As a proud owner of a beautiful cat named Cleo, I believe it is my responsibility to ensure she is happy and healthy, both physically and mentally.
Providing the love and care our cats need to thrive is all of our responsibility.
This is a no-brainer because you and I enjoy the benefits of our furry friends when they are in a calm, relaxed, and peaceful state.
However, there are certain circumstances that can cause cats to experience stress, but how do we know if our cats are stressed?
These are some of the signs I have seen in my cats when they’ve been stressed out and unhappy:
1. Body language
A crouched position, dilated pupils, ears flat against the head, raised hair, a swishing tail, and excessive grooming are all common signs that your cat is feeling stressed out.
If you notice your cat exhibiting any of these behaviors, take a step back to evaluate what could be causing the stress and reach out to your vet if you’re unsure and concerned.
Sometimes it could be a change in their environment, a visit from another animal that they don’t get along with, or even loud noises that scare them.
When cats become stressed, they often express their emotions through their vocalizations.
If your cat starts to meow in a deep tone, hiss, growl, or yowl, they could be communicating that they’re feeling scared or threatened.
It’s vital to pay attention to these sounds and try to soothe and calm them down by providing a safe and secure environment but knowing when to back off, giving them some space, and talking to your vet about this behavior is also important.
Scratching, biting, and attacking people or other pets are all signs of stress in cats.
Aggression can often be a result of feeling overwhelmed or threatened, so it’s important to provide them with a safe and secure environment to help reduce their anxiety levels.
A good tip is to create a quiet, comfortable space for your cat to retreat to when feeling overwhelmed to help calm them down.
4. Changes in appetite
A decrease or increase in appetite is another common sign of stress in cats.
Just like humans, cats can experience a loss of appetite or overeating due to emotional stress.
Make sure to monitor your cat’s eating habits and provide them with a healthy diet to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
5. Changes in sleep
Sleeping more, less, or not at all could be an indication that your cat is feeling stressed out.
If you’ve noticed a change in their sleeping routine, try and establish a consistent sleep schedule for them to follow.
A way you can help reduce their stress, in this case, is by creating a quiet and cozy sleeping space free from any distractions.
6. Changes in energy
If your usually energetic cat suddenly seems lethargic and less interested in playtime, it could be a sign that they’re feeling stressed out.
Some physical signs to look out for include trembling or shaking, uncharacteristic laziness, and a lack of interest in activities that they would usually love.
If you’re noticing these signs in your cat, try to create a calm and peaceful environment for them, consider spending some extra one-on-one time together to help them destress, and reach out to your vet to let them know what’s going on.
7. Changes in bathroom habits
Cats are highly sensitive animals, and changes in their environment or routine can cause them a lot of stress.
This can often manifest in unusual bathroom habits – so if you notice that your cat is suddenly peeing or pooping outside of their litter box, it could be a red flag that something is up.
They may also start spraying in the home as a way to mark their territory and alleviate anxiety.
If you’re dealing with this issue, consider bringing your cat to the vet to rule out any health concerns, and create an area of your home that is dedicated solely to their litter box.
8. Hiding away and showing aggressive behavior
Cats are known for their love of hiding away in cozy nooks and crannies – but if your cat is suddenly spending longer periods of time in hiding than usual, it could be a sign that they’re feeling stressed out, depressed, or anxious.
You may notice that your cat is hiding in unusual places or displaying aggression by hissing, growling, or vocalizing excessively.
In some cases, aggressive behavior may be redirected toward other people and animals, especially when the cat is bothered while in their hiding spot.
This could be caused by changes in their environment or routine or by the presence of new pets or people in the home.
If you’re worried about your cat’s hiding habits, try to create a sense of calm and stability in your space and ensure that they have plenty of safe and comfortable places to retreat to.
9. Avoiding you and other people
If your cat is becoming less tolerant of people and seems to be avoiding you or other members of the household, it could be a sign that they’re feeling uneasy or nervous.
Other signs of this could include hiding away more often, refusing to be picked up or held, and generally seeming more mysterious than usual.
To help your cat feel more comfortable and at ease, try to create low-stress environments for them and spend some extra time bonding with them through gentle play and cuddles.
10. Other physical symptoms
Stress in cats can also manifest through a range of physical symptoms – including growling and hissing to marking their territory, overgrooming or self-mutilation, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and other digestive issues.
If you’re noticing these signs in your cat, it’s important to take them seriously and bring them to the vet as soon as possible, as they could indicate health issues and problems your cat is dealing with.
