Cat stressed out - help me be the best cat carer I can be...
November 8, 2017 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Our cat, Jake, is acting stressed out lately. I took him to the vet this week and she suggested Feliway (which we have) and trying a calming dry kibble (Royal Canin Feline Calm Dry Cat Food). I need your cat experience / help!

Jake is one of three cats in our household (1 bedroom apartment). In the past month he's started some stress-licking, twitching of skin, and sudden bursts of running around. He also sometimes acts like he sees a gnat when there's nothing there; and a couple of times I saw him bite his tail, it looked like a gentle bite for what it's worth.

We're concerned and have developed a few theories:
- territory issues (Maisie, our youngest cat, has grown into adulthood and is very boisterous and tends to dominate space)
- construction noises from across the road (major building site with loud noises, e.g., bulldozer sounds, beeping from reversing of vehicles)
- food allergy (I have observed that his behavior worsens after I give him treats such as Whiskas Temptations, which are their favorites )
- not enough play (again - Maisie tends to get the most play as she's the youngest and seems to require more play; she also seeks out play when I'm trying to focus on getting the other cats their playtime)

Jake tends to hesitate before pouncing, so often the other two cats will just go ahead and pounce before he gets a chance.

Obviously I cannot control the loud noises from across the street, apart from closing the windows, but what can I do to help him, besides what I'm doing already (providing caves for him, trying to engage him in play, Feliway, and 'calming' kibble).

Other notes: they get along very well. Jake and Maisie in particular like each other. Jake and Jacqueline are siblings and generally get along, although Jake engages in dominance behavior (straddling Jacqueline and biting her scruff); he does not do this to Maisie. They also have great catwalks/loft areas and several cat trees.

They also play with each other, so I'm not the only play provider (they chase each other and Jake and Maisie in particular like to wrestle).

Is there anything I can do besides what I'm already aware of to help Jake? The only other thing I can think of is moving to a bigger place.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(I forgot another theory of mine: I move furniture/cat trees around about once a month, is it possible that this de-stabilizes their environment and causes them stress?)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:45 PM on November 8, 2017

You can do separate food bowls; that helped a pair of cats my parents have that were stressing each other out.
posted by teabag at 1:51 PM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here's something simple to try. I'd been doing Feliway for my cats for quite some time and felt like I was no longer seeing an improvement and while I was doing some research on what to do next, I decided to get a big container of catnip and started leaving a bit on some of their favorite spots. It has helped a ridiculous amount. I also put a few favorite toys in a plastic bag with some catnip and let it sit for a few hours and then put those toys out every day. Sometimes when I see my more active cat that drives the others crazy get in one of his pre-annoy the others moods, I get the catnip out and the toys, and soon it's just blissed out cats.
posted by not that mimi at 2:40 PM on November 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I've got my Digby on Rescue Remedy and it seems to have helped him be less stressful (his stress was causing him to pee outside his box). Also, if you don't know, and I didn't until a few weeks ago, you can get prozac for your cat from your vet. That was going to be my last resort and thankfully Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract Litter is the shit (no pun intended) and Digby hasn't peed outside the box since I started using it, so I didn't go the prozac route. But I had talked to two catpeople who said prozac had worked for their cats. Good luck, I know how stressful it can be for YOU trying to figure out what's bothering your feline friend and how to make it better.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:53 PM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I see you already know that cork in the sink trick. But sometimes when my younger cat gets restless, I play with him in the bathroom. I sit on the toilet and throw q-tips at him in the tub. It takes a few rounds because he doesn’t get a great range of motion. But he loves trying to jump up and catch it, and then hide it under his belly. I keep a stack of 20-30, and risk trying to scoop them all back up for round 2.

Also, he has poor vision. So he doesn’t do well with furniture moving. New toys for stimulation. But even switching from a platform bed to a taller bed was a stressful learning curve for him.

Yes. I know. Cats are weird.
posted by politikitty at 3:28 PM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

You might try putting Maisie in a closed room while you play with the others.
posted by irisclara at 3:54 PM on November 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had a cat who ended up stress-licking to a pretty extreme extent. (She licked her whole belly bare, down her legs to the 'ankles' so she had furry booties.) While the vet did start off with some kitty antidepressants for a while, one of the other big things that helped was to have daily quiet time with her just chilling out and patting her gently and having mellow loving time. I thought of it as "reminding the cat how to chill out"
posted by rmd1023 at 4:22 PM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

The only other thing I can think of is moving to a bigger place.

Yes. One bedroom is too small for three indoor-only cats. It sounds like Jake has cat ptsd, our cat has that due to cats coming into her territory, and it goes away when things calm down. It's called feline hyperesthesia or psychomotor epilepsy, and you can see it happening, when a cat's back starts twitching, they bite the base of their tail and they suddenly launch out at after something invisible.

According to our vet, it is something that is much more common than once thought, and caused by environment stressors and will calm down when the situation calms down. And that there is new research showing that high stress levels in cats causes a lot of illness that is seen in cats.

So just do what you can. Safe hiding spots, lots of places for Jake to be perched up high. That kind of thing. And if it doesn't subside, I really think it is a good idea to separate cats that are causing each other problems rather than forcing them to live that way for long periods of time.

Oh, fleas, fleas can really make it worse, so make sure that is taken care of.
posted by nanook at 5:07 PM on November 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the suggestions - I bought some new catnip to use as suggested above, and will be trying out the Rescue Remedy if that doesn't help. I hear the other suggestions, too - they are all useful.

Good luck, I know how stressful it can be for YOU trying to figure out what's bothering your feline friend and how to make it better.

Thanks for this.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:28 PM on November 9, 2017

I do think that moving furniture and cat trees every month could be stressful. Moving one or two things might be interesting for them, but changing everything could make them feel insecure as favorite hiding or watching or sleeping spots can change.

As a vet, I often direct stressed cat owners to the Ohio State University Indoor Cat Project for ideas to understand and enrich their cat's life. Check it out!
posted by Seppaku at 3:18 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Physical Acts of Self Care?   |   Paper baby diaper delivery Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.