Stress in Cats

Cats can exhibit destructive behavior when stressed.

Stress is something with which most people are familiar. There are many causes of stress in people including money concerns, health problems, and relationship issues. We know that stress can contribute to or cause physical conditions such as headaches and high blood pressure. Cats can experience stress, too, and it can be detrimental to their health.

What Is Stress?

When cats are living in the wild, stress occurs mainly when they are exposed to a predator or other life-threatening situation. The cat's adrenal glands respond to the threat by secreting more hormones that raise the heart rate, increase blood pressure, and produce more blood sugar. These physiologic responses are all designed to prepare the kitty to fight or flee the dangerous situation. In the short term, these changes are essential. However, when there is long-term stress, they are detrimental. Think of it like a car: if you need to rev the engine while passing a semi so you can get back into your lane, it's essential that your car responds. However, if you were to constantly gun the engine, it would result in its breaking down sooner from overuse.

What Causes Stress in Cats?

When you look at your kitty's life, you may not see anything that you feel could be stressful. After all, cats don't have to worry about bills or work deadlines. However, there are lots of common situations that do cause chronic stress in cats. These include:

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 because they are individuals with their own unique concerns.

Prolonged Stress in Cats Can Cause Physical Illness and Negative Behaviors

Chronic stress can contribute to, cause, and/or decrease recovery from many physical ailments, including:

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

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

Treatment of 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. If it is the Fourth of July and fireworks are stressful to your cat, you can create a safe room or space to help her remain calm.

Whenever your cat is exhibiting abnormal signs 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 techniques to help your feline friend:

Prevention of Feline Stress

As with many conditions, prevention can be the key to managing stress in cats. You can prevent many chronic stress problems by following the following guidelines.

Be Proactive About Managing Cat-Stressful Situations

Whenever a stressful event or situation is approaching, be sure to stick to your established routine as much as possible, remember not to skip the interactive play sessions with your cat, and give her a little extra attention and reassurance. Project a positive attitude about the change or occasion.

Some examples of ways to ease specific stressful situations are noted below:

Love Is a Powerful Stress-Reducer

Love and understanding decreases stress in cats.

When you take steps to reduce your cat's stress because you love her, she will pick up on this and reciprocate. That will decrease your stress, as well. Love is contagious, and you will both benefit when you give it unconditionally to your cat. Life is stressful for everyone sometimes; be sure to help one another through it.

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