Cats Can Get Stressed Too! Helping Your Cat to Relax

relaxed catDid you know that cats can suffer from stress too? Here’s how to tell if your cat is affected by stress and anxiety, and how you can help your pet to relax.

Why Cats Get Stressed

Chronic stress can be more problematic for cats whose mothers were distressed during pregnancy. This can make some cats more susceptible to the effects of stress.

Environment will often play a big role and many cats become stressed due to the presence of other cats in their domain. This can be in the same household or just in the same neighbourhood.

Cats can also get stressed if you are requesting more attention from them than they are willing to give. This can be particularly true for cats who did not receive much socialization as small kittens.

Indoor cats can also become anxious due to their restrictive environment and lack of outdoor time. A lack of physical and mental stimulation can have knock-on effects for mental health and wellbeing.

Changes to your cat’s regular routine can also encourage anxiety. Cats are generally creatures of habit and do not react well to disruption. Visitors and new additions to the household can be common reasons for anxiety.

Recognising the Signs of Chronic Stress

Acute stress usually occurs after a threat has been sensed and is usually extremely obvious. Signs can include crouching on all fours, shaking, fully dilated pupils and vocal miaowing, hissing or growling.

Chronic stress can be harder to gauge, especially as how your cat may react will often depend on their personality. For example, some cats will demonstrate appetite loss and stop grooming themselves whereas others will overeat and engage in excessive grooming.

Lethargy, hiding, aggression, inappropriate urination and/or defecation, a heightened sense of awareness (appearing nervous and jumpy) and a reluctance to play can also be signs of stress. Generally speaking, unexplained changes regarding your cat’s behaviour can indicate that they are feeling stressed and anxious.

NB: However, some of these symptoms could also be due to health issues so it is vital to consult your vet to rule out medical problems. This way, you’ll know whether your cat is actually ill rather than stressed out.

Helping Your Cat to Be Less Stressed

You can’t remove all potential causes of stress for your cat but you can make sure that you are not creating unnecessary stress:

Environment: If your cat spends a lot of time indoors, it’s important to keep them stimulated and happy so that boredom and frustration is less of an issue. Toys and play time opportunities are crucial, especially if your cat will also be home alone during the day. Even something as simple as installing cat towers or a perch for your cat to use as a vantage point for looking out of the window can be useful for wellbeing. These also allow your cat to place themselves out of the way of “threats” so that feel less uncomfortable.

Contact: If your cat is already feeling anxious, uninvited fuss can actually cause more stress. It can therefore be better to let your cat initiate contact on their own terms so that you are not inadvertently causing distress by “comforting” your pet.

Separate Resources in Multi-Cat Households: If you have more than one cat, don’t expect them to eat and toilet in the same places as each other. Each cat should have their own food and water bowls and litter trays, plus one extra litter tray.

Offer Hiding Places: Make sure that your cat has access to hiding places that they can retreat to in times of stress and anxiety.

Feliway Diffusers: These can help to create a soothing and calming environment for your cat. They work by mimicking cat pheromones. Catnip is another option for helping to de-stress your cat.

Anti-anxiety Medications: If nothing else works and you’re still worried about your cat’s anxiety, speak to your vet about the possibility of using anti-anxiety medication for a short while to tackle stress.

[Photo Credits: tomblois]