for cats.

Moving Day

Confine your cat to a quiet room or bathroom that the movers do not need to access. Post a sign on the door asking so movers keep out of that room. Make sure your cat has a litter box, fresh water, and comfort items such as a bed and favorite toys in the room with him. If you have multiple cats who get along, place all of them in the same room together. However, if you have cats that don’t get along, make arrangements to keep them in separate rooms.

Some people recommend boarding your cats for moving day, but unless your cat is used to and loves the boarding facility, I don’t recommend this. It adds yet another layer of stress to an already stressful situation.

When it’s time to move your cat, place her in her carrier while she’s still in her safe room. With all the furniture and boxes gone, the rest of your house will no longer be familiar territory, and your cat could get spooked and bolt.

Settling in your new home

Before you even move your cat into your new home, cat proof the entire house. Check window screens and make sure  they’re secure and can’t be pushed out by an excited kitty who’s not used to the new sights and sounds yet. Close off any nooks and crannies where a scared cat could hide. Make sure that any chemicals such as pest control traps or cleaning supplies that may have been left behind by the previous owners are removed.

Set up a quiet room for your cat that includes a litter box, fresh water, and his comfort items. This can be your bedroom if you cat sleeps in the bedroom with you. Scatter some cat treats around the room before you let the cat out of her carrier to explore. For the first few days in the new home, especially while you’re still unpacking boxes, it may be a good idea to confine the cat to her quiet room. Moving in is a busy time, but make sure you spend time with your cat in her safe room to reassure her that some things in life haven’t changed. Play with her, or just sit with her while you’re reading.

When the initial rush of unpacking is done, start giving your cat access to the rest of the house and let him explore gradually. Supervise your cat during these exploration sessions until he’s comfortable. Place litter boxes in their permanent locations in the house during this phase so that you can eventually eliminate the litter box in the safe room. Alternately, you can keep the litter box in the safe room and gradually transfer it to a permanent location.

Let your cat’s temperament be your guide as to how long this initial settling in phase needs to be, and how quickly you can move from one stage to the next. As with new cat introductions, no two cats will react to the stress of moving the same way. Some cats will immediately explore and take over their new house, while others will take weeks to venture out of their safe room.

 

Photo ©Ingrid King

Stress awareness in cats

Guest post by Corinne Mitchell

April is National Stress Awareness Month . This campaign was launched to increase public awareness about the causes of stress and possible cures. Now, while it is true that this campaign is geared towards people of all ages, did you know that your cat can experience stress and anxiety too?

What is stress?

Physiologically, stress is a specific response by the body to a stimulus, such as fear or pain that interferes with normal physiological equilibrium. It can include physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.

What is anxiety?

Physiologically, anxiety is a multi-system response to a perceived threat or danger, causing a state of uneasiness and apprehension.

Given these two definitions, you can see that cats certainly can and do experience stress and anxiety.

What causes cats to be stressed?

There are some obvious and not so obvious reasons for your cat to feel ill at ease. Some cats are more naturally prone to stress. A cat’s past experiences may also lead to them being stress; they may have significant issues due to past traumas. The more in tune you are with your cat and their personality, the more aware you will be if they are stressed or anxious.

Major events in your cat’s life that can lead to stress include:

* Separation from family
* Loss or addition of family member or cat
* A health problem or pain
* Moving to a new home

Other causes may be less evident but are just as influential and include:

* Changes to daily routine
* Loud noises
* Fear
* Inadequate nutrition
* Boredom
* Lack of exercise / play

Signs your cat is stressed:

Depending on your cat’s temperament and personality, they will show signs of anxiety or stress in their own way. Changes in your cat’s personality or behavior may indicate they are suffering from stress. These symptoms may include:

* Changes in appetite – eating less or more
* Loss or gain of weight
* Excessive vocalizing
* Changes in litter box usage – going outside of the box
* Box sitting – a cat sitting in their litter box
* Excessive grooming
* Restlessness
* Noticeable health issues
* Excessive salivation or panting
* Frequent vomiting
* Destructive behaviors – such as scratching the carpet or furniture
* Aggression
* Trembling
* Lethargy
* Depression

Effects of stress on your cat:

If you have ever been stressed or anxious, then you know how uncomfortable and unhappy it makes you. The same is true for your cat.

If your cat becomes stressed or anxious, and you do nothing about it, your cat can become severely depressed, develop behavior problems and develop health issues due to a compromised immune system.

Ways to prevent and treat cat stress:

Depending on the source of the stress, there are several things you can do to try to minimize stress and anxiety in your cat’s life. Whenever possible, remove the source of the tension or help your cat overcome their reaction to the cause.

Physical Methods:

* Give your cat new toys and cat games to play with
* Play laser with your cat
* Grow or buy some catnip or catnip toys
* Grow or buy cat grass
* Add a new scratching post or cat tree to your home

Emotional Support:

* Spend quality time with your cat
* Have brushing and petting sessions with your cat
* Make sure your cat has a ‘safe’ spot to take a time out

Always make sure your cat is getting nutritious cat food, fresh water, and a safe and secure environment.

If you have any doubt, you should always bring your cat to a vet to rule out any possible medical causes of stress. And in some cases, the cat may need over the counter or prescription anti-anxiety medications or the assistance of a veterinary behaviorist.

Treating anxiety in your cat may take some time, but if you are willing to work with your cat, you can help your cat find relief.

Corinne Mitchell is a cat socializer and an animal ambassador for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. She lives with her husband and three rescue cats with the additional of an occasional foster in Coronado, CA. She has devoted countless hours to helping with the cats from The Great Kitty Rescue and is using what she learned to teach cat socialization, to help orphaned cats everywhere find homes and to establish a network for cat care givers.

You may also enjoy reading:

Minimizing stress for cats can decrease illness

How to make your cat’s trip to the vet less stressful

Happy 4th of July 2010

Happy 4th of July from The Conscious Cat!

Independence Day is one of our favorite holidays.  As we mark the day with parades, picnics and fireworks, remember that noisy celebrations can be a scary time for our pets.

An animal’s sense of hearing is much more acute than ours, and so the noises are much more intent for them.  Add to that the lack of understanding of what is going on and you can have a very scared pet on your hands.  But celebrations like the 4th of July don’t have to cause such anxiety for your pets.  Here are some tips for helping your pet cope with fireworks, thunderstorms, and other loud noises:

  • Don’t take your pets to outdoor celebrations. The loud noises and colorful skies may be fun for you but they are not enjoyable for your pet. In fact, they can be quite dangerous. A scared dog, running through crowds and/or traffic in the dark is a recipe for disaster.
  • Ideally, leave them at home with a human companion. If you must leave them alone, place them in a secure room or crate. Cover the crate with a blanket to help reduce the noise. Shut the curtains and drapes and turn on lights to lessen the flash of the fireworks.
  • Leave on a TV or music to drown out the noise from the fireworks. (This works during thunderstorm season as well.)
  • Make sure that they are wearing their identification tags and that the information is current.
  • Exercise them before the festivities begin — tire them out with a rigorous game of fetch or a long walk. Be sure to do this an hour or two before you leave them to give them time to calm down and enter a restful state.
  • Consider a natural calming aid like Rescue Remedy.