Christmas is a lovely time of the year especially when it is spent in the company of family and friends but please do spare a thought for our feline household members as changes in their indoor environment and routines can cause them various degrees of emotional stress. Our older felines and the anxious ones can be affected much more.
Some of the seasonal challenges that our cats face at this festive time of year are different and strange smells from Christmas trees and scented candles, furniture that may need to be rearranged in order to accommodate the Christmas tree or extra visitors. Visitors that pop in or even stay over during the Christmas holiday can create more noise and change the familiar scent profile around the home for your cat. Visitors or house guests may include a baby, young children, teenagers or a dog.
By “thinking cat” we can help our cats with these stressors just by providing ample hidey holes, bolt holes, escape routes or even a separate familiar “den” if space allows with all of your cat’s resources in so that your cat can feel safer and in more control. Don’t worry if your cat hides away, especially if they feel more anxious when visitors arrive this is normal behaviour and their way of coping with the situation.
Kittens are not only a pure delight but are usually very inquisitive and playful and often find the sight of the Christmas tree very appealing and tempting to climb up so try to keep young cats and kittens supervised when they play around the tree or near to lit candles and tea lights. It would certainly be an idea to keep kittens out of your main room overnight.
Tinsel, ribbons, string and Christmas wrapping paper and baubles are other playful objects that attract kittens so again keep a watchful eye out when wrapping presents in your cat’s presence.
Wherever possible try to stick to your cat’s normal feeding routine over the holidays as cats need predictability and consistency. Avoid giving turkey dinners to them as this can be rich and cause tummy upsets.
The Party Season:
New Year’s Eve can bring further challenges for our cats due to the many fireworks that go off the noise of which can be very frightening for our felines as they can hear at a much higher level than ourselves.
So as mentioned earlier, one of the cats coping strategies is to hide, so do not worry if your cat does this in response to the fireworks it is normal behaviour. Do not disturb your cat and try to provide plenty of easily accessible hidey holes for your cat to retreat to. Under a bed, inside of open cupboards, tops of wardrobes and cardboard boxes are handy options.
Try to keep to your normal cats routine, keep curtains or blinds closed and keep the TV or radio on as a background noise. I would recommend locking your cat flap if you have one during the evening so that your cat remains safe inside your home. Remember to provide
a litter tray and place it in a quiet and private area away from a busy thoroughfare and try to use an unscented and a fine grain litter as it is softer under paw.
Supplements to help with feline stress:
There are a couple of complimentary supplements that can help with feline stress, one option is the Calm dry diet by Royal Canin as its active ingredients include a combination of “Alpha Casozepine” a milk peptide which is known for its calming effects and
“ L-tryptophan” an amino acid that regulates mood as it is a precursor for serotonin. In studies it has shown that increased brain concentrations of L-tryptophan leads to an increase release of serotonin which plays an essential role in the regulation of mood, anxiety, appetite and sleep. The calm diet is highly digestible and palatable and has added nutrients to support the skin, urinary tract and digestion.
The Calm food comes as a dry kibble form in bags of 2kg and 4kg and you should see a difference in the cat’s mood state within two weeks. This food can be fed for a few weeks or months or long term if needed unless the pet is on a prescribed veterinary diet or is an older animal. At the moment we are giving a 20% discount on the Calm food until the end of this year.
Another option is Zylkene a milk peptide and mimics mother’s milk. It is easy to administer as you break the capsule and mix the powder into the cat’s food once a day in the mornings. You should see an improvement after about ten days. The usual course would be a month’s worth. Until the end of this year we are offering a 10% discount on Zylkene.
Then there is Feliway that can also help in times of feline stress as it releases a comforting and reassuring pheromone throughout the home environment. Feliway comes in a diffuser or a spray and I would suggest using a plug in diffuser over Christmas and New Year as it should last for up to 4 weeks. We are offering a 10% discount on any of the Feliway diffusers, refills and sprays until the end of this year.
** With either the Calm food, Zylkene or the Feliway diffuser I would suggest using them 2 weeks before Christmas to take effect.
Finally may I take this opportunity in wishing our clients a lovely Christmas and a Happy and Heathy New Year.
Feline Behaviour Advisor for Blackwater Valley Vets
Gordon House Vet Centre
216 Gordon Avenue
Elm Cottage Vet Centre
230 Frimley Green Road