Cat Anxiety: What Makes Your Cat Stressed Out and Treatments

Here, kitty, kitty. Did Tiger become a scaredy-cat? A lot of pet owners get surprised when they find out that their dear Tiger has cat anxiety. Because more often than not, we believe that cats are aloof and independent.


Want to know the truth? Cats are sensitive creatures. They can sense subtle changes in their environment [1]. We don’t mean to burst your bubble, but you could also be one of the reasons behind your cat’s stress.


Today, you will learn the signs and potential causes of cat anxiety. We’re also going to share helpful ways to calm your cat down and keep him happy.


Cat Anxiety Explained

An anxious cat is no different from an anxious dog or human – yes, you.


Anxiety is when your cat anticipates a threat or danger and reacts as if he is afraid [2]. There are different reasons why a cat can get anxious.


These include but are not limited to:


  • Health problems
  • A negative past experience
  • Changes in the home

Signs Your Cat Has Anxiety

Top signs that your cat has anxiety

Whatever your cat is feeling, it will manifest in his body language. So, pay attention to his expressions, movements, and vocalizations. Here’s a list of things to look for in your cat:


  • Retreats or hides from others
  • Pees outside the litter box
  • Becomes increasingly vocal
  • Overgrooming his body
  • Changes in appetite or eating habits
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Aggression towards other pets and humans
  • Destructive behavior
  • Inability to stay still
  • Repetitive behaviors

What Causes a Cat to be Stressed? 

Potential causes of stress and anxiety in cats

Does your cat display any of the signs above?


If so, you need to take him to the vet for a proper diagnosis. The vet will assess your cat and may conduct tests to rule out underlying health issues.


The vet should identify the source of anxious behaviors. Once he does, he will recommend medications or anxiety reduction strategies that help your pet recover in no time.


Here are potential causes of a cat’s anxiety or fear:


1. Boredom or loneliness

Ever heard the saying, “Idle paws are the devil’s playground”?


You might not expect this. But yes, leaving Tiger at home alone for hours can make him feel bored and lonely. That could explain his destructive behaviors.


2. A traumatic experience

Noisy fireworks. Thunderstorms. An explosion. Abandonment. Rehoming. Sadly, some pets carry emotional scars from their past – if you happen to have adopted them [3].


3. A new environment

Did you move into a new home? Like humans, most cats get stressed with change. As a matter of fact, a cat may sense that something isn’t quite right while you’re prepping for the move.


4. Cognitive dysfunction

Feline cognitive dysfunction (FCD) could cause senior cats to forget their learned habits. For example, they forget the location of their water bowl and litter boxes. They may also forget that they’ve already been fed [4, 5]. All of these can trigger anxiety.


5. New family members

A new pet. The arrival of a baby. It doesn’t matter. Your cat may not be the biggest fan of new family members. The last thing you should do is force your cat to interact with the new member.


6. Any illness

A disease or illness that causes pain and discomfort is an obvious reason for cat anxiety. Painful conditions include feline osteoarthritis, dental disease, and lower urinary tract disease [6, 7, 8].


Natural Remedies for Anxiety in Cats

Here are some ways on how to calm an anxious cat at home:


1. Relaxing music

A study that was published by veterinary clinicians revealed that cats relax to classical music. Meanwhile, heavy metal music causes stress. Try to play calm music and observe your cat’s reaction [9, 10].


2. Pheromone products

Animals release pheromones. These are chemical substances that affect the behavior of other animals of the same species [11]. Experts believe that pheromones help ease a cat’s stress [12].


Today, you’ll find many pheromone products in the market such as collars, sprays and diffusers, and wet wipes [12, 13].


3. CBD oil

Cannabidiol oil or CBD is a promising alternative treatment with many therapeutic benefits. It relieves pain and inflammation resulting from arthritis and other feline health conditions. With the right dosage, you should be able to see your cat calm down.


4. Anti-anxiety medication

Your veterinarian may prescribe an anxiety-reducing medicine to be given daily for a few weeks. Scientists believe that these medications relieve anxiety by affecting the neurotransmitters in your cat’s brain [14, 15].


Some cats experience medication side effects, such as diarrhea and vomiting. In rare cases, toxicity can occur [14].


Tips to Keep Your Cat Happy

Tips to make your cat happy

Want to help Tiger stay as calm and happy as possible? Follow these three simple tips.


1. Start with proper nutrition.

Nutrients are essential for your cat, with an emphasis on protein and fat. Vegetarian or vegan diets are a poor choice for a cat. Cats need amino acids and other micronutrients that only come from meat. Be careful not to overfeed him to avoid joint problems and diabetes.


2. Use behavioral conditioning.

Help your cat by repeatedly exposing him to the stimulus that caused anxiety. When he understands that nothing bad happens, he will become used to the stimulus and no longer feel anxious. Offer positive reinforcement by rewarding calm behavior with a treat or toy [14].


3. Keep your cat mentally stimulated.

Mental stimulation is essential to your cat’s well-being. Make sure that he gets enough playtime and exercise. Provide interactive toys, a scratching post, and a climbing wall.


Conclusion

Cats experience anxiety for different reasons. If you suspect stress, identify its cause right away. Anxiety that’s ignored will worsen. Most importantly, protect your cat from illnesses by keeping his vaccinations up to date!


References:

  1. Hogenboom M. What happens when cats get stressed? 2015 August 11 – http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150810-when-cats-get-stressed
  2. PETMD. Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Dogs. – https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/behavioral/c_dg_fears_phobia_anxiety
  3. Kumar R. Can animals suffer from PTSD? 2017 July 8 – WebMD. Behavior Changes in Aging Cats. – https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/aging-cat-behavior#1
  4. Landsberg GM, Denenberg S, Araujo JA. Cognitive dysfunction in cats: A syndrome we used to dismiss as ‘old age’. 2010 October 23 – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1098612X10002901
  5. Klinck MP et al. Preliminary Validation and Reliability Testing of the Montreal Instrument for Cat Arthritis Testing, for Use by Veterinarians, in a Colony of Laboratory Cats. 2015 December 2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4693214/
  6. Cornell University. Feline Dental Disease. – https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-dental-disease
  7. Cornell University. Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. – https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-lower-urinary-tract-disease
  8. SAGE Publications. Cats relax to the sound of music. 2015 March 30 – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150330122530.htm
  9. Becker. Did You Know That This Makes Your Cat’s Heart Leap for Joy? 2016 March 17 – https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2016/03/17/music-for-cats.aspx
  10. Nordqvist C. What are pheromones and do humans have them? 2018 February 16 – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232635.php
  11. Eckstein S. Pet Behavior Problems: Can Pheromones Help? – https://pets.webmd.com/features/pet-pheromone-products-for-behavior-problems#1
  12. Bocco D. How Do Calming Dog and Cat Pheromones Work? – https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/how-do-calming-dog-and-cat-pheromones-work
  13. Landsberg GM. Treatment of Behavior Problems in Cats. – https://www.msdvetmanual.com/cat-owners/behavior-of-cats/treatment-of-behavior-problems-in-cats
  14. Tufts University. Mood-Stabilizing Medications for cats. – https://news.vet.tufts.edu/2017/09/mood-stabilizing-medications-for-cats/

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