The holidays might be exciting for us, but all the disruption can be upsetting for your cat. Here’s how to help her get through the season without stress.
The festive season is almost upon us, and that means a mad rush of shopping, decorating, family reunions, parties, guests and dinners. All this activity can create a lot of stress, not only for you, but also your cat. From a kitty’s perspective, the holidays can be a chaotic time of noise and disrupted routines, with no way of escape.
Here are some of the changes and challenges your cat might face during the holidays:
• A constant stream of unfamiliar people: Friendly felines may enjoy meeting new people, but shy and fearful cats will see their once safe haven overrun with strangers.
• Increased noise: Parties are associated with music and loud voices. All this extra unfamiliar racket can cause a great deal of unrest to a cat.
• Changes to your cat’s feeding, toileting and sleeping areas: Often, extra houseguests and the obligatory Christmas tree and decorations will require these areas to be moved.
• Disruptions to regular feeding times: During days of entertaining and visiting, your feline’s usual feeding times may become very disordered.
Seven steps to minimal stress
My clients often ask me what they can do prior to the holidays to limit the stress imposed upon the family cat. By taking a cat’s-eye view and anticipating potential problems, you can help ensure a stress-free season.
1. First, consider how your cat’s daily routine, social interactions and environment could change over the holiday period. Then you can institute the necessary changes gradually and well in advance of the festivities.
2. Unless your cat is the resident party animal, you will need to create a “core area” for her. This becomes a safe and familiar area to which your cat can retreat whenever she feels anxious. A room in a quieter part of the house should be reserved for this purpose. If your cat is unfamiliar with this room, let her spend several nights there as the holidays draw near and gradually move her litter tray into this space.
3. To help your cat relax and settle into her new environment, try plugging in a Feliway diffuser beside her resting place in the core area. Feliway is a natural product that mimics pheromones produced by cats. This promotes relaxation and calm behavior and will increase your cat’s sense of security and familiarity in the core area.
4. Fill this area with items that smell familiar to your cat. Toys or a scratching post covered in her scent will help promote security. Additionally, most cats love cardboard boxes. Try placing a few boxes in the core area, each containing an item of clothing that has been worn by a family member. The communal scent of the family helps reassure your cat of her territory. Then, if the festivities cause her stress, she has a safe, secure and comfortable retreat.
5. It is vitally important that you try to maintain your cat’s normal feeding schedule as much as possible. Try to stay consistent with food types and quantities and maintain regular feeding times. Use her normal food bowls and ensure all feeding occurs in the safety of the core area.
6. Attention from people is a very important part of many cats’ lives. It is easy to overlook your cat’s needs when you’re times, extra love and attention is especially important in order to comfort your cat and increase her confidence. Try to set aside some quality time every day to give her some special attention, such as grooming sessions, cuddles and play. Two or three intensive play sessions of ten to 15 minutes each can prove very helpful. Use simple feathered toys or even scrunched-up paper to stimulate your cat.
7. Finally, a house filled with unfamiliar people is very stressful to your cat. The best solution is to move her into the core area prior to the arrival of your guests. Close the door and put a sign outside politely requesting that guests keep the door shut during their visit.
By putting these simple measures in place, your cat will have a happier holiday season – and you’ll have one less thing to worry about! busy shopping, cooking and entertaining. But during stressful