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  • Joanne Herbert

Make Christmas less stressful for your cat


This time of year means lots of changes to a home, and for cats who often thrive on predictability, routine and the perceived safety of their territory (their home and garden), this can be distressing. The furniture is often moved around to accommodate extra guests, the tree is brought in, lights and decorations are put up, music is played, all making their home look, sound and smell different.  In addition, unfamiliar people, and worse still unfamiliar dogs may visit the house or even stay for several days, again at variable times, interrupting the normal routine. In order to minimise distress during this season consider the following:

Ensure your cat has several safe and comfortable places to hide and get away from the noise and hustle and bustle. A cardboard box or igloo bed above the wardrobe or under the bed can provide security. If new beds are added to the home at this time, make them smell familiar by adding bedding already used by your cat. Advise visitors not to approach the cat if it is in its bed, but only to stroke the cat if it initiates contact. Visiting children may be keen to see and cuddle the cat but gentle stroking on the cat’s initiation must be insisted upon. Guests can be given cat treats and toys to help teach the cat positive associations with the new people. Ensure there is always an open door to allow the cat to get away from any noisy parties or dinners to a quieter part of the home. Consider plugging in a ‘Feliway’ diffuser into the room the cat spends most time several days before the festivities begin. This product (available online) contains feline pheromones which can help the cat feel more secure. Ensure it is switched on continually throughout the festive season. If visitors are sleeping in one of the rooms the cat usually uses, for example, for sleeping, eating or toileting, be sure to provide the required resources (beds, food or litter tray) in other quieter parts of the house and ideally, before the visitors arrive so that changes occur gradually and the cat is comfortable with the new location. If the cat’s litter tray is positioned in a place that will mean more people traffic or noise during the Christmas period, it is good practice to provide an additional litter tray in a quieter part of the home. If the cat is particularly sound sensitive, avoid crackers and party poppers. If a dog is visiting it may be helpful to restrict its access to the cats retreat areas using, for example, baby gates on the stairs.

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