Unwelcome Petting Can

Cause Stress, a Study Says
This will come as a shock to owners who enjoy petting their cats. Some cats like being petted and purr in delight; others only tolerate it. In fact, according to a study by an international team of animal behaviorists, when owners impose themselves on cats to pet them, the cats experience stress and release hormones linked to anxiety.

The researchers set out to study how cats cope when living with humans and other cats in single households. They said that despite cats’ history as living alone in the wild, the study found they can live happily together in groups. The scientists measured stress hormones of cats living alone, in pairs and in groups of three or four in what they described as stable homes. They found to their surprise:

– The number of cats in a household was not necessarily a problem.

– Cats younger than 2 years old who were the sole feline in the home were more stressed than younger ones living in larger groups.

– Cats who avoided being petted were less stressed than those who reluctantly allowed themselves to be handled.

“It seems that those cats on whom the owner imposes him or herself are the ones we need to be most concerned about,” says researcher Daniel Mills, BVSc, Ph.D., at the University of Lincoln in Lincolnshire, England.

“Many people keep groups of cats in their home, and although they might seem happy together, some people have argued that, because this is an unnatural set-up, it is not good for their welfare. Our research shows this is not necessarily the case. It seems even if they are not best friends, cats may be able to organize themselves to avoid each other without getting stressed.”

The results underscore the importance of owners giving individual cats control over their environment, Dr. Mills says, suggesting that they give the cats the choice of sharing or having their own areas to eat, drink
and eliminate.

Scientists from the University of Sao Paulo and the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna also participated in the study, published in the journal Physiology and Behavior.

The Cost of Accidents
In analyzing the 1.1 million claims it received in 2012, Veterinary Pet Insurance identified allergies, ear infections, vomiting and bladder infections as among the most common ailments.
When it determined the top 10 cat and dog medical conditions related to accidents, soft tissue injuries topped the list. Bruising usually resulted from falling, running and jumping, with the typical office visit costing $169. The other common conditions associated with accidents by ranking:

2. Cruciate (knee) ligament injuries without surgery
3. Cuts or bite wounds
4. Scratch or wound on the eye
5. Cruciate ligament injury with surgery
6. Mouth trauma or fractured tooth
7. Sprain or joint injury
8. Abrasions or superficial injury
9. Foreign object ingestion
10. Torn or injured nail

Accidents accounted for 10 percent of all claims in 2012 and totaled $37 million paid to policyholders.

Although many pet accidents can’t be prevented, owners can take steps to decrease the risk, VPI says. Among them: being aware of your pet’s surroundings to avoid environmental dangers, such as poisonous plants, and supervising your pet’s physical activity and interaction with other animals. ❖