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Have you noticed your cat slipping out of sight when company drops by? Or avoiding interacting with other pets in your home? This perfectly normal feline response occurs when cats perceive a potential risk to their safety/survival. However, you can keep your kitty purring with a simple strategy: provide it a safe place.

A cat withdraws from conditions it considers threatening or unfamiliar, including strange smells, loud noises, unfamiliar objects, and/or unknown or disliked animals. However, when your cat’s home has safe places, your cat will remain calm and quietly (and quickly) excuse himself.

The Environmental Needs Guidelines from The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) will be published in the March issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.

Dr. Hazel C. Carney, WestVet’s Feline Behaviorist, is one of eight specialty veterinarians who contributed to the new Guidelines that center on five primary “pillars” of a healthy feline environment in a home, shelter or veterinary hospital. You may access the full document HERE.

In this blog post, we’ll address the first Pillar, “Provide a Safe Place.”

A cat defines a safe place as a private and secure area, often in a raised location. Your cat is seeking enclosure, isolation and/or seclusion. Even if the cat’s whole body is not concealed, if the cat feels like it cannot be seen, it will feel safer. (You may have seen amusing photos online featuring cats peeking through foliage, from around the curtains, or from behind a too-small obstacle; the cat feels concealed even when we can still see most of him.)

My cat has claimed a few “safe places” in our home. His favorite is in the corner of a remote shelf. When we noticed him peeking out at us from the shelf on a regular basis, we added some old bedding and have let him retreat there whenever he wants.

Owners can simply—and inexpensively—create safe places for their feline friends. For example, cardboard boxes, an open carrier, the bottom half of an old pet carrier, a perch— all provide the safety and security that your cat seeks. Having a diffuser filled with the feline facial pheromone near the safe place will calm your cat even more.

If you are an owner of multiple cats, ensure that any safe places you create have multiple ways to enter and exit, this ensures that another cat cannot block the only entrance. Keep the safe areas separated from each other and in different locations around your cat’s home.

Your cat will thank you –and be happier, calmer and healthier.

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