Cats are pretty consistent animals that love their routine and will do anything to stick to it. That’s why, if you notice any changes in your pet’s behaviour, one possible reason behind it can be stress. You might be wondering what cats have to be stressed about, but humans perceive stress in a much different way. It actually takes very little to disturb a cat’s daily routine and cause plenty of stress and anxiety. Even simple things like changes in owner’s work schedule or a trip to the vet can potentially have severe consequences. Anxiety will not only change how your bellowed cat behaves, but it can also cause different health issues. So, here is a guide on feline anxiety, the way it’s manifested and ways to battle it.
Common stress signs
There are a few most common stress signs in cats that will help you see that your cat suffers from anxiety. Usually, those signs involve changes in urination, diarrhea, over-grooming, frequent meowing, restlessness and withdrawal.
One of the most common results of stress in cats is urinary discomfort. Stress hormones cause the bladder to become inflamed which results in various physical issues. Common signs this sort of problem are frequent and uncomfortable urination, as well as blood in the urine. So, keep close track of your cat’s toilet visits and as soon as you notice any of these symptoms, take your kitty to the vet. A severe bladder inflammation can even be potentially deadly if left untreated. Some cats also tend to urinate outside of their tray when stressed. They do this because, by doing so, they spread their personal scent throughout the house which makes them feel safe. Some health issues like arthritis can also cause your cat to avoid the kitty toilet, so make sure to check with the vet.
Some cats can become so stressed that their stomach can become upset which results in diarrhea. As soon as you notice any stool irregularities, make sure to visit the vet, because some meds might be necessary to calm your cat’s stomach.
Cats are very clean animals, but if you notice your cat has started to over-groom to the point of creating bald patches in the coat, it can be a big sign of stress. This usually happens on the tummy, inner thighs and front legs. Licking and grooming release natural sedatives that provide the sense of comfort and security. Other health issues can also cause over-grooming (parasites and allergies), so ask for a professional opinion to make sure it’s stress-related.
Frequent vocalization and restlessness
Some cats try to attract their owner’s attention when stressed. Others might be quite restless and unable to settle. They look like they are constantly searching for a treat.
If you notice that your otherwise friendly kitten started to avoid company and hide under the bed or a blanket, it can be a sign of stress. Your cat might be physically trying to avoid attention and stress.
What causes stress
Every cat is different: some are naturally chill and adjust to new people, animals and situations very quickly, while other, more nervous cats get easily stressed out. Some common triggers are new family members and pets, loss of a mate or friend, loud and unfamiliar noises and other cats. Chill cats can also become stressed, even though they might not exhibit any visible signs. Health problems and physical pain can also cause a lot of stress. Dealing with a sick cat can look a lot like dealing with a stressed cat, so regular vet visits are very important.
Trying to pinpoint the moment or situation that triggered stress in your cat can be quite helpful in stress reduction. It can help remove or reduce the source of stress, no matter if it’s psychological, physical or environmental. This can also help during the vet visit since doctors usually want to know all about the history of your pet’s illness.
Sometimes, causes of stress can be removed very quickly and easily. Overgrown claws can cause pain and/or stress, but a simple trim will completely remove the issue. Fleas can also raise your cat’s stress levels. They can cause severe itching, allergies and a lot of discomfort. However, a simple flea treatment once a month can rid your pet of these nasty pests.
Some environmental stress sources can also be (more or less) easily removed. Avoiding loud music and yelling at your cat can significantly reduce stress. Discouraging stray cats to stay in your yard can also help your cat feel safer at home.
Ample entertainment and attention can also have a beneficial effect on your cat’s mood and health. For instance, you can find plenty of cat toys at every pet shop (you can even make your own toys) that will keep your cat entertained and fit. Putting up a bird feeder outside your window or getting an aquarium can also keep your cat occupied. Of course, a lot of physical contact is advised.
Cat relaxation tips
There are some pretty amazing ways you can help your cat feel safe, calm and happy. For instance, some scents like catnip, valerian, chamomile and hops can have a calming effect on your kitty. Another way you can provide relaxation for your feline companion is to use pheromone diffusers. Products like Feliway for cats contain specific pheromones that can soothe cats and put them in a good mood. They can help reduce stress while being completely harmless for both animals and humans.
Meds as the last resort
Some cats can become so stressed that it can make them seriously ill. In that case, your vet may prescribe medication that will help your cat deal with stress and boost relaxation. Most commonly, vets prescribe diazepam, amitriptyline and fluoxetine, but there are also some over-the-counter options like Zylkene. However, never give your cat medication before consulting your vet.
Just like in humans, cat anxiety and stress can cause both psychological and physical health issues. However, if you recognize these stress signs in time and reduce or eliminate the triggers, your cat will go back to its previous happy and playful self.