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Is Your Cat Stressed Out by the COVID-19 Virus?

Posted by Andrea on 29th Mar 2020

Have you seen the viral video about the cat who is clearly unhappy to have her entire family isolating at home during the coronavirus pandemic? Shared on the social media site TikTok, it comes from a user whose feline angrily meows and bares her teeth while her poor owner films it. In case you need a laugh, here it is:

When I first saw this, I could so relate. Finally, someone gets my relationship with my own fur baby, whose mood towards me tends to range from somewhat annoyed to extremely annoyed, depending upon how much food is or is not in her favorite bowl. Yes, she is certainly the boss of me, but that’s a story for another time.

What’s not so funny right now is the elevated stress levels that prevail across the species. Human families are on edge in this uncertain time. Adults are trying hard not to communicate fear to their children, and everyone is stuck inside together, pets included.

Just as we are stressed by worrying about the COVID-19 virus, our companion felines can pick up on our emotional states. They feel stress because they can sense that we feel stress. What’s more, our homes are our felines’ entire worlds, and things may have become topsy-turvy in recent weeks. Just as abrupt changes can be difficult for us to handle, please understand that your cat has basically an obsessive-compulsive nature. Their lives are dictated by habits and repetitive activities which make them feel secure.

With more family members around more often, Kitty may become a Nervous Nellie since her regular patterns have become interrupted. The important thing to realize is that cats often hide their feelings. Hopefully, this stress is short-term. A cat that experiences long-term stress can be affected both mentally and physically. This can result in a compromised immune system and illness, or it can result in problematic behavioral issues.

What can you do? Well, the first thing is to look for certain outward signs of stress such as excessive grooming. If the cat is losing too much hair, this is not normal. Next, if your fur baby starts to urinate outside the litter box, chances are she is traumatized. Consult with the vet to make sure there is no physical reason for any of this. Next, if you have noticed unusually aggressive or standoffish behavior, it could well signal stress. Again, to rule out illness, check in with your veterinarian.

Finally, whatever you do, never yell or punish. This will only exacerbate the situation. Calm her fears by playing more. Make home-made food puzzles, and introduce more interactive fun. Show her plenty of attention when she wants it—and respect her need for alone time (perhaps snoozing on her Armarkat cat tree) when she needs it.

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