What are Pressure Wraps?

Pressure wraps, a method for treating feline anxiety, have become popular and commercially available recently. A pressure wrap works under the theory that providing gentle pressure to your cat's body will calm them and make them less anxious, much like swaddling a human infant is used to calm a baby. Like swaddling infants, pressure wraps may work for some cats and not for others. They are usually used in specific situations, such as during thunderstorms, veterinarian visits, or anytime a strange or noisy situation is distressing your cat. Veterinarians routinely restrain cats during treatment by wrapping them in a towel, this provides protection for the handlers and for the cat and may, in some cases, give the cat a feeling of security.

Store bought pressure “jackets”, made with elastic fabric and Velcro fastenings, are widely available and there are several different brands on the market. They provide gentle all-over pressure to provide a secure feeling that distributes pressure over chest, back and sides which may relax muscles in some cats. In addition, they provide specific pressure to acupressure points with the goal of relieving anxiety. They are a relatively inexpensive option with no side effects or risks and many pet owners report an improvement in their cat’s distress and anxiety when using pressure wraps.

Pressure Wraps Procedure in Cats

Your veterinarian may recommend a pressure wrap to resolve anxiety when visiting the veterinarian or in other stressful situations.

Several pressure wraps are available commercially. Sizing is based on weight and chest size and ensuring that you obtain the appropriate sized wrap for your cat is very important. It is recommended that you get your cat accustomed to the pressure wrap while in a non-stressful situation and do not fit it snugly at first. The wrap is made with stretchy material and straps that can be adjusted to provide light pressure or increased pressure, depending on what is effective for your cat. Gradually let your cat become accustomed to wearing the pressure wrap and try adjusting pressure to determine what your cat is comfortable with. If the pressure wrap causes your cat distress, do not continue use.

When your cat is accustomed to and comfortable with the pressure wrap you can attempt to use it in a situation your cat would normally find stressful to see if it is effective at calming your cat. 

Efficacy of Pressure Wraps in Cats

No empirical studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of pressure wraps. Many pet owners report that they have a calming effect on their cats. Because all cats are individuals, they may work for some cats and not for others. As they are relatively inexpensive and safe to use, a pet owner with a cat that exhibits excessive anxiety and is difficult to handle in stressful situations may try using a pressure wrap as a possible solution to relieve their cat’s distress. Other treatments for anxiety, such as behavior modification and medication are also available as alternatives. Medication may, however, have unwanted side effects. The use of traditional behavior modification therapy with pressure wrap therapy is recommended for best outcome.

Pressure Wraps Recovery in Cats

If pressure wraps prove effective at calming your cat they can be an effective tool and used whenever your cat is experiencing symptoms of anxiety. If they do not prove effective at calming your cat, or if they cause your cat additional distress, discontinue use.

Cost of Pressure Wraps in Cats

Pressure wraps are available commercially online, from veterinarians, or from pet stores. They are relatively inexpensive and cost between $35 and $40.

Cat Pressure Wraps Considerations

Your cat may or may not respond positively to the use of a pressure wrap. Gradually getting your cat accustomed to the pressure wrap in a non stressful situation will increase your chance of success with this treatment. 

Pressure Wraps Prevention in Cats

You can reduce anxiety in your cat by providing a regular routine, healthy diet, environmental stimulation, and exercise. In disturbing situations such as storms or large gatherings in their home, a cat's natural instinct may be to “hole up”. Providing a cage/den in a quiet, out of the way place with familiar bedding may be adequate to make them feel secure and prevent them from reacting with debilitating anxiety, or disappearing into a hard-to-find location where they may become injured or inaccessible. Getting your cat used to making trips in your vehicle will make vacations and veterinarian appointments less stressful. Providing a cage your cat is used to, that is available to them as a “safe” place, with familiar objects and bedding and taking them routinely for car rides in their cage (den), will help them be comfortable with trips away from their home and in vehicles. Become familiar with behavior modification techniques appropriate for use with cats and use these to address anxious or insecure behaviors before they become problematic.