In the many years of pet caring, I have noticed that quite a few cats are anxious little individuals. I am sure that there are owners out there dealing with this and looking for answers. I have searched the net and can find nothing of substance.
Mostly the research speaks to that of: “ensuring that your cat has lots of mental stimulation, games and activities. Hiding things in boxes, cat boxes, crinkle bags, ping pong balls, dangling things that they can play with so it stimulates its senses. Another thing is burning essential oils etc.”
The above is what I refer to as a ‘band aid remedy’ aimed at reducing the symptoms of the anxiety. The following is a way to address the root cause of the problem.
Every anxious cat that I have ever encountered has been an indoor cat. The more anxious, the more indoors they tend to be. The lack of feline growth in their formative years has developed a sense of insecurity.
So when advising cat owners, I liken our pets to children. When we have children, we love them, teach them, feed them etc. In addition we socialize them, so that they will one day be able to have the skills and confidence to fend for themselves. So weaning our children off of us begins at an early age. The earlier that this happens and less babying of them (spoiling), the more confident and independent our children grow up to become. We would all agree that this process is healthy for the child and the parent.
In the same way, if we want our cats to be healthy confident, friendly, socialized animals, then we must understand their nature and encourage their natural instincts. In addition if they are not growing then we need to encourage them to do so just like we would with our children.
So how do you develop your cat’s self confidence? Lets work on their outside and socializing skills in the following progression:
- Move their food outside in the morning so that they learn to eat outside to begin with;
- Next move their litter box outside (you may need to let them in and out for this until they learn);
- Eventually you will be able to remove the litter box all together so that they potty in the garden;
- Make your cat an outside cat during the day while they typically sleep and do not hunt. When you come home from work, move them inside with their evening meal;
- Getting another cat that grows up going in and out and exploring nature as cats were meant to will help socialize your timid cat;
- Socializing them with other people as often as you can (invite other people over like family, friends, neighbors. Bring your cat into the social setting and let them sniff everyone);
- Go away (trips or holidays) and have your pet cat taken care of by All Pets to work on weaning off the attachment issues;
- Lastly if your timid cat learns to hunt and defend themselves, then they will become what nature intended and in turn become confident and therefore much less anxious.
We must understand that this is a process and if we want a healthy family member, we must parent more and be less eco-conscious. And on this note, I have seen our pet dogs do far more damage to our native wildlife than any of our cats could possibly manage.
Taking a different perspective would be to look at the family cat as a working animal much like a sheep dog which is also a lovable pet. So let them do their god given job, to catch rats, mice and vermin. By doing this, cats develop confidence in hunting and survival skills, the adrenaline of the hunt is not pent up which in turn translates to piece of mind. For these reasons, cat anxiety is less evident to non existent the more confident your cat is with being outside.
When they catch and present a rat, give them a big pat and congratulate them. If they get it wrong, you should reprimand them by putting their presented catch (bird) straight in the bin (so they can not eat it) while verbally scolding them. On one occasion I saw a cat test their owner by presenting a second bird after being scolded. The owner threw a bucket of water on their cat. This sent a direct message but was not physically harmful. This cat never brought home a bird again.
The moral of the story is that we do not need to confine our pet cats indoors or in cat runs to also be eco-friendly. There is a middle ground as with everything. The key is to teach your family cat right from wrong. If you have a cat you will already know how smart they are. Be consistent and be a (non spoiling) parent and you will ALL live happily ever after.