Feline Stress: Managing Emotional Wellbeing in Cats

Feline Stress: Managing Emotional Wellbeing in Cats

Whinny’s Wisdoms

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Hey everybody, Whinny, your favorite clinic mouse is here today to spin a yarn about the tantalizing world of emotional well-being for cats. Now, when you’re a mouse navigating a clinic filled with these enigmatic feline creatures, you learn a thing or two about their secrets to happiness. And of course, I learned almost all of what I know from the late, great Tony. He’ll forever be remembered here at Springhill Equine. This blog and all my others are dedicated to him. So, give extra snuggles to your favorite feline friend, because we’re about to embark on a meow-gical journey into the world of cat emotional wellness.

Safe Havens and Cat Castles: Creating Stress-Free Sanctuaries

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One secret to maintaining your cats’ mental harmony lies in providing safe spaces. Whether it’s a towering cat tree or a cozy escape room, these spaces are essential for those moments when your cat needs some time to recharge. It’s a bit like having your own mouse hole to escape to when things get too hairy. These should be individualized to each feline; some prefer cave-like hideaways while others prefer freedom in the tree-dom.

Now, I must mention the importance of vertical territory. Most cats adore high perches, and these “cat castles” not only fulfill their inner jungle-cat fantasies but also serve as a refuge away from other household pets (pronounced “dogs and kids”). It’s similar to a watchtower in the midst of a bustling kingdom. Just like mice require hidey-holes, cats require cat trees of some variety. In a paw-fect world, the vertical spaces create a super highway throughout the home, giving the cat the option to leave an altercation with a dog, another cat, or a vacuum cleaner and migrate to another part of the household.

I know the world is not always perfect—if it was I’d have a lot more cheese than I do right now—so a more obtainable goal might be to have vertical territory for cats in any dead ends or narrow alleyways in the home.  

The Litter Box Labyrinth: Keeping Stress at Bay

Ah, the mystical litter box, a place of solitude and contemplation for our feline friends. It’s vital to have an ample number of these for your fur babies. Why, you ask? Well, it’s like having a choice of restrooms in a giant labyrinth. More boxes mean less stress because no cat likes to wait in line for the loo. The rule of paw is this: have one more litter box location than the number of litter box users. So you can’t just have three boxes next to each other in the garage for your two kitties because that would be only one sanitation station. This also means your only child cat gets their very own two litter box locations. Five cats? Six litter box locations. Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

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Whinny’s Wisdom: Always have one more litter box location than the number of litter box users in the home.

 Now, remember, my fellow mouse-eyed friends, the litter box isn’t just for business. Cats are incredibly finicky about cleanliness, and a dirty box is like a porta-potty at a beer and brats festival (it starts out good, but rapidly turns into a disaster). Keep it clean and pristine to keep your cat’s mood as fresh as a daisy. Scoop out those boxes at least once per day, though some cats require twice.

And of course, just like cats have individualized needs for their safe havens, some have individualized needs for their litter. If your cat starts getting pickier about their litter box, stops using it as regularly, or a new cat won’t use it at all, I recommend a “Litter Box Buffet” to determine the type of box and litter that cat prefers. Set up a variety of types of boxes and litters all in a line—separate locations don’t matter in this particular experiment—and pay attention to which strikes your feline’s fancy. Then, replace the relevant boxes with the preferred choice.

Feliway: The Pharaoh of Pharaoh-Mones

My dear readers, there’s one hidden treasure I must bring to your attention before we part: Feliway. This over-the-counter pheromone product is like the grand protector of your cat’s emotional well-being. It mimics the pheromones cats release from their cheek glands, essentially marking whatever they rub on as “safe.”

It’s like an invisible fortress that tells your cat, “Hey, this place is the bee’s knees, no need to stress.” You can use it during stressful times like vet visits, and even for everyday happiness in your cat’s favorite corners. It’s like the soothing scent of a cheese wheel to a mouse – simply irresistible. Feliway comes in a collar, a spray, and a room plug in. The collar and room plug in each last for about a month at a time. You can use all three, or pick one to two. If the issue is room specific, the plug in and maybe the spray are your best bets. If the issue is more internalized to that cat, definitely go with the collar, and maybe use the spray on a few choice things like their bed or scratch post.

