Despite their rather laissez-faire attitude towards pretty much everything, cats can get stressed quickly and for a lot of reasons. Knowing what signs to look out for and how to calm your cat will reduce unnecessary anxiety and stress and prevent more severe health issues down the line.
Carry on reading to find out how to recognise the signs of a stressed or anxious cat, how best to calm it down. As an added bonus, we have included 5 of the best calming products currently available on the market that come highly recommended.
Signs Your Cat Is Stressed
Stressed cats will show physical and behavioural symptoms. More often than not, if you notice your cat is ‘out of sorts’ or acting odd, there is a good chance it is stressed about something.
Physical signs your cat is stressed
While your cat may not be able to tell you that it is feeling anxious or stressed out, there is a wide range of physical symptoms to look out for. These include:
- Loss of appetite
- A condition called pica, which is the eating of non-food items
- Increase in appetite or excessive thirst
- Lack of energy
- Cat flu (i.e. runny nose and eyes)
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Bald patches as a result of overgrooming
- A slow recovery rate from an illness
- Chronic health symptoms getting worse
- Lacklustre coat
- Less time in the litterbox (not as much peeing or pooping)
- Cystitis (difficulty peeing and blood in the urine)
Behavioural signs of a stressed cat
If nothing else, cats are creatures of habit, which means any changes in their routine or normal behaviour may be a sign that something’s not quite right. Common symptoms to be aware of include:
- Aggressive behaviour towards family members or other pets in the home
- Not using the litter box
- Marking its territory in and around the house
- Constant meowing
- Demanding more attention from you
- Interacting less with you
- Over or under-responsive to sudden movements or loud noises
- Hiding away
- Overgrooming or rapid grooming
- Constant head shaking
- Flattened ears
- Constant licking or flicking of the nose with its tongue
Although these are the most common physical and behavioural signs of anxiety in a cat, your pet may display various symptoms. Our advice is to always keep an eye out for changes, whether in your cat’s daily routine, health, or the way it is behaving.
What Causes Stress In Cats?
Cats don’t handle change well at all, and it doesn’t take much for them to feel anxious or stressed. We have listed some of the most common stressors that can tip your cat over the edge.
Common stressors for cats
1. New additions to the family
Whether you bring a new baby home or add a new pet to the family, you must plan ahead and give your cat time to adjust. Even new partners need to understand that your cat will take time to get used to him or her. Whatever you do, don’t force your cat into a relationship.
2. Moving house
One of the major sources of anxiety for cats is moving, leading to severe changes in their behaviour and physical condition. If you want to make this process as relaxed as possible for your kitty, we suggest you take a look at this article. It includes 11 helpful tips to keep your cat cool, calm and collected before, during and after the big move.
3. Changes in routine
A change to your or your cat’s routine can also cause anxiety. We suggest you take the time a week beforehand to prepare your moggy for any significant changes. For example, if you will be away from home during the day, you should start leaving your pet on its own for short periods.
Gradually increase the time you are out so that your kitty can adapt to the changes slowly. When you get home, set time aside to play with your cat.
4. Loud noises
Celebrations that include fireworks are incredibly stressful for cats, as are parties with loud music and lots of talking. Even the constant ringing of a doorbell can have the coolest of cats strung out and anxious.
5. Car trips
For many cats, a car trip usually means a visit to the vet, which is extremely stressful. If this sounds like your furry feline, we recommend using a carrier to keep it calm during the journey. Remember to place your cat’s favourite toy and blankie in the carrier and cover it with a blanket or towel to reduce your cat’s stress levels.
6. Whisker fatigue
Okay, so we know cats can be highly strung, but stressed whiskers too? When we talk about whisker stress or whisker fatigue, we don’t mean your cat’s whiskers are stressed or tired in the traditional sense.
Instead, it’s when its whiskers are overused and become sensitive. This condition can lead to all sorts of physical and behavioural issues.
7. Age or illness
Senior cats or those with a severe illness cope better in a calm and quiet environment with little to no changes. It isn’t a good idea to introduce a new kitten or puppy into the home at this stage in your pet’s life. If you have small children, it may be a good idea to chat with them about how they can help keep the furry family member calm during this time.
