Keeping Cats Cool, Calm and Collected
Despite a reputation for being naturally independent and tranquil, many cats benefit from products that correct behavior and calm anxiety.
As many feline pet parents know, there are common cat behavioral and anxiety issues that occur in these seemingly confident, aloof animals. Whether family felines mark around the house or become anxious during travel, manufacturers recognize the need to help consumers address these issues to promote the mental health of cats by offering products to maintain personalities that are cool, calm, collected and well behaved.
Regardless of how reserved an animal might seem, all creatures are susceptible to certain triggers that increase anxiety. Most often, changes in schedule or scenery cause defensive reactions that increase anxious feelings. Cats generally relay calm attitudes toward their pet parents, therefore feline signs of anxiety can be difficult to recognize.
“The symptoms of an anxious cat can be subtle and easy to attribute to other causes,” says Steve Twohig, vice president of sales for Nutri-Vet/MannaPro. “Cats may do the following: hide more than normal, greet owners exuberantly when they return home and follow them from room to room, urinate or defecate outside of the litter box, vomit or compulsively groom themselves—sometimes to the point where they are virtually bald over a large part of the body.”
Many consumers feel that their cats’ meowing is simply a sign that the animal is trying to communicate hunger or a desire for affection. While cats that vocalize are attempting to inform pet parents of a need, the message could be lost in translation, masking a more severe issue that is more closely connected to health. Manufacturers, such as In Clover, Inc., recognize these feline anxiety cues and are determined to share this knowledge with consumers and provide solutions.
“Oftentimes our first thoughts go to the mental problems associated with anxiety in cats,” says In Clover president Rebecca Rose. “In doing so, we miss a large opportunity to help cats with the discomfort of digestive and immune-system upset that often accompanies anxious situations ... cats are more vocal when they are anxious. The most common sign of anxiety is meowing or other vocalizations. If the cat is very anxious, she [or he] will pant.”
Once consumers identify anxiety issues—and causes—determining the appropriate solution is crucial to effectively treating a beloved cat. If pet parents choose a product that causes additional stress in the animal, the problem will continue to grow and could possibly cause new health issues.
“During conversations with consumers, retailers often discover more information about the cat’s anxiety level during stressful situations,” explains Scott Garmon, president of Garmon Corp/NaturVet. “Retailers should also remember that there are different delivery methods available for different situations: liquid, gel, spray and soft chews.”
It is the responsibility of dedicated retailers to listen to pet parents as they describe a cat’s symptoms and suggest a product that suits each individual animal, on a case-by-case basis.
In addition to being a possible byproduct of stress, cat scratching fulfills a natural feline need to mark its territory, thereby claiming ownership over a site, whether a precious home interior, furniture or its own scratch post. Though cats must have access to a scratching post or a suitable alternative, this natural behavior might require additional effort by pet parents to keep felines satisfied, while maintaining the integrity of and harmony within a home, according to Twohig.
“Scratching is a marking behavior; it allows the deposition of scent from special glands on the cat’s paws,” he says. “It also removes the translucent covering, or sheath, over the claws. The scratch marks, along with the claw sheaths left behind, may also serve as displays of confidence. Cats are sensitive to Scratch-Not’s bitter taste and will avoid touching areas where they might get it on their paws, or in their mouths.”
The natural inclination of cats to scratch within their surroundings cannot be thwarted. Responsible consumers will seek methods to accommodate a pet’s natural behavior through establishing prohibited and acceptable scratching areas.
“Let’s be candid: you can’t stop a cat from scratching,” explains Twohig. “That’s why a scratching post is still needed. However what you can do is use Scratch-Not spray with its bitter taste to send the message to the cat that certain areas are ‘off limits.”
By training cats to balance their natural inclinations with domesticated life, consumers can live harmoniously with their pets. According to Rose, the future of feline-behavior solutions lies in communicating with cats and showing that their natural behaviors are acceptable within the home when performed within established boundaries.
“Our cats are finally getting the attention on pet retailers’ shelves they always knew they deserved,” she says. “In Clover has introduced a line of soft chew supplements for cats that includes Svelte, [which] contains low-glycemic-index superfoods to naturally stimulate metabolism and conversion of fat to energy. Cat parents can use the chew to work on training. I hide them in the cat condo and watch my cats race up and around the levels in an active game of find-it.”
Through connecting a reward with a cat’s own space, where they can act naturally and satisfy innate inclinations, pet parents can train felines to embrace their area that is reserved for scratching.
Soothing by Nature
Following the industry shift toward natural pet products, many manufacturers began sourcing more ingredients from nature when developing behavior-correcting and anti-anxiety solutions. Using herbs, plants and natural hormones, manufacturers have discovered that correcting undesirable feline behavior or quelling cat anxiety can be a simple formula. The foundations for NaturVet’s feline anxiety solutions were built using the soothing properties of plants and herbs, such as English holly, rock rose, Star of Bethlehem, ginger and chamomile, reveals Garmon.
“NaturVet has a complete line of calming aids for cats; Quiet Moments Soft Chews, Quiet Moments Calming Room Spray, Quiet Moments Gel and Pet Organics Calm Down for Cats…[which] is a homeopathic formula that relies on flower essences for its efficacy, while the NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Aid supplement ingredients are more herbal based,” says Twohig.
The healing powers of plants and herbs are not exclusive to soothing the mood of cats, but also the internal turmoil created by abnormal digestive issues. In addition to revealing the process through which In Clover’s products are manufactured, Rose emphasizes that when retailers advise consumers regarding solutions, they must consider the effects of how poor digestion can cause cats to behave badly.
“In dealing with anxiety and the behavioral issues that accompany it, it is important to look at the problem holistically. Recommend solutions that address both the mental side—such as chamomile, calming sprays or Rescue Remedy—and the digestive and immune problems that manifest and are uncomfortable for our cats, such as using clinically tested OptaGest on a daily basis, or when signs of anxious behavior surface,” says Rose.
As manufacturers explore different methods of naturally treating feline behavioral issues, unconventional ingredients, such as herbal solutions, are going to provide pleasantly unexpected results. Twohig reveals that Nutri-Vet’s Paw-Ease Paw-Gel for cats incorporates chamomile, to safely sedate; passionflower, to mildly calm; and oat extract, which soothes nerves. If a cat is not yet anxious, but is going to be exposed to stress, such as through travel or visiting the veterinarian, the product’s catnip extract will temporarily increase feline activity, followed by a calm, tired mood.
Patience is the most helpful component to successfully treat cats that suffer behavioral or anxiety issues. “Traditionally, we see a spike in feline calming aids sales before the Fourth of July and New Year’s holidays,” explains Garmon. “But our busy lifestyles can also affect our pet’s anxiety levels throughout the year.”
As pet parents seek advice from retailers regarding solutions to these problems, it is important to remind consumers that, in addition to corrective behavioral products, they will only be able to soothe their cat if they also remain calm during the process.