When the Basics Won’t Cut It—Controlling Stress at the Vet

Stressors like vet visits and dreaded car rides can turn even the proudest of cats into frazzled furballs. But fret not; we have some tricks up our tails to help our feline friends find their inner zen. Feliway can definitely work it’s magic here—spraying down the carrier or a towel prior to take off can help remind kitties that they are still safe. Arriving to your appointment on time or just a few minutes early and giving your vet the heads up that your kitty is a bit stressed can help the staff get you into a quiet room soon to avoid nosy canines in the waiting area. Skipping breakfast that morning can help your cat be more willing to take goodies offered during the exam like Temptations treats or Churu.

For those cataclysmic cats that can’t calm despite all of the above, there’s a purr-fect solution – Gabapentin. This prescription medication can help decrease anxiety and stress, allowing our feline friends to travel or undergo necessary check-ups with much less ado. It’s like a little mood booster for those who get jittery about leaving their cozy cat-castle. Talk to your veterinarian about picking up some Gabapentin to give prior to the vet visit. Typically, we will have you give a dose the night before the big event, and then the morning of. This medication can make a few kitties wobbly on their feet, but fear not, it is very safe and it helps keep our vet team safe while we address all your kitty’s health needs.

Feline Stress Complications: Urinary Blockage

Let me remind you of a grave concern – the specter of urinary blockage. This life-threatening complication often stalks young to middle-aged, neutered male, overweight cats. Stress can play a major role in its development, hence this terrifying tangent.

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You see, when cats are stressed, they often drink less water, and this and some other factors can lead their bodies to form crystals or stones in their urinary tracts, leading to blockages. A urinary blockage in any animal is a life-threatening situation that requires immediate veterinary attention. Preventing stress with the measures we’ve discussed can be a key factor in keeping these issues at bay. It’s like protecting your castle from a mouse invasion – stress is the enemy!

A Final Paws for Thought

As we conclude this meow-gical journey into the enchanting realm of cat emotional well-being, I hope you’ve gained some insights into the delicate world of our whiskered friends. Remember, they have their quirks and eccentricities, but beneath that fur and those whiskers, they have a heart that purrs for love, comfort, and serenity.

So, give your furball plenty of safe spaces, cherish your Feliway, and create a stress-free haven for your four-legged friend. And always remember, stress is a mouse’s greatest enemy, just as it can be for your beloved feline.

Until next week, keep your tails high and your spirits higher!

~ Whinny

P.S. In case you missed the news, Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband 3 is out! You can scroll down just a bit to the green banner and click on it to go to the Books page on my website and check it out. And while you’re scrolling down, pause at the purple box and subscribe to this blog, if you haven’t already! You’ll get it a day or two before everyone else, and it will show up right in your email! As Tony used to say: you’re welcome!

Whinny’s Wisdoms is the official blog of Whinny the Clinic Mouse at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Feline Litter Box Issues

Feline Litter Box Issues

Tuesdays with Tony

While litter boxes aren’t always considered “polite” conversation, they are a very important consideration in your feline guardians’ lives. And really, if you can talk about horse poop (and I hear those conversations all day long) then you can talk about cat poop. Work with me here!

ISO 5 bed/5 bath Cat Condo…

A good rule of thumb (or paw, as it were) is to have one more litter box location than the number of cats in the home. Notice I said location; that means that three litter boxes in the garage right next to each other don’t count! If you have one cat, they should have at least two different rooms they can go in to answer nature’s call. Ideally, litter boxes should be in open areas with multiple exit routes. And litter boxes should be cleaned daily. Maybe you think that’s a lot, but just imagine your only toilet option was one that was only flushed every other day–and imagine you had to stand barefoot in it!  

In general, cats prefer large, uncovered, unlined boxes with 2-3 inches of unscented, clumping litter. If your cat doesn’t fall into this preference category, try offering them a “Litter Box Buffet” where you place different combinations of box and litter type all arranged next to each other and let your cat tell you what their preferences are. Avoid putting litter boxes next to loud appliances such as water heaters and dryers, or in dead end areas like linen closets.

Indications of Problems

Oftentimes, the first sign of stress or illness in a normally fastidious feline is “inappropriate” litter box behavior. If you have a cat that starts using other areas of the house instead of the litter box, it’s very important to schedule a veterinary visit to rule out a medical issue before just assuming spite or malice.