To help your cat destress and feel more comfortable at home, ensure that they have access to plenty of clean water, healthy food, and a calm and peaceful environment without threats.
10 Causes of stress in cats
Cats can experience stress because of a variety of reasons, so it’s important for us to understand these triggers to help them live a stress-free life.
Here are some common causes of stress in cats:
1. Lack of Resources
Cats need access to food and water bowls, litter trays, scratching posts, and a comfortable place to sleep.
Make sure to provide your kitty with all these necessary resources.
Also, if you have multiple cats, make sure you provide enough resources for each cat. Personal space is crucial when managing cat stress.
2. Dirty Litter Box
Speaking of the litter box, going too long without cleaning it can also cause stress for your cat.
Imagine having to use a dirty bathroom constantly – it’s not pleasant for anyone!
Make sure to scoop your cat’s litter box at least once a day and thoroughly clean it once a week.
3. Handling and Being Declawed
Cats can be easily stressed out by inappropriate handling, traveling in the car, being in an unknown space, and being handled by strangers.
When handling your cat, be gentle and use a calm tone of voice.
If you need to take your cat somewhere, like to the vet or to a new environment, try to make the experience as stress-free as possible.
Being declawed is also a major stressor for cats; it is best to try and use alternative methods of keeping your cat from scratching furniture, but please don’t declaw your cat if you can avoid it.
4. Veterinary Visits
Many cats are frightened and stressed during vet visits.
The smells, sounds, and unfamiliar environment can be overwhelming for them. To help reduce stress, try to make vet visits as comfortable as possible for your cat.
Use a carrier, and make sure they have a comfortable blanket inside.
If your vet allows it, bring along some of your cat’s favorite treats or toys to keep them distracted.
5. Changes in Routine
Cats are creatures of routine, and they thrive on predictability. Any changes in their daily schedule, like feeding times or playtimes, can cause them stress.
If you need to make changes to your cat’s routine, try to do so gradually.
For example, if you’re starting a new job and won’t be home at your cat’s usual feeding time, slowly adjust their meal times over the course of a few days.
Yes, cats can get stressed from being bored too!
They need mental stimulation and physical exercise, so make sure your cats have plenty of toys and engage in regular playtime with them.
Puzzle feeders, interactive toys, and scratching posts are all great options for keeping your cat entertained.
You can also create a kitty playground and add some vertical space with shelves or trees for your cat to climb.
7. Unfamiliar People or Animals
Having new people or pets around can make your cat feel threatened or uncomfortable.
This is true if the new addition is another cat invading their territory or if you have a pet sitter taking care of them while you’re away.
Make sure to introduce any new animals or people slowly and gradually, so your cat can adjust.
Additionally, you can provide them with a safe and secluded area to retreat to when they feel overwhelmed.
8. Loud Noises
Cats have sensitive hearing and become alert by the slightest sounds, so loud noises like fireworks, thunderstorms, or loud music can easily stress them out.
Remodeling projects, loud parties, and other noise can cause stress for cats.
During loud events, create a safe space for your cat by closing doors and windows or playing calming music to drown out the noise.
9. Conflicts Between Cats and Other Pets
Competition for resources in a multi-cat household, unfamiliar cats intruding into the home, or even different pets (like dogs) can cause stress in your cat.
To prevent conflicts between cats, provide each cat with their food bowls, beds, and litter boxes.
If conflicts arise, separate the cats and try reintroducing them slowly.
10. New Family Members
Cats may react in a number of ways to new family members. They may become more protective of their space and their owners (you).
This happens a lot with Cleo when other family members visit our home.
To prevent stress, give your cat a safe and secure space where she can retreat when she feels overwhelmed. This can be a small room or her favorite cat tree and other interactive fun toys.
Make sure your family members know to respect your cat’s privacy and not force themselves on her.
5 Types of stress in cats
1. Territorial Stress
One of the most common types of stress in cats is territorial stress. This occurs when a cat’s property is approached by other animals or people.
Territorial aggression can include chasing, ambushing, hissing, and swatting.
To help your cat deal with territorial stress, try to create a safe and secure environment for them.
Providing them with their own designated space in the house, such as a scratching post or a cat tower/tree, can give them a sense of ownership and control over their territory.
2. Relational Stress
Relational stress can occur when a cat has a poor human-cat relationship, inter-cat conflict, or changes in their environment.
This can cause a lot of tension and anxiety for your cat and can lead to destructive behavior like scratching and urinating outside of the litter box.
