Periods of change can be stressful for cats and, following reports of fights and injuries requiring veterinary attention between Downing Street’s two high-profile Chief Mousers, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Cats Protection are offering cat owners advice on how to care for their cats during such situations.
The EU referendum has prompted significant change for Britain, but especially for Larry, Downing Street’s cat, who has recently seen the departure of one family and the arrival of another into his home at Number 10.
Cats are creatures of habit who get stressed when their routines are disrupted, therefore BVA and Cats Protection would always recommend new owners adopt a routine the cat is already used to where possible. Cats also like to hide to feel secure so both organisations encourage new owners to provide safe spaces where their cat can hide away.
In April, Larry also had the arrival of his new neighbour Palmerston, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Mouser-in-Chief, which has led to turf wars and injuries. Cats are naturally solitary animals that can become stressed and aggressive when forced to live with or near other unrelated cats. It’s therefore not uncommon for fights when a new cat is introduced.
If introducing two cats that will need to share a living space is unavoidable, BVA and Cats Protection advise doing this gradually and ensuring there are plenty of ways for the cats to get away from one another, including elevated hiding places such as enclosed cat beds placed safely on top of cupboards.
BVA and Cats Protection also advise owners to make sure there is no competition for key items such as food and water bowls, litter trays, scratching posts and beds to ensure a more harmonious living environment.
Sean Wensley, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: “Cats are sensitive animals who value routine and stability in their living environment. Furthermore, living with other cats that they have not grown up with can be very stressful, as they are not normally tolerant of feline company, and it is important, if this cannot be avoided, to make sure they do not have to compete for access to key items like litter trays and food and water bowls.
“Cats should also be neutered, both to prevent unwanted litters and to help reduce aggressive behaviour. If owners are planning a house move, we would always recommend discussing this at your local vet practice who will be able to offer advice on how best to go about this.”
Maggie Roberts, director of veterinary services at Cats Protection, added: “It is important to remember that a cat’s requirements are not human-based, so understanding their needs can enhance our relationship with them.
“There are many things that can cause a cat to feel anxious or fearful including change and they need the opportunity to run, hide and climb to get away from what is making them fearful or when stressed.
“They will only fight if there is no other option available, or they have learned from previous experiences that this has a positive outcome for them.”
BVA and Cats Protection would always recommend owners seek advice from their local vet practice before a potentially stressful situation to ensure their cat’s wellbeing is protected and prevent problems arising. For more advice on cat welfare visit www.cats.org.uk/essential-guides.