If you have a male neutered cat between the ages of 1 and 10, a very important condition to be aware of is feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), also called feline idiopathic cystitis. Cystitis means inflammation of the bladder, and idiopathic means unknown cause. While the important research humans don’t have a definitive cause pinned down, they do know that stress and inadequate water intake are two major players in FLUTD. There is some research to show that cats affected with FLUTD have physiological differences in their stress response.

Cat Stress 

Stress can be hard to assess in my feline brethren. We train from a young age to appear unbothered and aloof on the outside, but it is true that we don’t handle change very well as a species (sound familiar?). A change in routine, new people or pets in the home, or unfamiliar environments (even rearranging the furniture) can all lead to stress which will manifest as litter box issues. Hey, it’s not perfect, but it gets your attention!

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The best thing you can do for your cats, even before you notice litter box issues, is try to prevent and mitigate stress in the environment. Provide plenty of resources: multiple litter box locations, multiple clean fresh water bowls, scratching posts and other vertical locations, and play.

Another helpful tool is a product called Feliway. Have you ever seen one of your cats rubbing their cheek on a wall, coffee table, or you? Well, it’s not just because scritches feel nice. We have scent glands on our cheeks that release a pheromone that sort of marks things as “safe.” It’s a good way to mark our territory (you should feel quite honored if your cat marks you like that). Feliway is a synthetic version of that pheromone and helps extra-anxious cats feel a little less worried. It is an over-the-counter product and comes in a spray, collar, and room diffuser. The room diffuser works great in the rooms where litter boxes are, and the collar stays with the cat so it helps keep any area feeling safer.

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Urethral Blockage

Especially in male cats, FLUTD can progress to a life-threatening condition called urethral blockage, or urinary obstruction. I know humans aren’t as intelligent as cats so I will spell it out very clearly:

If at any time your cat attempts to urinate in the litter box and is unable, they need to go to the emergency vet as soon as possible.

In this condition, the bladder becomes inflamed (remember that cystitis word?) and the inflammation travels down to the urethra. The inflammation and other factors can also lead to the formation of crystals and/or stones. Both of these components can lead to the urethral diameter decreasing to the point of blockage. This prevents the cat from peeing, and when that happens, toxins build up in the body and cause very serious disease.

This is more likely in a male cat because we have longer, narrower urethras compared to female cats. If blockage occurs, your cat must go to an emergency veterinarian and be sedated or anesthetized to have a urinary catheter passed to allow the bladder to empty. He will also likely need at least a day or two of hospitalized care and diagnostics to determine if his kidneys were impacted by the blockage or if he has urinary stones that must be dealt with.

Urinary Stones

The two most common types of stones that we see in the urinary tract are struvite stones and calcium oxalate stones. There are diets that can attempt to dissolve struvite stones, but calcium oxalate stones cannot be dissolved and may need to be removed surgically. These special diets mostly act by acidifying the urine and can also be used to decrease the risk of new stone formation along with increasing water intake.

You Can Lead a Cat to Water

Increasing water intake is an important measure used to prevent stones from recurring. Canned food has a higher water content compared to dry food, plus it tends to be way tastier. Many of us will even allow you to add water to our canned food. Some of us also love a good water fountain, and we absolutely need our bowls kept clean. Our whiskers are quite sensitive, so we prefer they don’t brush the sides of a bowl overly much. Getting wide diameter bowls lets us drink without a sensory overload. If you have a particularly finicky feline, flavoring one of the water bowls with water drained from canned tuna or with a tiny bit of canned food can also encourage water consumption.

I hope I’ve imparted to you the importance of a litter box in your cat’s life. While you may only think about it when you clean it out, we think about it many times a day when we have to use it. Pay attention to your cat’s urinary habits. If you notice a change, it’s because they don’t feel well, and they need to go to the doctor. And if you notice your feline friend completely unable to urinate, it is absolutely vital that they get to an emergency veterinarian, even if it’s a Saturday night and you had plans. After all, what’s more important than your cat? And don’t you dare say your horse…

Until next time,

~ Tony

P.S. Are you subscribed to my blog, or do you rely on Facebook to maybe show you that it’s here? If you aren’t subscribed, all you have to do it scroll down a bit more to the big purple box. Once you’re signed up, you’ll get an email every week with a link to my latest blog. All the very best humans are subscribed. I’m just saying. Scroll down. Purple box. Good human.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Teaching Puppies and Kittens to Love the Vet

Teaching Puppies and Kittens to Love the Vet

Tuesdays with Tony

Listen, my staff are all vets and vet techs, so I do have an… appreciation for them (love may be a strong word), but I recognize that an inherent love for the veterinarian may not be present in all dogs and cats. As the human caretakers of your respective puppies, kittens, and rescued animals, you have the ability to foster a calmness and appreciation for the service providers at the vet clinic from an early age. This is done by acclimatizing your pet to things commonly done at vet visits, including general restraint, looking in ears, eyes, and mouths, and feeling legs and paws.

