A safe place for a cat is a private, secure area where it can retreat to and feel protected. They are often in a raised location and give a sense of enclosure, isolation or seclusion. They need to be somewhere that the cat is unable to view potential threats, thereby helping it feel safe and secure.
By having the option to withdraw, a cat is able to exert some control over its environment. Ideally there should be at least one ‘safe place’ for every cat in its environment, and we should all be providing hiding places around the home and in the practice.
12 suggestions to help your feline patients feel safe and secure
- Cardboard boxes - placed in an elevated position with easy access and a view of the rest of the room. You can cut an access hole into the box or simply place it on its side.
- Cat carriers – the more enclosed carriers work best as they allow the cat to hide. If you use an open wire carrier, place a blanket over the top to provide some protection and cover.
- Familiar smells – smells are an important means of communication to cats, and providing a familiar scent will go a long way to help make a cat feel relaxed. By using the cat’s own bedding or an article of clothing with the scent of a familiar person you will help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Avoid the consulting table – many cats can be fully examined whilst remaining in their carrier. Many baskets can have their lids removed or even be fully dismantled, thereby enabling you to make a thorough examination whilst letting the cat sit relaxed on its bedding.
- Perches and shelves – cats love to look down from on high. If possible provide perches in cages that will allow the animal to stretch out fully and relax.
- Outside access – in a home environment it's ideal if a cat can have free access to safe places outside. Some owners prefer to use an outdoor enclosure whilst others may prefer to use a harness and lead to walk their pet.
- Entry and exits - in multi-cat households, stress can be reduced if more than one cat flap is provided as it will allow full access if one is temporarily blocked by another cat.
- The more the merrier – there should be at least as many safe places as there are cats, and in the ideal world, one more than there are cats.
- Consider older cats - they may have limited mobility, so boxes and shelves should be placed at a relatively low height or at levels that can be reached using a step or ramp.
- Cat only wards - all veterinary practices should aim to keep cats hospitalised in wards that are away from the noise and sight of dogs, thereby reducing fear and stress.
- Monitor and observe – whilst being hospitalised, a cat still needs to be visible and easy to monitor. Hidden portable cameras linked via Wifi are readily available these days and can help you keep an eye on a recovering patient without the stress of too much disturbance.
- Tell others – talk to your clients and encourage them to make feline friendly ‘safe places’ to hide all around the home.
Burgess Feline Diets