You are quietly sitting on your sofa and all of a sudden this peaceful tranquil setting is disturbed by a force of nature as your cat whizzes past you at high-speed jumping around the house or there is some animated play-fighting taking place with other pets in the house.
As cat owners we may have a preconceived idea of a cat purring on our lap rather than a trail blazing maniac. It is important to remember that cats are, by nature, predators and they instinctively like to hunt. When hunting they expend pent up energy so when they are indoors this energy builds up and that is when they go “crazy” and tear around the house as a way to release this energy. Cats do get bored and we should encourage their natural instinct to chase after something by providing activities and toys which encourage this behaviour for their benefit and yours.
Boredom is one reason a cat may become anxious but there are other reasons for anxiety and this may manifest in a number of ways such as pacing, agitation, hiding, loss of appetite, vocalization, being overly alert, trembling, drooling, excessive grooming and hyperactivity.
Understanding your cat’s behaviour and knowing when they are anxious, afraid or being hyperactive is important as these behaviours can affect their health. Interactions with you are important in order that you may identify these different behaviours and enable you to keep your cat calm, healthy and happy.
A cat perceives the world through its senses and these senses alert them to perceived dangers.
Smell – this plays an important role in communication. When your cats rubs their face and body on you they are marking you with their scent by deposits of natural pheromones which could be them claiming you as one of their belongings and also that they are just happy to see you or may be asking for food. If they smell an unfamiliar scent such as dogs, unfamiliar people or another cat they may perceive danger and be frightened.
Hearing – did you know that a cats hearing is approximately four times more sensitive than ours. That is why you may have noticed your cat gets startled by a sound or noise that we would consider to be normal. If you notice that your cat is getting stressed it might be due to the noise levels created by a visiting guest, outside noise or children playing. Make sure that they have a safe place to retreat to and talk softly when trying to calm them.
Touch - Cats will come to us when they are ready to be petted so pay attention to their body language and don’t start chasing them if they start to walk away. You could also try and reward your cat when new people pet them so they get used to being touched.
Sight - Cats have a wider field of view than we do which helps them to spot any threats or objects of interest approaching from the side. Their eyes also allow them to see well in dim light. Rapid movements, especially if unanticipated, can heighten their responses and lead
them to be more reactive and less calm.
There are a number of products on the market designed to help calm anxious cats down, for example pheromone products are available as diffusers, wipes, or sprays. There are supplements that are designed to help anxious cats, but you should always speak with a veterinarian first.