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We all want our cats to be happy, healthy and stress-free, and as a responsible pet parent we do everything we can to make this possible. However, just as stress is a common issue for humans, it can also be a problem for cats. Let’s talk about what causes stress and anxiety in cats, and what you can do about it.
What are the signs?
- Tense body or trembling
- Sensitive to noise and movement
- Over-grooming, pulling out fur resulting in bald patches
- Loss of appetite or vomiting
- Tendency to hide more than usual (e.g. under beds)
- Clingy behaviour
- Urine spraying
- Reluctance to use the litter box
- Excessive vocalisation
These are some of the more obvious indicators that your cat may be stressed, but it’s not always that easy to read the signs, especially if your cat is naturally quiet and shy. As a general rule, if your cat is exhibiting any behaviour that’s unusual for him, see your vet to rule out any underlying medical issues.
Causes of stress and anxiety
If your cat is naturally nervous or a bit of a ‘scaredy-cat’ it could be due to an early trauma or lack of socialisation as a kitten. If however, your cats starts to show signs of stress and anxiety when he’s previously been an otherwise healthy and laid-back cat, you’ll need to try to pinpoint the exact cause of the anxiety before you can start to deal with it. Here are some of the primary causes of stress and anxiety in cats, if you’re struggling to figure out what’s wrong:
- Separation anxiety: Does your cat show signs of stress when he’s on his own, without human or feline company?
- New additions: Have you recently welcomed a new addition to your household, such as a new baby, new partner or new pet? Or, do you have house guests staying?
- Disruption: Has there been a major change in routine in your household, such as moving house or a renovation? Or has there been a divorce or separation, resulting in the absence of a pet parent?
- Traumatic experience: Has your cat had a recent trauma? This could be anything from a companion animal dying, to experiencing a loud party.
- Illness: Just like you and I, your cat is likely to react to pain or sickness, which is why it’s important to rule out illness before you look for other causes of anxiety.
How to reduce stress and anxiety
Once your vet has examined your cat and you’ve ruled out any health issues, you need to try and help your cat overcome the stress he’s feeling. If the cause of your cat’s stress is a physical factor, such as a noisy environment, then you need to remove or change whatever it is that’s causing the anxiety.
You can build your cat’s confidence by engaging in regular playtime and making time for extra cuddles and attention. This will not only reduce your cat’s stress levels and make him feel more at ease, you’ll also strengthen the bond between you and your cat.
You’ll also need to provide a few quiet, hidden places for your cat to retreat to if he feels the need to withdraw to a safe haven. You may have noticed that your cat loves to sit in high places; this is because it gives him a sense of security, so a tall cat tree with a compartment on top is perfect.
An important thing to remember when dealing with a stressed, anxious or scared cat is that cats are highly receptive to their owner’s moods and emotions, so the more calm, relaxed and positive you are, the more you’ll be helping your cat to feel calm and relaxed too.
Have you ever had a scaredy-cat? What did you do to help your cat overcome their stress and anxiety?
Images: John Morton / Tina Lawson / Michael Bentley via Flickr
Really useful advice. Stress can be debilitating for cats. Stress-related behaviours can result in relinquishment to animal shelters, and stress also predisposes to lower urinary tract disease that can become life-threatening in males. I really like your post, if people take on some of the tips here there will be less stressed cats around! I wrote a post over at Creature Clinic called ‘my cat likes to pee on things’ that might also be useful to pet parents with stressed out kitties 🙂
The Swiss Cats says
Loupi is the stress-born cat. He had already be shy and easily stressed. It took 2 years, liters of Feliway, and finally 3 months of Zylkene to make him get used to Zorro (Loupi was 4 years old when Zorro arrived at 5 months old ; Loupi had a sister for 2 years, she disappeared, and was alone since two years). Stress signs was agressivity and fear alternate. Now we’re not BFF but we can live together. Purrs
Kitties Blue says
All good advice. Astrid is our scaredy cat. Mom is continually working with her to re-integrate her into the group and feel safe.
Maxwell, Faraday & Allie says
Smacking lips is another indication. We’ve used Feliway and calming collars at the shelter – and they have helped. Good post!
Playful Kitty says
Great article! Being a pet owner takes a lot of empathy and detective skills. It can be hard to remember that just because something is no big deal to us, does not mean that it won’t be a big deal for our cats. Stress and anxiety can cause a lot of the unwanted behaviors people see in cats. Removing stressors makes for a much better human-cat relationship.
Golden Woofs: Sugar says
Our friend just got a new cat and her older cat is exhibiting “stress” Will share this info to them.