To help your cat deal with relational stress, try to create a predictable and stable environment for them.
This can be done by establishing a consistent routine, providing plenty of attention and affection, and giving your cat plenty of space to play and explore.
3. Health-Related Stress
Health issues can also cause stress in cats. Chronic pain, illness, and other conditions can cause anxiety and stress in your cat, leading to changes in behavior and mood.
To help manage stress related to health issues, try to work closely with your veterinarian to ensure that your cat is properly diagnosed and treated.
Dietary changes, medications, and specialized care can help to alleviate some of the stress that your cat is experiencing.
4. Environmental Stress
Changes in the environment can also cause stress in cats.
Events such as moving to a new house, adding a new pet to the family, or even new furniture can cause anxiety and discomfort for your cat.
To help your cat deal with environmental stress, try to make changes slowly to give your cat plenty of time to adjust.
Introducing new furniture or new pets slowly can help to reduce stress and help your cat feel more comfortable in their new environment.
When it comes to new furniture, if you have to get one hang things with your cat scent on it.
Things like blankets, toys and other items with your cats’ scent on them can help your cat feel more secure in their new environment.
5. Boredom Stress
Boredom can also cause stress in cats.
Indoor cats may become bored and restless if they aren’t stimulated enough, causing them to lash out in destructive ways.
To help your cat deal with stress from boredom, provide them with plenty of opportunities for play and interaction.
This can be done through regular playtime, cat toys, and even puzzles and games that can challenge your cat’s mind and keep them entertained.
12 Ways to help relieve and de-stress your cat?
To help your anxious cat relieve stress so that they can feel happier, calmer, and peaceful, you can try implementing some of these helpful strategies:
1. Play and Spend Time Together
One of the best ways to help your cat relieve stress is to spend time playing with them.
Regularly setting aside time to play with your cat can strengthen your bond and relieve their nervous energy.
If your cat has restricted outdoor access, you can find plenty of fun indoor activities to do together, including using wand toys, batting around balls and toy mice, and hiding treats around the house for your cat to hunt down.
Providing your cat with toys they can play with on their own, like scratching and climbing posts, can also help them alleviate stress.
These toys allow your cat to release pent-up energy and can help keep your pet from scratching your furniture.
The feather wand toy is very popular with my cat – it’s great for interactive playtime and burns off extra energy!
3. Hiding Places
Cats love to hide and play in enclosed spaces.
Setting up hiding places, such as cat trees, cat tunnels, and cardboard boxes, can provide your cat with a sense of security and freedom to go somewhere they can be alone.
Make sure these hiding spots are easily accessible, comfortable, and safe for your cat.
You’ll be surprised at how much joy and happiness your cat can get from simply hiding away in their own personal space.
If your cat is food motivated, hiding treats or dry food around the house can give them a fun activity and help alleviate stress.
You can put treats in different spots around your home and watch as your cat happily scurries from room to room, searching for them.
It’s a fun and rewarding way to keep your cat entertained and occupied.
Calming herbs, such as catnip, chamomile, hops, valerian root, lemon balm, skullcap, and California poppy, are all great herbs to help reduce your cat’s anxiety naturally.
Many of these herbs can be found in pet stores and are safe to use when administered in small doses.
I don’t feed my cat many of these except for catnip, but if you’re looking for a natural way to help your cat feel relaxed and comfortable, calming herbs may be the perfect solution.
6. Food Puzzles
These puzzles work by tapping into your cat’s instincts, engaging their minds and bodies while they hunt for their food.
Your cat will experience a sense of accomplishment after completing the puzzle, which helps to boost their mental health.
There are plenty of food puzzles available in your local pet store or online, and it’s an excellent way to keep your cat entertained and happy.
7. Establish a Safe Place/Base Camp
Cats need a secure and safe area to feel comfortable.
Establishing a room or an area with essential items like food and water bowls, litter boxes, cat beds, and toys can make a significant difference.
This room or area should be their base camp, where they can hang out unbothered and feel like they own the space.
Make sure your cat has a quiet, safe place to go indoors or in the garden.
This gives them an escape from the noise and distractions of the outside world, which can lead to discomfort and stress.
8. Create Epic Scent Soakers
If you’ve moved to a new home or moved your cats to a new area, your cat might feel uneasy and stressed due to the change.
A great way to help your cat transition is to create scent soakers. Scent soakers are simply items that are soaked in your cat’s scent.
Place items like blankets or bedspreads in the base camp, which helps to soak up the cats’ scent and help them identify the area as part of their home.
