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The cat that walks alone is a happy cat, says vet study

October 28th, 2004, 07:18 AM
David Adam, science correspondent
Wednesday October 27, 2004
The Guardian

Rudyard Kipling's cat who walked alone had the right idea. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have found that the pressures of shared living bring sensitive felines down with stress-related illness. The biggest source of anxiety is a rival cat in the house, but moving home, the arrival of a baby and not venturing outside were stressful.
Danielle Gunn-Moore of the university's school of veterinary studies said: "The neighbour's dog barking or the postman arriving on a Thursday isn't particularly stressful. We're looking at longer term stress and the classic source is living with a cat with which they don't get on."

The relentless anxiety overstimulates nerves leading from the cat's brain to its bladder and provokes cystitis.

Up to 60% of cases of the feline bladder condition seen by vets show no obvious cause, but a similar problem in people is linked to stress. "We believed stress could be a trigger and wanted to identify differences in the cats' environments and temperaments which might cause this condition," Dr Gunn-Moore said.

Her team compared 31 cats with bladder disease brought to the university's hospital for small animals to 24 healthy animals from the same households and a separate control group of 125 healthy cats. They found animals with a diseased bladder were more likely to be in conflict with a housemate. The results appear in the Journal of Small Animal Practice.

"In a household situation often a dominant cat will camp out on the stairs and prevent another, more timid one from coming past," she said.

Other sources of anxiety included not venturing outside, having owners who worked night shifts and left their pets alone, and obnoxious children. One cat was made ill by the constant noise from low flying aircraft.

The experts recommend that cats with the stress-related condition should be fed wet food and encouraged to drink more water, perhaps by adding tuna-flavoured ice cubes.