The Festive Feline Factor

How to Reduce Stress in Cats
and Keep Them Safe at Christmas

Christmas can be a difficult time for cats. It comes with lots of hustle and bustle, unfamiliar visitors, new and potentially hazardous objects, new scents and sometimes a highly charged atmosphere!

All of these can contribute to increased levels of stress for our family feline members, but there are things we can do to help keep them safe and give them as relaxing a time as we hope to have ourselves!

Routine
Cats are creatures of habit and it’s important to try and maintain their daily routine. This includes sticking to normal feeding times and scheduled play-times as well as ensuring that their usual sleeping areas and hiding places are available to them.

Plugin Diffusers
It would be a good idea to have a Pet Remedy or Feliway® Diffuser placed in the room most used by your cat to help reduce any anxiety he may experience.

Hiding Places & High Places
Make sure he has plenty of hiding places where he can go for a bit of peace and quiet if it all gets a bit too much for him. On these occasions it’s best to leave him undisturbed; hiding is a positive coping strategy. Giving him access to high paces such as on shelving, tops of wardrobes or on a tall, modular cat activity frame will also help increase his sense of security.

Food Treats
We might give ourselves carte blanche to overindulge at Christmas but we should try to avoid the temptation to allow our cats to do the same! Any treats should ideally be cat treats as opposed to human food, and Christmas chocolate is a definite no-no! It contains Theobromine which, if eaten in sufficient quantities can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, muscle spasms and seizures in cats.

Play
Not only is play a great way of keeping your cat exercised during winter, it’s also an excellent stress-buster, so if your cat has a playful streak, interactive toys such as fishing-rod toys, pieces of string and ping pong balls that allow him to run and chase are all a good idea.  Instead of throwing away the cardboard boxes that we accumulate at this time of year, keep one or two back for your cat’s personal use! Throwing some fresh catnip or catnip toys inside and rotating the toys daily will help to keep him interested. As well as serving as a play item, boxes also make very good hiding places.

Heat!
We all know that our cats are heat-seeking missiles, always heading for the warmest place they can lay their paws on, especially during the winter months, so why not treat your cat to a heated bed this Christmas? They are available as low voltage electric heat pads or even electric pet beds complete with internal thermostats. Not only do they promote relaxation but they can also help to ease aches and pains, muscular tension and are great for elderly cats that don’t have as much fat on their bones to keep them warm.

Introducing Your Cat to New Resources
If you do buy something new for your cat this Christmas such as a scratching post or bed, put it in an appropriate place and then walk away! He won’t be impressed by any ‘hard sell’ tactics!

Decorations
If ingested by a curious cat the following are amongst a plethora of festive decorations that can cause serious health problems: Poinsettias, tinsel, baubles, electrical decorations, fake snow, sellotape, wired wrapping ribbon.  Candles should also be kept out of paws reach to avoid burnt noses and tails.

Going Away?
If you’re planning to go away for Christmas it’s a good idea to make your cat care arrangements as early as possible as catteries and cat-sitters tend to get booked up well ahead of time.  As territorial creatures, many cats prefer to stay at home and you might therefore arrange for a family member, friend, or neighbour to pop in daily to provide food, play, a change of litter and to generally check that all is well. If the visitor is unknown to the cat, ask them to come over before you go away so you have the opportunity to see how your cat responds to them. If your cat is particularly sensitive and cautious with strangers then it might be placing him in a cattery where he can associate any feelings of stress with the cattery, rather than with his home.

Take a Deep Breath…
Try and keep yourselves cool and collected. Your calm vibes will definitely help your cat!

Clare Hemington DipCAPBT is an accredited Cat Behaviourist offering veterinary referred behaviour consultations in owners’ homes as well as consultations by telephone and Skype. You can find out more information on your cat’s behaviour at her web site: www.catbehaviour.net
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