Although known for their independent nature, cats can indeed experience anxiety and stress. This can manifest due to various triggers which we’ll cover in this article. Although minimising the occurrence of said triggers can help reduce the impact, some specific stressors may be unavoidable.
What is vital, however, is your approach to their stress. As a pet parent, it’s our duty of care to help create the most relaxed and safe living environment for them.
So if you’re asking yourself, ‘Is my cat stressed out?‘, keep reading to learn more about the causes of stress in cats, the signs to look out for, and several ways you can help calm an anxious or stressed cat.
Some common triggers for cat anxiety include:
- Environmental changes:
Moving house can disrupt a cat’s sense of security and familiarity, just as new additions to the home or even the removal of members. This can include introducing new pets, family members (eg. a new baby), or the absence of a familiar companion (human or animal).
- Loud noises:
Thunderstorms or fireworks are known stressors for animals. Sudden loud noises can startle and stress cats, as can constant loud sounds from construction or renovations.
- Change in routine:
Cats (and dogs) often thrive on routine. Altering their feeding or playtime schedules can make them feel somewhat disoriented and therefore stressed. They can also become anxious when their owners are away for extended periods. This is a big reason why house visits can be a great help if you’re busy.
- Health issues:
Being sick or recovering from an injury can cause stress in cats. Alternatively, if they’re in pain or discomfort due to an underlying health issue, your cat may exhibit stress behaviours. Where you believe this may be the case, a trip to the Vet is strongly recommended.
- Social stress:
No one likes confrontation, including cats! Sharing space or feeling threatened by other cats or animals in the home can stress them out and evoke territorial behaviour. The good news is that certain techniques can help when introducing your cat to another pet.
- Visits to the Vet:
A trip to the Vet is one of the most common anxiety-inducing activities a cat will experience. The unfamiliar environment, handling, and procedures during vet visits will almost certainly see them showing signs of stress.
- Litter box issues:
Dirty or unmaintained litter boxes, any changes in litter type, or even just the particular location of their litter tray can stress cats, leading to inappropriate elimination.
- Pheromonal changes:
Changes in the household scents due to new furniture, cleaning products, or even changes in the household members’ scents is also a cause for anxiety in cats.
- Traumatic experiences:
Previous traumatic experiences, such as abuse or accidents, can cause long-term anxiety in cats.
- Socialisation and unfamiliar people:
Cats may feel anxious or stressed when encountering unfamiliar visitors or guests. This is particularly common around the festive season or at family get-togethers at home.
Recognising the signs of anxiety in your feline friend is the initial step in providing them with the comfort and care they need.
Signs of an anxious or stressed cat
Understanding your cat’s body language and activity will help to interpret how they’re feeling and therefore if you need to intervene to help calm and reassure them. Below are some common traits they may exhibit when stressed or anxious.
- Hiding or withdrawal: Anxious cats often seek seclusion. They might hide under furniture or in secluded spots around the house, preferring solitude when feeling stressed. This may be why sometimes you may notice (or hear from others) that cats like to hide in boxes!
- Excessive grooming: Over-grooming, leading to bald patches or skin irritations, can be a sign of anxiety in cats. They might groom obsessively as a coping mechanism.
- Aggression or avoidance: Some cats exhibit aggressive behaviour when anxious, while others might avoid interactions or lash out when approached, indicating their discomfort.
- Excessive meowing: A cat’s meow is their way of communicating, so an increase could be their way of telling you they’re distressed.
- Persistent pacing: An anxious cat will be less likely to remain still, so pacing incessantly is something to watch out for. A puffed up tail can also be a physical sign of fear, nervousness, or stress.
- Urinary Issues: Stress can manifest in urinary problems like urinating outside the litter box or frequent urination.
- Changes in appetite: An anxious cat might either overeat or lose interest in food altogether, leading to weight fluctuations.
How to calm an anxious or stressed cat
Create a safe space: Designate a quiet, cosy area for your cat with their bed, toys, and hiding spots. This safe haven provides a retreat during times of stress.
Routine and consistency: Maintaining consistent feeding times, play sessions, and grooming routines will help provide a sense of security and stability for your kitty.
Environmental enrichment: Engage your cat with interactive toys, scratching posts, and climbing structures to keep them mentally stimulated and alleviate stress.
Veterinary approved supplements: Consider using supplements specifically designed to help cats manage stress, such as PRO PLAN Veterinary Calming Care. This supplement contains a probiotic strain known to support calm behaviour in cats. Administered as per the provided guidelines, they can aid in promoting a sense of relaxation in your pet.
Containing bifidobacterium longum (BL999), a probiotic strain shown to help blunt cortisol response to anxious events, and support a healthy immune system. Results can be seen within a 6 week period, with improvement in anxious behaviours (such as pacing)*. What’s best about PRO PLAN Veterinary Calming Care Probiotic for cats is that it’s so easy to administer. Simply sprinkle a pre-portioned sachet onto their meal. It’s as simple as that!
Aromatherapy and comforting techniques: Some cats respond well to calming scents like lavender or chamomile. Additionally, gentle massages or using pheromone diffusers designed for cats can have a calming effect.
Consult a Veterinarian: If your cat’s anxiety persists or worsens, seeking advice from a veterinarian is crucial. They can provide tailored guidance, rule out underlying health issues, and recommend additional treatments or behavioural therapies.
Recognising and addressing anxiety in cats is essential for their overall well-being.
Understanding the signs of stress, providing a calming environment, incorporating behavioural strategies, and considering supplements like PRO PLAN Veterinary Calming Care can help alleviate your cat’s anxiety. Remember, every cat is unique, so finding the right combination of techniques may take time.
With patience and care, you can help your feline friend live a happier, more relaxed life.
* Davis H., Franco P., Gagné J., et al. Effect of Bifidobacterium longum 999 supplementation on stress associated findings in cats with feline herpesvirus 1 infection. ACVIM Forum 2021 Proceedings