Could your cat be stressed? While cats may seem ultra-relaxed creatures at times, they can also be stress-heads. Learn the signs of cat stress and what to do about it. Thanks to Alex Morgan from Integral Media…
8 Signs Your Cat Might Be Suffering From Stress
Stress and anxiety in humans can be a debilitating condition which is usually easy to detect, but in cats, it’s almost impossible to recognise because they hide it so well. And stress is just as debilitating in cats as it is in humans.
One owner tells a story about her cat who was licking herself constantly so she took her to the vet. The vet said the poor puss had a urinary tract infection and asked if anything had changed in the household. The cat’s owner thought for a moment and then said, ‘Yes, we have a new kitten, why?’
‘Your cat has stopped peeing due to the stress of the new kitten in the house and this has caused the infection,’ the vet said. ‘Cats hide their stress, and they’re very sensitive to any changes in their environment,’ he said.
So puss was given antibiotics and eventually accepted that there was another cat in the house, although they just tolerate each other and, strangely, still eat from the same bowl together.
Stress in cats can set off and worsen existing physical problems and can lead to many other difficulties which are often seen as behavioural disorders. These can include rejecting the litter tray and defecating or urinating on the carpet or anywhere other than the tray. They can become aggressive with other cats in the house or with humans, and they can become withdrawn. One cat belonging to a friend of this writer hides all day and night in a cupboard and only comes out to use the litter tray and to eat. The cupboard door is left open for her, of course, and no treatment has been found to date to change this behaviour.
Signs to watch out for that show your cat is stressed:
So, cats can become stressed through physical problems and changes in their environment. A death in the family can cause your cat to be stressed and also if the household is sad or grieving, this can be transmitted to the family cat and other pets. Stress can suppress the cat’s immune system, just as it does in humans and this can lead to illnesses. Bringing in a new member of the family, human or animal, can upset the applecart. The causes of stress can overlap, but first, you need to know how to recognise the signs that kitty is in difficulty.
Your cat is likely to be stressed if you find he or she is:
- Not eating as well as before
- Urinating outside the litter tray
- Constipated, diarrhoea, other digestive problem
- Scratching excessively
- Vocalising excessively
- Sleeping more than usual
So, what to do when you discover your cat is stressed
Here is some sound advice to follow if your poor old puss is doing any of the following:
- Not eating as well as before
It’s unusual for cats to stop eating unless they are outside cats and have a second family up the road who is feeding them overmuch. Try to find out if this is the case by locking them inside for a few days to see if the normal eating pattern resumes. If you can pinpoint something that’s changed in the household then this might be the cause. If your puss is still not eating it’s best to visit the vet and find out whether it’s stress or an underlying health problem.
- Urinating outside the litter tray
Try not to scream or yell or be angry with your cat if there has been a ‘potty incident’ because this will only make things worse. Your cat is trying to tell you something, and this might be that you’ve gone and changed the furniture around, or suddenly the house is full of loud noises, or you haven’t cleaned out the litter tray. If there has been a death in the family, your cat will feel it, too. Anything out of the ordinary can stress your cat. Your kitty could have an underlying health problem that is causing him or her to be incontinent, so a visit to the vet can rule out illness.
- Constipation, diarrhoea, other digestive problems
Consult your vet to make sure there is no underlying health problem. Your vet can give you sound advice on dealing with a stressed cat, as well as health tips and treatment.
- Excessive grooming/scratching
If your cat is licking a spot until it is bald or redraw then you can be assured he or she is suffering from stress or a health condition. Fastidious grooming doesn’t mean stress, but as mentioned, if the licking is extreme and leads to rawness or hair being pulled out there is a problem. Visit the vet.
It’s a myth that most cats are aloof and feel superior to other animals and humans and want nothing to do with them, The truth of the matter is that when cats isolate themselves it is a clear signal that something is not right and that they’re either stressed or in pain. Take your cat to the vet and discuss the possible causes of the strange behaviour and you will probably find a solution and have a happier kitty.
- Vocalising excessively and sleeping more than usual
Take notice if your cat begins to meow and mumble more often than usual because this is how cats communicate with humans, and only with humans, not other cats or animals, (however, they chirp to mimic bird calls and it’s part of their hunting instincts). So if you cat is talking to you, especially with a different tone in their voice, something is wrong and he or she is trying to tell you.
If your cat is showing signs of aggression towards the other cats or animals in the household or to humans it could be a sign that either your cat is stressed or has some kind of illness. Consult the vet for a checkup and discuss the behaviour to come to a solution and help your cat to live a happier life.
What to do to help your stressed kitty
After your vet has ruled out any underlying medical problem, there are things you can do to help relieve your cat’s anxiety and stress. A major part of helping is understanding what stresses cats and taking action before the stressor has occurred. If the problem is jealousy then sometimes it’s best to let the old and new cat sort things out themselves and decide on the pecking order. But here are some things you can do to relieve stress in your cat:
- A great stress reliever for cats is play and exercise, so get out the toys and play chase the mouse or ball of wool or tie a feather to a piece of string and draw it slowly across the floor for puss to chase. Cats love cardboard boxes, so leave a few of them around and watch puss climb in sit there – they love it for some reason and will play there for ages.
- Make your cat a safe zone, a secret hiding place in your home where he or she can escape from a stressful event like a storm a party or even a handyman visit to fix something.
- Make sure the cat food you buy for your kitty is high-quality. This will give puss a healthy diet which can only add to a sense of wellbeing.
- If you are expecting a new addition to the household, be that a new baby, a spouse, flatmate or another cat or animal, you need to be patient and understand how this might affect your cat. Don’t try rushing the relationship but let the cat come round at their own pace.
- If you need to take your cat to the vet be aware that it can be a terrifying experience – if puss’ pupils enlarge you can be sure someone is not happy. A good idea is to buy some Feliway spray and douse a blanket and the cat carrier with it. Feliway is a man-made pheromone similar to the one cats emit from their cheeks when they mark their territory on legs or furniture. Being in or near their territory brings about a sense of calm in the cat. Also, lay a light rug over the cat carrier to help the kitty to stay calm.
Natural remedies for kitty stress
If you are open to trying natural remedies such as flower essences and herbs, or even homoeopathy, then they can be used as a stress reliever for cats. But always check with your vet first to make sure the remedies are appropriate for your cat and only introduce one at a time.
Lastly, keeping your own stress under control will go a long way towards helping to de-stress your cat. So, you can either do yoga together or just have a cup of tea and stroke the cat or maybe a drop or two of Bach Rescue Remedy might be the answer on those days when you find yourself transmitting your anxieties to your poor old puss.
About the author:
Alex Morrison has been a cat lover and avid digital marketer for over 10 years. In this time he has worked with a range of businesses giving him an in-depth understanding of many different industries. As the owner of Integral Media, he is now utilising his knowledge and experience with his rapidly increasing client portfolio to help them achieve their business goals.
Note: Remember to consult your vet if your cat is stressed or sick. Anxiety may be treated or helped with veterinary medication.
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