Let your cat be a cat: Tips on creating a feline-friendly home

May 12, 2014, 14:47 ET from American Veterinary Medical Association

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., May 12, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It can be tough being a cat.

Sure, our pet cats seem to have it pretty good: A life spent napping in sunny windows, safe from predators and attended to by humans who play with them, pet them and feed them whenever necessary.

But in the latest Animal Tracks podcast from the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Tony Buffington, a professor at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, says that things can look a little different from a cat's perspective.

"What the cat sees, is, 'Well, I'm confined to this house, I have no choice what to eat or drink, I've only got one tiny place that I can eliminate in and I just have to hope that somehow magically it gets clean because I can't do it'," Buffington said, adding that many natural behaviors, like climbing and scratching, can lead to cats being punished or even relinquished.

Before bringing a cat into the home, it's important that pet owners are familiar with cat behavior so that they can create an environment that best meets a cat's needs. Doing so, Buffington said, will lead to happier, healthier cats.

"If they're living in a threatening enough environment, their stress response system, their sympathetic nervous system, their hormonal system and their immune system can all be activated searching for the threat," Buffington said. "And if the threat never goes away, those systems can be activated all the time. After a while, they start damaging organs in the body, and we start seeing clinical signs. I spent most of my career studying lower urinary tract disease in cats, and it turns out that the disease in many cases is a consequence of this chronic activation of the stress response system."

By creating an environment where cats feel more in control than threatened, "The cat will be interested in what's going on around it, but its stress response system won't be activated constantly."

In the podcast, Buffington also provides tips for cat owners on how to avoid problems such as scratching furniture, spraying and going to the bathroom outside of the litter box. In addition, he provides tips on playing with your cat, feeding your cat and trimming your cat's nails.

To listen to the podcast, visit http://www.avmamedia.org/display.asp?sid=556&NAME=Creating_a_cat-friendly_home. It is also available on iTunes via AVMA's Animal Tracks channel (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/avma-animal-tracks/id672386638), a free podcast series for pet owners addressing animal health and safety issues.

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 85,000 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities and dedicated to the art and science of veterinary medicine. For more information, visit avma.org.

SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association