8. Redirected aggression
Although you might not have heard about redirected aggression, there is a good chance you’ve seen it in action. It usually happens when a cat looks out the window and spots a cat, dog or another animal through the glass. Frustrated that it can’t get outside to protect its territory, the cat will turn and attack whoever is close by.
9 Effective Ways To Calm A Cat
Identifying the source of your cat’s anxiety is the first and most crucial step in calming it down. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes it can be a combination of stressors. Carry on reading to find out the 9 ways you can calm your cat when its anxiety levels are at their highest.
1. Spend time playing with your cat
While it is not a good idea to try and engage your cat in playtime when it is in a stressed state, spending quality time playing with your pet can relieve ongoing stress. Cats that don’t get enough mental and physical stimulation are prone to stress-related illnesses. So grab that lure toy, and get playing. We can’t think of a better way to calm your cat and yourself down.
2. Help your cat feel safe
Just being there for your cat can help take its mind off of stressful situations, but you mustn’t make it feel smothered. As humans, it is our natural response to want to hold and cuddle someone in distress, but you have to think differently when it comes to your cat.
If you see your pet is anxious, you need to give them the space they need to relax. Trying to calm a cat down when it is stressed will only make the situation worse.
3. Cats need their own safe space
Providing your cat with its own safe space to get away from it all will reduce its anxiety. We recommend a hammock or elevated bed where your moggy can keep an eye on things from a distance. This is how cats behave in the wild, so it makes sense to do it in your home.
4. Keep your cat’s need top of mind
As a cat owner, your pet’s basic needs should come first. This means setting up its food, water and litter tray in a cat-centric way rather than a home-centric one. What do we mean by this? Well, quite simply, it means placing the things they need where they are most comfortable.
If, for example, your cat spends all its time in one room because that’s where it feels safest, you should make sure its food, water and litter box are easily accessible. Putting these items in hard-to-reach areas or places your cat feels nervous can cause long-term anxiety.
5. Don’t rush things
Cats need time, and sometimes lots of it, to acclimate to new situations. Long-term stressors, such as moving house or bringing a baby or new pet home, will need careful planning on your part to help your kitty adjust to the situation. Short-term stressful situations, such as having a friend over with energetic children or their puppy, doesn’t give your cat the time it needs to adjust.
Rather than forcing it to get used to the temporary situation, we suggest putting your cat in a room where it feels safe with food, water, a litter tray and its favourite toys, away from the noise, until the guests have left.
6. Use smell to calm your cat
Your cat has an excellent sense of smell, and it especially likes its own scent. Allowing your pet to leave its scent around the house is a natural calming remedy. Blankets, an old item of your clothing and scratch posts all provide your cat with familiar smells that help reduce anxiousness.
This method is especially handy with short-term stressors, such as car trips. Placing your cat’s favourite toy or blankie in the carrier, for example, will calm it down.
7. Get calming products
There is a wide range of anti-anxiety products available that will help keep your cat calm, from treats and collars to calming wipes and diffuser kits.
Our top picks are as follows:
Depending on your needs and whether it is short or long-term anxiety you’re wanting to reduce, you can try any one of these products. Otherwise, if your cat is experiencing ongoing chronic stress, you can ask your vet to prescribe anti-anxiety medicine.
8. Put on calming music or Cat TV
Loud or unfamiliar noises, such as a baby crying, fireworks or traffic, are stressors, especially with a cat’s sensitive hearing. If you have pinpointed this as a source of your pet’s anxiety, we suggest putting on some calming music or white noise to distract your cat. Even better, you can tune into Cat TV.
9. Bring your anxiety level down
Our pets feed off our emotions, so it is essential to bring your anxiety level down around your cat. If you are relaxed, your cat will pick up on this and feel calmer too.
Identifying that your cat is stressed and knowing what those stressors are will go a long way in helping you calm it down and manage future anxiety. Of course, as we find ourselves dealing with COVID-19 and all its disruptions, it is now more important than ever to focus on your cat’s physical and mental well-being, as well as yours.