At Cat Habitat HQ things are a bit crook for Pussa at present. For the last month or more both the human and feline members of the household have been living in a construction zone as builders jackhammer up the balconies of our apartment block in an attempt to fix a chronic water-proofing problem we have. This has meant that every day there are unfamiliar people invading Pussa’s territory which is causing no end of stress in our usually confident cat. We have come to refer to the builders as The Thierry Men. Thierry is of one of our friends who, when he and his wife Bernice came to visit us in Singapore, Pussa was instantly fearful of and basically spent the entire duration of their visit holed up in our bedroom. Heavens knows what got into her because the strange thing is that both Thierry and Bernice were cat owners too.
And so it is that The Thierry Men are on site at 7am each morning, and just at the sound of their voices Pussa will make a bee-line for underneath the bed. This is pretty much where she stays until the lunchbreak, after which she’s back under the bed until knock-off time at 3pm. Nothing coaxes her out – not even food. When The Thierry Men aren’t around she’s her normal bullying self, so her cat stress is acute and completely attributable to an environmental source.
Cats are hardwired to constantly be on alert for risk. They are continually making assessments of their physical and social environment to determine if they have to activate their fight or flight response. Your Favourite Feline craves continuity and familiarity in their day-to-day existence, since predictability provides a sense of calm and safety for them. When something or someone comes in and upsets that balance, well, that’s when things can go a little pear shaped.
While Pussa’s stress is apparently unfamiliar men, sometimes it’s other felines that are the catalyst. We wrote recently about Bear who has moved in with Lacie, and their Mum and Dad. Cat Habitat has received reports which indicate that Lacie isn’t exactly thrilled with this new arrangement. By all accounts there is a certain level of tension in the household as she comes to terms with The Intruder. Bear on the other hand seems oblivious to the level of seismic activity surrounding his arrival. Maybe it’s a boy thing, or perhaps he’s just still young and wants to be friends with everyone, but it’s definitely a major event in Lacie’s life. Her Mum says she is displaying all those typical cat stress behaviours – hissing, swiping, tail wagging side to side. Lacie is yelling at her Humans that Bear is upsetting her. That message is being received loud and clear by The Humans.
We’ve written previously about the common causes of cat stress and how you can help your puss cat deal with it. In addition to these techniques you can also try a synthetic pheromone diffuser like Feliway. It’s claimed to replicate feline facial pheromones which your cat uses to mark its territory. This scent makes your cat feel more secure in its environment, providing a sense of safety and security. I’ve never tried it, so I’ll wait to get an update from Lacie’s Mum to see if it’s improved the situation in their recently expanded feline household. If you’re living with a stressed cat, do what you can to limit the exposure to the stressor, give them some extra play time with some toys, and shower them with lots of love.
Meanwhile, Mr Pet Parent and I are hoping that Pussa becomes less sensitive to The Thierry Men because construction isn’t due to finish until Christmas. If she doesn’t, it looks like Pussa will be putting in some long days under the bed. In contrast, Soph appears to possess an extraordinary ability to snooze her way through the jackhammering and desperately wants to go outside and make new friends with The Thierry Men. We’re all different.