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6 Ways to Help Calm a Cat That's Upset

Learn some techniques for calming a stressed cat.

Many cats are creatures of habit, and they often become stressed or upset about changes in their environment, visitors, traveling, veterinary visits, and other out-of-the-ordinary occurrences in their lives. You can help your cat calm down and relax, but it might take time, and some of the techniques you use are different than those you would use to help an upset dog.

Stay Close but Not Too Close

Many cats don't like to be held or hugged when they're upset. Humans, on the other hand, tend to love physical contact when they're feeling stressed. You'll need to reign in that instinct when you're dealing with a stressed cat, though, or you might make it worse.

Stay near your cat when you're trying to calm her down. Speak soothingly or sing a lullaby. Pet her if she seems to desire it, but don't grab her or hug her. If she comes to you and climbs on your lap, of course, you should allow her to get as close as she wants, but let her be in control.

Keep Your Stressed Cat Cozy

If your cat is experiencing stress and is upset, make sure she has a place to go that's cozy and secure. If you're home, the top of a tall scratching post is a great spot. Cats like to be up high, especially when they're feeling anxious or uneasy.

It can be helpful to some cats to confine them to a small "safe room" when they're dealing with more chronic forms of stress. You can create a pleasant, calm feline space where your cat's food and water, litter box, cat beds, scratching posts, and toys are all available. You can even play some soothing classical music, which has been shown to calm many cats.

If you're traveling, keep your cat inside a carrier. This provides a cozy spot where your cat can't escape, get underfoot, or become more upset because of things she can see going by. It can be helpful to train your cat to ride in a carrier when there isn't a stressful situation at hand.

Let Your Cat Mark Territory to Feel Better

Cats relieve their own stressful situations by marking their territory with odors from their scent glands. They do this by scratching things and rubbing their faces on them. If you are dealing with a stressed cat, especially one adjusting to a move or a new pet or person in the home, provide good quality scratching posts in prominent areas of the house that your cat can mark to feel better.

If you're traveling, bring a toy or another item from home that has your cat's scent on it from a time when she wasn't stressed or upset. Being exposed to her own calm odors can help her feel better.

Interactive Play Relieves Stress

This won't work if you are in the middle of an acutely stressful situation, but if you're dealing with a kitty that exhibits signs of chronic stress, interactive play with a wand toy regularly can help your cat blow off steam.

Interactive play allows cats to act like the predators they are, and that's soothing to them. It also helps you and your cat bond more, which is another stress-relieving thing for both of you.

Work on Relieving the Source of the Stress

This is another technique for dealing with chronic feline stress. Find the source and work on relieving it. Take your cat to the veterinarian to rule out a medical condition. Work to lower the stress in a multi-cat home by providing plenty of scratching posts, multiple litter boxes, several food and water stations, and individual attention and playtime for each cat.

Use Feliway

Feliway is a product that is made to mimic the calming pheromones that cats have in their facial scent glands. Using it can help cats with both acute and chronic stress. For example, you can spray Feliway into your cat's carrier before you load her up to take her to the vet. You can also use a diffuser to help combat chronic feline stress in your home.

If you have multiple cats that are butting heads or fighting, Feliway Multicat is specifically made to combat that type of feline stress.

You can learn more about both types of Feliway here: "Feliway: A Useful Tool to Help Treat Stress in Cats."

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