Pay Attention to Feline Behavior Wellness Care

An interesting website worth a look by cat owners and cat professionals is HealthyCatsForLife.com, a collaborative effort between the American Association of Feline Practitioners, a veterinary organization, and Boehringer Ingelheim, a pet food and pet supply company. On the site you can find several things of importance including an article on recognizing the subtle signs of illness in cats (they are notorious in hiding illness and signs of stress) and advice on making visits to the veterinarian less stressful for you and your cat.
 
They also have a Feline Wellness Checklist that describes some common illnesses and procedures that should be discussed with your veterinarian. A part of the Checklist is a short Behavior Assessment questionnaire which asks four basic questions about cat behavior that could help to identify behavioral problems. It asks about inappropriate elimination behavior, fearfulness, aggression to people and changes in behavior over time.
 
The behavior questionnaire is a good place to start for owners and pet professionals to assess the behavioral wellness of cats. But there are other behaviors that should be asked about as well. Some of the other things that we think are important are listed in our Cat Behavior Wellness Quiz to be found on HelpingKitty.com and AnimalBehaviorAssociates.com
 
Information about destructiveness such as scratching objects or surfaces, and how the cat gets along with other cats is important because both of these are common problems that can lead cats to lose their homes. Many times owners aren’t aware of what cats need in the way of appropriate scratching surfaces and don’t know how to introduce new cats to each other or how to resolve cat-cat conflicts when they arise. Asking questions about how roughly a cat plays with people and other animals and about excessive meowing can also identify potentially serious behavior problems.
Rough play can cause scratch and bite injuries to people and other animals and can lead to more serious aggression problems.
 
Excessive meowing may indicate an underlying medical problem or fear related problem. Owners may find the meowing very annoying if they are kept up nights by their cat's "singing". For some owners, a cats lack of friendliness may not be a problem, but could indicate excessive fear or an inability to form attachments that could be affecting the cat’s quality of life.
 
An intolerance of handling might not be a problem until the cat has to go to the veterinarian or groomer or needs her claws trimmed or the owner is required to administer medication.  When we must handle or restrain cats when they don't want to be, fearful or aggressive responses are likely.  
 
So if you work with cats and/or their owners, think about asking questions like these on a regular basis, such as when a cat comes in for a veterinary wellness appointment. The goal of wellness care is to identify problems or potential problems early so they can be resolved or prevented and to address issues that might weaken the relationship between cats and their owners. The more we attend to behavioral wellness care, the more likely cats are to stay in their homes and the more likely they are to have a good quality of life.
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