Cat stress (also known as feline stress) can be a fairly serious condition. Furthermore, stress and anxiety are related concepts when you’re discussing cat behavior and health. As loving pet owners, no one wants to see their cat stressed out or in discomfort.
Let’s explore how to identify our cats’ stress and what we can do about it.
Why Do Cats Get Stressed Out?
Many factors can affect your cat’s mental wellbeing. Just like people, feline stress can be a multi-faceted and complicated issue. Sometimes, it’s not clear what’s causing them stress!
Here are some common stressors that may cause your cat to freak out:
- Changes to Their Environment – This can include introducing moving to a new location, adding new members to the family (like an infant), or altering their physical environment (re-arranging their living space). For example, introducing another cat to the household can trigger an instinct to compete for resources, like food and water bowls.
- Changes to Their Daily Routine – Routines vary from cat to cat, but most felines are habitual creatures. Changing their regular groove may affect them negatively.
- Lack of Healthy Stimulation – Most animals need to feel challenged and stimulated to stay healthy. If you keep your cat in a barren environment without any toys, it can lead to stress. It’s also important to remember that hunting, territorial defense, and scratching are normal behaviors. Your cat has a predatory instinct, so it’s essential to give them an outlet for this drive.
- Inadequate Socialization – Although it may not seem like it at times, cats are social animals whose health depends on a stable relationship with their owners and other animals in the household. If your cat doesn’t feel comfortable around members of the house, they’ll get stressed out.
- Visits to the Veterinarian or Groomer – This is a big one! Remember, our cats are sensitive creatures. Traveling in a car or being handled by strangers can stress them out, not to mention being poked and prodded by a veterinarian.
- Chronic Pain or Illness – Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, long term pain or illnesses can equate to stress for felines. Normal checkups can help to discover these issues early and fix the problem before it escalates.
As you can see, there are several reasons why your cat may become anxious or stressed. But what does this mean? How does it affect them?
What Does Stress Do To Cats?
If you suspect that your cat is stressed or suffering from anxiety, you may wonder how this affects your cat. Stressed cats are more susceptible to health issues than relaxed, happy cats. Chronic stress can also dramatically change your cat’s behavior.
Let’s look at what stress can do to your furry friend:
- Owner-Directed Aggression – This is a widespread behavioral problem. It’s often seen in cats that come from pet stores or have not received adequate socialization with people. It can also occur in indoor cats that don’t have an outlet for their predatory instincts.
- Obesity – Remember how we mentioned that it’s essential to keep your cat occupied with healthy activities? If your cat lacks proper stimulation, eating can become their new favorite activity (you see similar behavior in humans). If your cat overeats, they will become obese and suffer all the related health problems.
- Feline Lower Urinary Tract Infection (FLUTI) – This term refers to a constellation of disorders affecting a cats’ lower urinary tract (the bladder and urethra). It has many potential causes, although stress is one of the major ones.
- Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC) – This is an inflammatory condition in the bladder that is a type of FLUTI. It is usually triggered by the introduction of another cat to the household or a new human.
- Gastrointestinal Distress – If your cat is stressed out, it may exhibit symptoms associated with gastrointestinal distress, including loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting.
- Upper Respiratory Symptoms – This can include many symptoms, including eye/nose discharge and sneezing. Stress can even reactivate a previously dormant herpes virus infection (a similar situation can occur in humans).
- Skin Issues – This stressful symptom is quite common amongst felines. Various dermatological conditions may start or intensify in times of stress, like the appearance of dry, itchy skin and rashes. This is especially true in cats suffering from allergies.
The consequences of cat stress can be a real pain. However, it’s pretty astonishing to think that humans can exhibit these same symptoms if they are subjected to stress. As you can see, our pets can share several different qualities with us!
8 Signs of Cat Stress
So now we’ve established why stress occurs and what it does to our beloved cats. What are some signs we should look out for?
1) Urination Outside of Their Litter Box
Though we may think that our cat is purposefully disobedient, it’s more likely that they’re trying to tell us something. These accidents are also referred to as improper elimination.
2) Gastrointestinal Symptoms
Tummy troubles are usually the first sign that something is wrong. Keep an eye out for diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting.
3) Compulsive Grooming
It’s perfectly natural for cats to groom themselves, but if it becomes compulsive and destructive, then it means they’re likely suffering from stress. For example, if they’ve licked themselves bald or raw, that would be considered excessive/compulsive grooming.
4) Excessive Sleep
We all know that cats like to relax, but it’s important to remember that they need a certain amount of activity to stay healthy. Too many cat naps can signal stress.
Aggressive behaviors could be directed towards humans or other animals.
While many people joke that cats are not social animals, it’s unusual for a domesticated cat to isolate themselves completely. Your cat may be trying to avoid a stressor by hiding.
7) Loss of Appetite
Remember, cats are naturally habitual creatures, so pay attention if they suddenly eat less food.
8) Excessive Vocalization
Pay attention if your cat starts meowing in a panicked manner, especially if they’re usually quiet.
Some of these symptoms may seem like common sense, but it can be hard to detangle these signs from your cat’s usual behavior. If your cat suddenly starts acting differently, something is probably bothering them.
Although these behaviors don’t necessarily signal stress, as a responsible pet owner, you should always be on the lookout for telltale signs of trouble. We love our cats and would never want anything to hurt them!
Feline Stress & Relieving Remedies
So, you’ve discovered your cat is a mess of stress. The next step is to take action. So, how do we promote calmness for our cats?
Here are some simple home remedies that can significantly reduce your cat’s nerves:
1) Install a scratching post/board. Don’t forget that your cat needs plenty of stimulation, and scratching is a perfectly natural type of feline behavior.
2) Consider the litter box! Although it may sound silly, it’s important to remember that the litter box is a critical aspect of cat ownership. This fact is especially true if you have a multi-cat household. In these cases, there must be at least one litter box per cat. Keeping it clean also makes for a happier pet.
3) Give them cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is a non-intoxicating compound that can help promote overall calmness and relaxation in cats. It’s available in many forms, including treats, tinctures, or CBD spray (sometimes with other relaxing herbs like catnip or valerian).
4) Put perches up. Cats like to explore their surroundings and are natural climbers. Perches provide them with a space of their own and quality mental stimulation.
5) Create hiding places. Much like scratching posts and perches, hiding places help your cat maintain its predatory instinct. Hiding spots also make your cat feel safer – you might even want to consider a cardboard box for your cat!
6) Feed them quality cat food. Your cat’s diet affects their overall health. Make sure you feed your cat balanced meals that satisfy their nutritional requirements. Also, try and give them some variety, so they don’t get bored.
7) Make sure they’re always hydrated. Being dehydrated will induce stress in any pet, so make sure your cat always has enough water. Plus, if a cat sees they don’t have any water, it could trigger a survival instinct that’s likely to stress them out.
8) Avoid suddenly changing their environment. Remember that your cat is sensitive to its environment, so try not to change too much too quickly. If it’s unavoidable, then try to do it incrementally and be sure to use other methods to offset the stress they’ll likely have.
9) Play with them! This is a fun one. Be sure you play with your cat, or at the very least, give them plenty of toys and mental stimulation.
10) Show them lots of love. It’s easy to forget that cats need us just as much as we need them, so be sure you show them plenty of attention and love.
Final Thoughts – Cat Stress
So there you have it! As you can see, cat stress can be a serious condition. However, there are plenty of ways for you to combat it.
As responsible and loving cat owners, it’s up to us to pay attention to our cats’ behaviors and determine if something is stressing them out. Once we see that they’re in distress, it’s up to us to remedy the situation.