Stress in Cats

stressed cat

Indications of stress in cats.

Cats, of course, cannot verbally tell us what is upsetting them but there are many ways in which they can indicate their anxiety.

A cat grooming itself excessively, perhaps to the point of causing bald patches, may be an indication that the cat is finding something to be stressful.

Conversely, if a cat that normally keeps itself well groomed suddenly looses interest in cleaning its coat, this too may well be a sign of stress.

Aggression from a normally sociable and well-behaved feline, whether towards you or other humans, or other of your cats or pets, is often a big clue that your cat is stressed.

Stress can be the reason for your cat refusing food, although of course, there are medical reasons for a cat not to eat.

Not using the litter box is often an indication that your cat fears losing territory to another of your cats, or a neighboring cat.

There are many medical reasons that a cat may stop using the litter box, and you should have your cat checked out by the vet if kitty has stopped using the tray, but the cause also may be stress.

gray cat face

Excessive vocalizing, yowling or crying by a normally quiet animal could be another sign of anxiety.

So too could hiding from you, chewing objects, uncharacteristic fearfulness or timidity and withdrawal.

Reasons For Stress in Cats

Like humans, cats get stressed for many different reasons. But most of the reasons for stress and anxiety in cats can be classified with one word - change.

Cats are, for the most part, creatures of habit, they love and understand routine. A change, however small and seemingly inconsequential, may be enough to trigger stress.

Don't give a cat new, don't give a cat different.

Give a cat what they know, give a cat what they are used to. What a cat is comfortable with is unlikely to cause anxiety.

Someone arrives, someone leaves, result - stress in cats!

Got a new partner? Congratulations. But your kitty may not see the new relationship as something to celebrate.

It means that a stranger is living in her home, or visiting regularly.

It may not matter if your new partner is kind to your feline, kitty's stress about this change could manifest itself in many ways.

Someone new in your life invariably means changes in your routine. You are out of the house more and at different times, you may change the time of day that you cook and eat.

cat with narrow eyes image
Many things that cats do can be an indication that the cat is stressed or fearful. But before you assume that a change in your pet’s behavior is due to anxiety, you should consult your veterinarian to ensure that the behavior is not due to a medical reason.

Changes to your routine often means changes to your cat's routine, the result - anxiety for your cat.

Your cat could become aggressive and not just with the 'stranger.' Or, start forgetting to use the litter box, or become shy and withdrawn, or become a little mischief-maker.

What can you do about it?

Well, dumping a new partner may be too extreme a measure to end your cat's stress. Instead try giving your cat a little extra fuss and attention.

Let her know by petting her that she is still loved even though there is a new human that is getting a lot of your attention.

A little play session with her every day will go a long way to reassure her and make her less anxious.

With patience and time your cat will get used to your new partner and your cat's familiar personality should return.

Likewise the arrival of a new baby will mean plenty of changes to the house, your routine and your cat's routine.

Cats can accept babies without becoming stressed out, especially if you find a little time for extra attention for kitty.

How about when someone leaves the home? One of the kids is off on a trip, or to university, or moving out to their own apartment.

Marriage breakup means that your partner moves out of the family home, or perhaps someone in the house has passed away.

Cats don't understand the reason why someone is not there but someone not being there is change, and change means stress in cats.

You changed something. . .

you moved the litter boc

There was a special on cat litter, not the usual brand, but it looked just the same. It may be just the same to you but to your cat it's different, even if it just smells different.

So how does your cat let you know about her distress? The most effective way that she can, by not using her litter box.

Easy one to fix, go back to using the litter your cat knows and loves.

You moved the litter box. It makes more sense for it to be here instead of there, trouble is it doesn't make more sense to your cat, she was happy with it there and now that it's here it's causing her disquiet and she won't use it.

What do you do?

If the reason for moving the tray was pretty inconsequential it may be simplest to just move it back and have a happy cat once again. But if there is good reason for the new location it may not make sense to move the litter box back to stop your cat from being stressed out.

It may be possible to move the tray by stealth. Moving it just a little nearer to its new spot day by day.

This will not work with all cats but with some you may be able to make the change bit by bit without stressing out kitty.

The change of location may not be the only thing that stresses your cat. The new location may be noisy, if so, is there anything that you can do to reduce the noise?

The new home for the tray may become acceptable for your cat with a little time. Give her plenty of praise if she does use it and never punish her if she doesn't.

 cat peeping image
Cats are creatures of habit, they love and understand routine. A change, however small, may be enough to cause stress in cats.

You changed the furniture around, bought a new sofa, threw out that old coffee table to create more space.

You might think that your cat would never even notice such things, let alone be upset about them, but it's all change and some cats will be dismayed by it. Again give time to adjust and a bit of extra love.

You moved house! Well it's not just cats that get stressed by relocating, we all do.

On top of the anxiety caused by being in a strange place your mouser may be affected by the stress coming from you and others.

Let your pet get used to her new surroundings slowly.

Confine your cat to one room at first, surround her with familiar stuff, her toys, scratching post etc. After a couple of days or so leave the door open, let her explore if she wants and where she wants.

She may be nervous of checking out the entire house at once. Let her take her own time. Patience and praise is the key. Learn more about moving to a new house with a cat.

Other cats causing stress.

If you have a cat that is showing signs of tension and yours is a multi-cat household, there may have been a change in the hierarchy.

Perhaps another of your felines has made a play for the position of alpha-cat. Not much you can do to reduce the stress except be patient until the cat accepts her new position.

Has a strange cat been sneaking in through the pet door? This invasion of your cat's territory can cause her much anxiety and affect her behavior long after the invading cat has left.

If you think this could be happening try fitting a pet door with a magnetic catch that only operates by a signal from your cat's collar.

New cats or dogs in the neighborhood can make your cat anxious or fearful. If one animal in particular is upsetting your cat try and see if something can be worked out with its owner.

Providing your cat with a safe bolt-hole will go a long way to make her feel less threatened.

For an indoor only cat to see a strange cat from a window cat be a stress factor. Simply drawing the drapes and blocking your cat's view can end the upset.

Being stressed may be a trigger for, or increase the severity of, feline asthma for cats that suffer the condition.

Urine marking or spraying (not to be confused with not using the litter box) is one way in which cats mark their territory.

But what of cats that suddenly start to do this inside the home? Is this another sign of stress in cats? Find how you can deal with it here - Cat Spraying

Is it possible a Feliway Diffuser could help with relaxing an anxious cat? Here are a few of the products available that contain the calming cat pheromone.

Related Pages

Cat Bathing
Cats do a very good job of keeping themselves clean, so is cat bathing at all necessary? In what circumstances is it a good idea to bathe your cat?

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