When you adopt or buy a new pet, it’s very important to bring them for an establishment exam to meet their new veterinarian, even if they aren’t due for vaccines or medications. In fact, making this first visit a positive one with minimal invasive procedures is another great way to foster a positive association with the doctor.

Cats (the superior species, obviously) often don’t go see the doctor enough. All animals should see their doctor at least once per year (just like all people… how’s that going for you, human?), but cats are especially good at hiding signs of disease until they’re very advanced. If they see their doctor yearly or twice yearly for general checkups, there is a very good chance illness can be caught earlier (which makes everything easier to treat).

To make your pet the best patient they can be, make going to the vet a normal part of life. Try out “happy visits.” This is when your pet comes into the clinic but nothing scary happens, just cuddles and treats. Make sure you talk to your vet clinic about this. Most are happy to do them, but they may need to put them on the schedule. Because my veterinary staff have both mobile and in-clinic appointments, they would need to make sure someone was here to appropriately snuggle the cute visitors. You can do happy visits between their regularly scheduled puppy or kitten visits, maybe once a month or every two weeks. But there’s multiple things you can do way more frequently than that.

Play with their paws and ears and open their mouth. Now, I say this mostly echoing what Dr. Speziok tells new puppy and kitten owners, because as a distinguished cat, I don’t *particularly* like my paws, ears, or mouth played with, but I will say it’s nice when it’s not a surprise. Puppies and kittens are new to the world and don’t know what is okay and what isn’t. So, teach them that it’s normal to have their human staff check out their ears, mouth, and paws. This will also help you in the future giving them nail trims.

I find that humans tend to hold puppies and kittens a lot in their first few weeks at home, but then that drops off as they get older and more independent. This results in a pet that’s very used to being held at the 8- or 12-week visit, but a very offended, very boisterous teenager at the 4- and 6-month visits.

There are some simple holds you can practice with your animals at home, and if you pair these with treat time, they will associate this practice with good things. Your goal should be to create positive associations with the things that will happen at the vet. This makes vet visits go smoother, which creates more positive associations! A happy pet at the vet means a happy vet and no barriers to a very thorough exam.

Anyway, the first one to practice is with your pet standing. Put one hand or arm under their belly and the other around the front of their chest, hold them close to your body and just let them stay still for a few minutes. If you have a second human to assist, they can practice looking in ears or eyes or picking up paws while you hold your pet– make sure to give lots of treats! Start small, puppies and kittens have super short attention spans so even 30-45 seconds at a time is helpful. An important note: if your puppy or kitten throws a bit of a tantrum, do your best to let them calm down before you release them. This way they don’t learn that a tantrum is the way to get out of restraint. Unless it’s me, and you should release me immediately. I’m just saying.

photo courtesy of ruralareavet.org

Another hold to practice is fairly simple, but you’d be surprised how little it happens outside the vet clinic. Have your puppy or kitten sit down facing away from you. You can do it on the floor or on a table, depending on how big they are. Use treats to convince them to get in this position and stay there initially, then you can work up to holding them around their chest or gently under their chin. This is usually the position animals have to get into to have their blood drawn, and if it is taught as a “normal” thing that humans sometimes ask them to do, it’s way less scary! This is also the easiest position to pill a dog or cat from, though in this cat’s opinion, you should almost always offer pills in some tasty food, as my human staff do for me.

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photo courtesy of oregonhumane.org

Finally, when your puppy or kitten is already feeling a little rollie pollie, maybe after a meal or a good play session, you can practice restraining them gently on their side. It’s usually best to start this one when they’re already laying down, but all you’ll do is put one arm across their belly and gently grasp their bottom hind leg, then put one arm gently across their neck (no pressure here!) and gently grasp their bottom front leg.

This is probably going to be really confusing at first, but if you have a second human staff member there with some tasty treats, and only hold the position for a few seconds at a time to start, it can quickly become a fun activity. Keeping animals on their sides like this is pretty common during sick vet visits, if they’ve hurt a leg, or if they need a nail trim. It’s a very normal position for animals to take, but what’s not normal if you’re not used to it with the human involvement. Making that a somewhat normal part of life from the beginning will make those future vet visits way more fun for all involved.

