June is Adopt-A-Cat Month!
Nearly three-and-a-half million cats enter shelters each year in the US – that’s a lot of fluffy felines without permanent homes! While many of these cats do find homes, too many of them are euthanized (and one is too many) due to lack of space and resources to keep them. When you rescue a cat from a shelter, you’re likely saving a life.
Unfortunately, rescues may be more likely to have issues with fear and anxiety. About half of animals that enter shelters were previously strays. They may have been feral for a long time, dealing with starvation or fighting other animals. Some shelter cats develop abandonment issues from having been adopted before but then returned because their humans didn’t know how to care for their special needs.
We want every adopted cat to find a permanent home the first time, so we’ve put together some helpful tips on bringing a new cat into your home and the signs, symptoms and solutions to help ease any anxiety or behavior-related issues you might experience with your newest family member.
Things to Know & Prepare Before Bringing Your Cat Home
Of course, there are a few basics you need to make sure you have before you pack your pet into the car to take home. You probably know you need cat food, food and water bowls, a litter box, and toys. What you might not think about are a brush, a collar and ID tag, and a bed. For added super-pet-parent-power, ask the shelter what kind of food and litter they’ve been using so you can keep some things consistent for your pet during all of the big changes!
Much like child-proofing your home for a new baby, you likely need to cat-proof a little. Your cat may be completely uninterested in your decorating style, but cats love to climb and explore, so watch out for objects on high shelves that could be knocked over by an adventurous kitty. Check down low too and make sure there’s nothing that could harm or trap your cat under or behind furniture.
There’s a reason “If it fits, I sits” is an internet sensation. Cats love squeezing into small spaces. Give your new friend their very own box (or two!) to hide away in. Just make sure it’s big enough for them to stand up and turn around inside.
In a similar way that dogs mark their territory by urinating, cats emit pheromones through facial glands by rubbing their faces on things (though unlike dogs, it doesn’t make a mess or smell bad). Try gently stroking your cat’s cheek with a towel and then rubbing it on objects – like a scratching post or new bed – to transfer their scent onto the object.
Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety in Cats
Some cats can be pretty solitary creatures, keeping to themselves throughout most of the day. This diva-like nonchalance can make it difficult to tell if your cat is suffering from anxiety. Here are some signs that your cat may have anxiety:
- Excessive or inappropriate scratching
- Spraying or urine marking
- Hiding more than normal or fleeing from humans or other pets
- Meeting you excitedly when you come home and following you around throughout the house
- Excessive crying or wailing, especially if they are left alone
- Compulsive grooming, sometimes causing baldness
- Eliminating outside of the litterbox
Keep in mind it’s always best to see a vet if you see these symptoms present in your cat as some of these could also be indicators of illness or disease.
How You Can Help
Making sure your cat is comfortable when they first come home is critical to preventing many anxieties. Most experts suggest that you give your cat one small room to hang out in while they get used to their new home. This room should have everything your cat needs and be a place you want to spend time in with them as well. It may take a few days or a few weeks, but when your cat seems comfortable with this room, you can expand their access to the rest of the house.
Behavior modification and training may also be key to preventing or helping soothe your feline’s fear. Desensitization and counter-conditioning can help by slowly increasing exposure to the stressful situation and rewarding your cat with treats when he or she responds appropriately.
There are various medications that can be prescribed by your vet, but this isn’t ideal for every pet-owner. It can take some time for medicine to take effect, and by then the stressful situation may be over. Many medications also come with unwanted side effects.
Pheromones are available for treating anxiety in cats. Synthetic pheromones mimic the natural pheromones a cat emits and there are different formulas for different types of anxiety. Pheromones can be useful for targeting issues like spraying and scratching, anxious vet visits, and fighting and conflict between cats. They also come in various forms like diffusers or sprays.
ThunderShirt is a great way to help with separation and travel anxiety. It provides constant, gentle pressure that feels like a soothing hug to calm your kitty.
Calming Aids come in chews, gels, and even water additives, and can help relax your cat using either synthetic biological compounds or natural ingredients, or a combination of the two.
You probably have a friend or two on social media hawking their essential oils line, and while they can provide some soothing for dogs and humans, they are NOT recommended for cats. Many key ingredients in these products like lavender are highly toxic to cats. If your cat has been exposed to these ingredients, please call the Animal Poison Control line at (888) 426-4435.
Proven, Effective Calming Solutions from ThunderWorks
We wish we could adopt ALL THE CATS ourselves, but we can’t. It’s probably illegal. So: Go adopt a cat this month! ThunderWorks has some great products to help your feline feel cool and confident in their new home.
Cats mark their territory by rubbing their face on things like furniture, plants, and even you. These pheromones help cats get to know their environment better and help them feel more stable in their home. ThunderEase replicates natural feline facial pheromones for a drug-free, vet-recommended, calming solution that puts an end to unwanted behaviors like scratching and spraying.
Can’t we all just get along? ThunderEase helps put an end to unwanted fighting and cat conflict by mimicking a mother’s natural nursing pheromones. These pheromones help kittens bond to each other and their mom and feel safer in their environment. ThunderEase is tested to be over 90% effective in reducing household tension and stress, drug-free, and is great for introducing new pets or people into the home.
ThunderShirt’s patented design applies a gentle, constant pressure that has a dramatic calming effect on most cats. Using pressure to relieve anxiety in people and animals has been a common practice for years such as swaddling infants and the use of gentle pressure and weighted vests to help people with autism.