Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your cat.

Stress in Cats

Cats can exhibit destructive behavior when stressed.

Cats can experience stress, anxiety, and fear from all sorts of situations. In this, they are much like humans. However, the triggers for stress in cats may not always be obvious to people. A few of the more common sources of anxiety for cats include:

  • Moving to a new home
  • New people or pets being introduced to the home
  • Schedule changes in the home
  • Loud noises such as thunderstorms, fireworks, gunshots, engine backfires, or music
  • Parties
  • Being left home alone
  • Remodeling or simply rearranging of furniture in the home
  • Limited access to food, water, or clean litter
  • Visits to the veterinarian, kennel, or groomer
  • Car rides

While these are some of the more common things that are known to cause stress in many cats, there is no limit to the list of possible anxiety triggers or the behaviors exhibited as a result.

Undesirable Behaviors

When suffering from stress, cats may exhibit a variety of different behaviors. Many become restless, meow, shiver, or hiss. Other cats may cower in a closet or hide behind furniture. Some stress-related behaviors in cats are destructive in nature. The most common of these are:

  • Excessive grooming that may result in missing patches of fur and secondary skin infections.
  • Chewing or scratching at furniture, shoes, pillows, walls, doors, or other items.
  • Inappropriate urination, defecation, or marking behavior outside of the litter box. (See this article for more information about inappropriate urination in cats.)

Not only are these behaviors undesirable in terms of damage to our homes or items, but it is also heartbreaking to see one's cat suffer.

Treatment for Stress in Cats

There are some things that you can do for your cat if you suspect that some new behavior she is exhibiting might be due to stress. If you think you know what the trigger is, try to decrease its impact as much as possible. For instance, if you are bringing a new cat into your home, there are some ways to make the transition smoother. This article discusses techniques for introducing new cats. If it is the 4th of July and fireworks are stressful to your cat, you can create a safe room or space to help her remain calm. This article gives more tips for these types of situations.

Whenever your cat is exhibiting abnormal symptoms or behaviors, consult with your veterinarian to ensure there is no underlying physical disease. Be sure to have any treatments you choose for your cat approved by your vet first.

In addition to addressing the primary cause of your cat's stress or in situations where you aren't sure of its cause, you can use the following general stress-relief techniques to help your feline friend:

  • Remain calm yourself, and speak with a soothing voice to your stressed kitty at all times to help her feel less anxious. Cats are super-sensitive and finely-tuned to your emotions and your tone of voice.
  • Massage and slowly pet your cat in a quiet room. It is a wonderful de-stressor for your cat and also helps ease your own tension. You can create a time in which the cares of the day may be put aside and only quiet and relaxing thoughts should be experienced.
  • Play with your cat using interactive toys such as these. Exercise is a wonderful de-stressor for cats and humans.
  • For a homeopathic treatment, try Bach Flower Essential Rescue Remedy. It is an all-natural combination of five powerful flower essences believed to help calm and de-stress cats.
  • Pheromones are signal-carrying hormones that are released in order to promote a specific response by another member of the same species. In cats, one of these is the feline facial pheromone. When cats rub their faces on objects (or humans), they are releasing this substance. Feliway is a product that mimics this feline facial pheromone. It can be sprayed or diffused in the home to promote feelings of calmness in your cat. You can learn more about Feliway and how it works in this article.
  • Music soothes agitated beings. Try playing light classical pieces as you interact with your cat using these other methods. It will add to the calming atmosphere for you both. You can try a CD such as this one that was created with pets in mind.
  • Some cats may require anti-anxiety medication to decrease anxiety levels. You can discuss this with your veterinarian to determine if it's the right choice for your cat. Never give any medications to your cat without speaking with your veterinarian. Cats are extremely sensitive to many medications, and giving them can cause serious injury or death.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Why Do Cats Purr? The How & Why of Cat Purring

Feliway - A Useful Tool to Help Treat Stress in Cats

Cat Safety on July Fourth

Benefits of Multiple Cat Scratching Surfaces

Declawing Cats: Banning Declaw Surgeries

Pampering Senior Cats

Feline Separation Anxiety

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at CatHealth.com is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.