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Mental Health

    

     Cats rely on their natural instincts for hunting, self preservation and elimination. Many of the behaviors cat owners deem undesirable are simply manifestations of natural behaviors. Cats instinctively mark their territory by spraying and scratching, they play roughly with one another, and they pounce on and bite their prey. If you really think about it, many of the ways we demand cats behave are totally contrary to their nature. Cats need individual attention from their owners and are generally better adjusted socially when they are raised with at least one other cat. You are wrong if you think your cat doesnít need you. Although cats can manage staying home alone all day while you are at work, itís really not their preference.
     Environmental enrichment and awareness of your catís needs are important factors in making her happy in your home. If left outdoors,a cat would spend a large part of her day stalking and eating prey. This activity would provide mental stimulation and challenge. It would also provide exercise and keep the cat in good physical condition. Cats scratch to communicate visually and by scent, and to keep their nails in shape. Give your cat at least one tall, sturdy scratching post in an easily accessible area. If she is not given appropriate items to scratch and then trained to use them, she will seek out alternative objects in your home.
     Indoor cats donít have to work to eat, so boredom and obesity can result. Train cats to perform tricks and reward them with treats. Throw the treats and let your cat chase them. Consider placing small amounts of food in several locations and making your cat roam around to eat. Create vertical space to keep your cat happy. Cats love to jump up on things and watch the world from a high vantage point. Jumping up keeps cats active, and giving them a high perch gives them an appropriate place to hang out and retreat from other cats, animals and people in a household. If two or more cats must live together in a small home, cat trees and elevated perches give cats more space, create vertical territory, and decrease the stress of sharing a small area.

     Although cats may play less as they age, play is another component of good feline mental health. Many cats will play on their own with toys, but interactive play every day is also very important for your catís mental health. Play relieves boredom and provides exercise. It provides an outlet for stalking, pouncing and biting behaviors. Donít give up on cats who seem uninterested in playing. Search for fishing pole toys with feathers or laser lights that will stimulate at least a little interest in play. To keep your cat entertained, set up an outdoor bird feeder that your cat can observe through a window, or install an aquarium. These items will provide a lot of stimulation to a cat who longs to hunt and chase, as well as a couch potato.
 

Signs of stress


     Trying to understand how a cat perceives the world is difficult. We do our best to make their lives comfortable, but we do not always properly meet our catís individual mental needs. Changes in the home environment or with an ownerís schedule may seem trivial to us, but they can have a major impact on our feline friends. Cats can manifest their stress through various behaviors. A trip to the veterinary hospital sends some cats into a frenzy of fearful aggression. Boredom makes some cats engage in destructive chewing and clawing behavior. They often perform these behaviors simply to get negative attention from their busy owners. Some cats overgroom to the point of creating bald patches and sores as a response to stress. This condition is called psychogenic alopecia. Other stressed cats spray urine or eliminate inappropriately around the house.
     Pay attention to your cat and look for signs of stress-induced behaviors. Early intervention is the key to preventing unwanted behaviors from continuing, and to making your cat happier.

 

 

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Mental Health

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