Changing times – Vets offer advice for reducing stress in cats

29 July 2016

The EU referendum has prompted significant change for Britain, but especially for Downing Street's cat Larry

Periods
of change can be stressful for cats and, following reports of fights and
injuries requiring veterinary attention between Downing Street's two
high-profile Chief Mousers, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Cats
Protection are offering cat owners advice on how to care for their cats during
such situations.

The
EU referendum has prompted significant change for Britain, but especially for
Larry, Downing Street's cat, who has recently seen the departure of one family
and the arrival of another into his home at Number 10. Cats are creatures of
habit who get stressed when their routines are disrupted, therefore BVA and
Cats Protection would always recommend new owners adopt a routine the cat is
already used to where possible. Cats also like to hide to feel secure so both
organisations encourage new owners to provide safe spaces where their cat can
hide away.

In
April, Larry also had the arrival of his new neighbour Palmerston, the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office's Mouser-in-Chief, which has led to turf wars and
injuries. Cats are naturally solitary animals that can become stressed and
aggressive when forced to live with or near other unrelated cats. It's
therefore not uncommon for fights when a new cat is introduced. If introducing
two cats that will need to share a living space is unavoidable, BVA and Cats
Protection advise doing this gradually and ensuring there are plenty of ways
for the cats to get away from one another, including elevated hiding places
such as enclosed cat beds placed safely on top of cupboards. BVA and Cats
Protection also advise owners to make sure there is no competition for key
items such as food and water bowls, litter trays, scratching posts and beds to
ensure a more harmonious living environment.

Sean
Wensley, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:

“Cats
are sensitive animals who value routine and stability in their living
environment. Furthermore, living with other cats that they have not grown up
with can be very stressful, as they are not normally tolerant of feline
company, and it is important, if this cannot be avoided, to make sure they do
not have to compete for access to key items like litter trays and food and
water bowls. Cats should also be neutered, both to prevent unwanted litters and
to help reduce aggressive behaviour. If owners are planning a house move, we
would always recommend discussing this at your local vet practice who will be
able to offer advice on how best to go about this.”

Maggie
Roberts, Director of Veterinary Services at Cats Protection, said:

“It
is important to remember that a cat's requirements are not human-based, so
understanding their needs can enhance our relationship with them.

“There
are many things that can cause a cat to feel anxious or fearful including
change and they need the opportunity to run, hide and climb to get away from
what is making them fearful or when stressed. They will only fight if there is
no other option available, or they have learned from previous experiences that
this has a positive outcome for them.”

BVA
and Cats Protection would always recommend owners seek advice from their local
vet practice before a potentially stressful situation to ensure their cat's
wellbeing is protected and prevent problems arising. For more advice on cat
welfare visit www.cats.org.uk/essential-guides.

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