It may be that in many of these cases, the body reacts to stress by producing a change in the immune system – perhaps in anticipation of an injury so that the body is ready to react if a problem occurs.
However, if the stress or does not go away and the cat is subjected to constant levels of stress, the body continues in this mode. A free living or feral cat may be able to resolve this by removing itself from the situation – be it another cat, changes to its environment, lack of stimulation and boredom or another reason.
Cats that live with usmay not be able to do so quite so easily. Those cats that have access to the outdoors may remove themselves to the garden for quite long periods when a new cat is introduced and gradually get to know and (hopefully) accept it. For cats that cannot go out or have no where with in a house to retreat to, the stress continues. Likewise a cat thatis suffering from over attachment cannot resolve the problem if it has no access to company.
The study of how stress affects our pets is a relatively new area. We know it affects behaviour and now are beginning to be able to pinpoint some of its effects on health.
The above examples may be joined by many more as our knowledge improves. Measuring stressis not straight forward – there are biochemical parameters we can measure but none gives a direct answer – we must combine all themethods we can to pick up the clues as to how our cats are feeling and to help them if they are suffering.
This should become a joining of veterinary and behavioural studies, as both disciplines can feed into and learn from the accumulated knowledge, applying it to help cats recover physically as well as mentally. Pet owners too can pickup the signals if they know what to look for and what to avoid.