Being a human really isn’t that hard, much easier than being a cat, so I hope you don’t mind me adding this homework on to your job as a pet owner. Investing time into comfort with vet visits when pets are young– or new to your care– will pay off with huge returns over the course of their life, as vet visits will be less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone.

Until next week,


P.S. Are you still relying on Facebook to show you my blog each week? Be a good human and subscribe so you can get my wisdom in your email, and a day earlier than everyone else! It’s the big purple box down below. Just scroll down a bit. That’s a good human, you can do it!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Barn Cat Care

Barn Cat Care

Tuesdays with Tony

There’s a new doctor at Springhill Equine. I had to be told she was new though, because she’s been hanging out here for close to four years. I guess she was a vet student until now, but she always takes the time to pet me when she arrives, so she gets my approval. Anyway, the humans call her Dr. Speziok and she’s going to be bringing some other interesting critters to Springhill Equine besides horses and donkeys. She’ll see dogs and cats, goats, sheep, cows, camelids, and pigs in addition to the run of the mill horses we’re used to.

Since there’s going to be other cats besides just me and Teenie coming by, why don’t we talk about veterinary visits for the feline in your life? Some people think cats don’t need to go to the vet, especially if they live inside. I live at a vet clinic and get fussed over all the time, so I never really thought about it, but health care is important for all animals, especially the best animals—cats!


Cats should go to the veterinarian (or have the vet come to them—Dr. Speziok can do that too!) at least once per year as long as they are healthy. When cats start to get into the double-digit years (cough cough Teenie cough) they ideally have a veterinary exam every 6 months for a checkup.


Cats need vaccines, kind of like horses, but -no surprise- cat immune systems are better than horse immune systems, so they need vaccines a little less often. Every kitten should have a few rounds of a combination shot commonly called feline distemper. It actually includes feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia virus which are all a bunch of nasty diseases no self-respecting cat wants to get.

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Kittens also all need to be vaccinated for feline leukemia virus. This disease is way less common than it used to be, so we may not need to continue the vaccine as an adult, but it’s still necessary for the little ones! And then the one we kitties have in common with horses -and most mammals- rabies! Rabies vaccines are required by law and protect us from a deadly disease that we could spread to the humans in our lives.

Adult cats like me need to see their doctor at least once per year for checkups and vaccines, and sometimes need to have dental cleanings. For those, the humans put us under anesthesia, which is great because I would never lower myself to saying “Ahhh” just because I was told to.

Population Control

Every cat and kitten should be spayed or neutered. There is a tremendous overpopulation of cats in the world, and while we’re awesome, we need to make sure there’s enough human caretakers for all of us. Trust me, as a neutered cat myself, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about online dating! Ridding us of the pesky hormones also decreases the chance of reproductive cancers—especially for the lady cats like Teenie. Kittens can start *ahem* procreating as young as 4 months, so get them fixed sooner rather than later if they’re in mixed groups!


The other thing your favorite feline friend needs is monthly flea and heartworm prevention. This is doubly true for those of us that live in the Sunshine State. There are so many of those nasty, itchy, fleas here that the human bug researchers travel here from all over the country to study them. Now, I’ve always gotten my prevention from my minions (I did choose to let a veterinarian provide for my needs) but it turns out you also need to get your cat prevention from their vet. Some of the grocery and feed stores sell cheap knock off products that claim to kill fleas, but they don’t work! Look alike imports often have a different active ingredient, and aren’t actually the same thing at all. Don’t waste your money on knock offs, get the real deal prescription flea and heartworm prevention from your vet, and use the extra cash you save to buy a new scratching post!

Anyway, I’m sure all of us around here will learn a little more about dogs, ruminants, and most importantly, cats now that Dr. Speziok is here. Be sure to let her know if you have any questions. And if your kitty hasn’t seen a doctor in a while, give my team a call to get on her schedule!

Until next week,


P.S. I know you’re subscribed to my blog (the big purple box below) and my YouTube Channel, which has about a hundred videos packed full of free horse knowledge. And since you are, you won’t miss any of the exciting things that are coming up! The humans are really getting into making videos, and you don’t want to miss out on a thing! Lots of excitement happening around here!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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