How Your Pet’s Mental Health Affects Their Overall Well-Being
It’s no secret that mental and physical health are tied closely together in people, and the same holds true for pets. Many pets with mental health problems like boredom, anxiety, fear, and stress are also more likely to have physical health problems. Here are a few of the most common health issues brought on by emotional distress that we see in pets.
#1: Destructive behaviors
When we ask our pets to stay home alone for eight or more hours every day and fail to provide ample enrichment, they become bored and stressed. The saying, “A tired dog is a happy dog,” applies especially to high-energy dogs. Dogs who are meant to work and perform a job quickly become bored with a couch-potato life, which leads them to look for an outlet for their pent-up energy. Most of the time, that outlet is some kind of destructive behavior, like barking too much, chewing on furniture, scratching at doors or walls, or experiencing aggression due to frustration.
#2: Idiopathic cystitis
Although cats appear self-sufficient and strong, they can be fragile. Boredom from a lack of enrichment and play, stress from household changes—cats greatly dislike change—or fear of a bullying housemate can disturb your cat enough to trigger bladder inflammation. Idiopathic cystitis is a painful disease that causes cats to urinate in the wrong places. It is common in young cats. Adult cats who have timid personalities and tend to hide when guests visit, avoid socializing, and lack routine playtime are most prone to developing idiopathic cystitis.
#3: Excessive grooming
Pets who are bored or stressed can develop bad habits, such as overgrooming. Dogs frequently lick their paws obsessively, while cats will pull out their fur and may suffer from excessive hairballs. Overgrooming is often seen when the family is home and everyone is relaxing for the evening, which is when your pet begins their own routine to unwind.
If you sat at a never-ending food buffet and had absolutely nothing else to occupy your time, you’d likely overeat. The same is true for pets, especially cats, who receive little or no environmental enrichment that physically and mentally stimulates them. Encourage your pet to work for their daily meals by using food puzzles, hiding small meal portions throughout your home, and asking them to perform tricks for their kibble. The additional exercise required to work for their meals will not only stimulate your pet, but also help them maintain a healthy body weight and avoid falling into a vicious cycle of overeating, inactivity, and obesity.
Do you think your pet may be exhibiting signs of boredom, stress, or anxiety? Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to boost your furry friend’s mental and overall well-being.