This simple trick is a great way to help your cat feel comfortable and relaxed in their new environment.
9. Incorporate Cat Trees and Familiar Objects
Cats love to climb, and perch in high places, and cat trees provide a safe and comfortable space for them to do so.
Additionally, incorporating familiar objects that smell like you or have the cats’ scent on them, such as blankets or toys, can further help create a sense of security and familiarity.
Cleo loves her cozy cat tree and often retreats there when she needs some alone time.
10. Spend Time with the Cats in Base Camp
In situations where your cat may feel overwhelmed or anxious, such as when moving to a new home or after bringing home a new pet, designating a comfortable and secure “base camp” can help them feel more at ease.
Spending time in the base camp with your cats and offering them affection and comfort can help them retain a sense of normalcy and even bond with you.
Cleo’s base camp during one of our moves was strangely our bathroom. We gave her time to adjust and it helped her transition to our new home much smoother.
11. Calming Aids
There are many supplements and remedies designed to help pets manage stress and anxiety.
I don’t give my cat any supplements for her anxiety, but I do use holistic calming sprays to naturally calm my cat.
Two of them are stress-stopper cat relief solutions and anti-anxiety solutions for separation anxiety. These calming aids have been a very helpful addition to your cat’s routine.
I personally swear by Jackson Galaxy’s calming products for my cats, which have natural ingredients and have worked wonders for my Cleo during thunderstorms, vet visits and new family visits.
12. Patience and Love
One of the most effective ways to help your cat relieve stress is also the simplest – be patient and provide lots of love and reassurance while they are stressed.
Your loving presence and care will help them cope with stress better.
When Cleo is feeling anxious or stressed, I make sure to spend extra time cuddling with her, playing with her, or simply talking to her in soothing tones.
How stress affects a cat’s health?
According to a study from Veterinary Clinics of North America, stress in cats can have significant effects on their health and well-being.
Here are some of the findings from the study:
- Central Threat Response System (CTRS): Stressors activate the cat’s central threat response system, which is involved in the body’s physiological and behavioral responses to stress.
- Perception of Threat: Cats’ perception of threat is influenced by their early adverse experiences, which can sensitize the central stress response system. This heightened sensitivity may make them more susceptible to perceiving events in their environment as threats.
- Lower Urinary Tract Signs (LUTS): Stress can have various effects on a cat’s health, and one common manifestation is lower urinary tract signs (LUTS). Cats experiencing chronic stress may exhibit abnormal signs in their lower urinary tract, such as increased voiding urgency and frequency, blood in the urine, and urination outside the litter box.
- Perception of Control: The study emphasizes that the activation of the central threat response system is influenced by the balance between a cat’s perceptions of threat and perceptions of control. Enhancing perceptions of control and reducing perceptions of threat can help reduce stress in cats.
- Resilience and Stress Responsiveness: Research also highlights the role of resilience and choice in stress responsiveness. Resilience is the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity or significant stressors, and it can play a role in mitigating the impact of stress on cats’ health.
- CTRS and Chronic Diseases: The study suggests that changing the perspective on some chronic diseases in cats, considering the role of a sensitized central stress response system and early adverse experiences, can provide a more comprehensive explanation for certain health conditions.
When to bring your stressed cat to the vet?
If your cat is showing significant signs of stress, such as not eating, frequent vomiting, issues with urination or defecation, lethargy, or unusual behavior, take them to a vet.
Also, when you decide to bring your cat to the vet, to make the vet visit less stressful for them, you can try to do things like:
- Familiarizing them with their carrier
- Bringing a favorite blanket
- Bringing treats
- Maintaining your own calm demeanor
- Using Stress Stoppers or Anti-Anxiety holistic solutions during the visit
It’s up to us to pay attention to the signals our furry companions give off when they’re feeling stressed out and expressing it to us.
By being observant and taking the necessary steps to create a safe and secure environment, it becomes easier for us to recognize and manage stress in our cats so that we can provide them with the love and care they deserve.
Always keep an eye out for any sudden changes in your cat’s behavior, as this could indicate health concerns that require veterinary attention.
As a proud cat parent, I know first-hand how important it is to ensure our feline friends feel happy and relaxed.
Our cats are our family members, and just like us, they can experience stress and anxiety.
If you own a cat, you know how they can quickly become overwhelmed by sudden changes in their environment or even feel discomfort due to health issues.
Try your best to do everything you can to make sure your cat never stresses a day in their lives; they absolutely deserve it.