Cat Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Natural Remedies

Posted by Joey DiFrancesco on

Cat Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Natural Remedies

Is your cat stressed or anxious? This article will explore the most common symptoms and causes of anxiety in cats. In addition, we will cover some natural remedies that can actually make a big difference for your stressed out feline. 

Symptoms of an Anxious Cat

  • Sudden Changes in Behavior
  • Hiding
  • Failure to Use the Litter Box
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Excessive Grooming
  • Aggression Towards People or Other Pets
  • Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors
  • Trembling, Drooling, or Excessive Vocalization

Sudden Changes in Behavior

Cat owners often notice that something is just “off” with their feline friend. Subtle changes in behavior are not always a sign of stress - they could be signs of maturity or even changes in response to different seasons. However, if you notice changes in behavior, be on the lookout for other signs of cat anxiety so that you can take quick action if the problems persist or get worse. 

Hiding

One of the most typical responses observed in stressed cats is to spend more time than usual in hiding spots. While it may be tempting to go and get your furry friend and encourage them to be more social, it is probably better to let them self-soothe in their safe spot. If the problem persists for more than a week, or if your kitty has other worrying symptoms (such as refusing to eat or use the litter box) then you may want to consult with your vet. 

Failure to Use the Litter Box

If your cat suddenly refuses to use the litter box, it may be a sign of stress or anxiety. Be sure the litter box is clean and easy to access. Try setting up an additional litter box in another location. If this problem persists for more than a few days, consult with your vet as there may be a physical problem such as an illness that needs diagnosis and treatment. 

Changes in Appetite

Just like in people, stress can cause decreased appetite in cats. Missing a meal here and there is not really an emergency. However, if problems with appetite persist, it could be a sign of an emergency medical condition and prompt treatment could save your cat’s life. 

Aggression Towards People or Other Pets

Anxiety in cats can also manifest as aggressive behavior towards other members of the household. This defensive behavior can most often be observed when there is a sudden change in the household such as the addition of new pets, moving, or major changes in the daily routine.

Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors

It is not uncommon for feline’s to exhibit obsessive compulsive behaviors in response to stress. This type of reaction is characterized by repetitive motions or actions that your cat is using to self-soothe. A common example is excessive cleaning. While kitties are by nature clean animals, overgrooming obsessively can be a symptom of a stressed out cat. Other examples of OCD behavior in cats include licking or chewing on fabric, chasing their tail, pacing back and forth, or even self-mutilation in severe cases. 

Obsessive compulsive behaviors can range from mild to severe. Although they can be a response to stress, they may also be a sign of another underlying issue that needs veterinary diagnosis. 

Trembling, Drooling, or Excessive Vocalization

In acute cases of cat anxiety, you may notice your cat is trembling, drooling, or persistently crying out. If these symptoms persist, a visit to your vet is in order.

 

Common Causes of Stress and Anxiety in Cats

Why is my cat stressed out?

  • Changes in the Routine
  • Trauma or Neglect
  • Poison or Toxic Exposure
  • Age
  • Pain or Illness
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Rehoming
  • Boredom and Lack of Exercise

Changes in the Routine

Cats tend to feel safe and secure when their daily routine is predictable. Sudden changes such as someone returning to work, rehoming, or the addition of another pet can cause stress and anxiety for your cat. Be sure your kitty has somewhere comfortable and safe to retreat to while they adjust to new routines. Often your cat can and will adjust to changes given a few weeks to get accustomed to the new routines. 

Trauma or Neglect

Cats who have a history of abuse, neglect, or abandonment can often experience stress and anxiety. Sometimes this may be in response to a certain trigger, while in other cases the anxiety may be more generalized. 

Poison or Toxic Exposure

It is important to understand that the symptoms of anxiety in your cat could be your pet trying to tell you that something is wrong. Exposure to toxic plants, household cleaning agents, herbicides or pesticides can cause symptoms of stress in your cat. 

Age

Changes in brain chemistry and mood can also find their roots in the normal aging processes of our companion animals. 

Pain or Illness

Our pets can’t talk to tell us that they are experiencing pain. One of the most common ways they show us they are experiencing pains is to exhibit the symptoms of stress covered above. If you suspect your cat may be in pain, be sure to get them to a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Separation Anxiety

While separation anxiety is something we tend to associate with dogs, cats can also suffer from this condition. Changes in the routine such as someone returning to work or a child going off to college can trigger intense feelings of abandonment for your cat which can manifest in any of the above symptoms associated with stress and anxiety in felines. 

Boredom and Lack of Exercise

Indoor cats in particular can become stressed out from boredom and a lack of exercise. Physical and mental stimulation are critical for a healthy mood for these smart animals. Be sure you have provided toys, games, adequate scratching posts and other opportunities for your cat to exercise mind and body to prevent stress from boredom. 

Natural Remedies to Help Calm You Anxious Cat

Provide for Your Cat’s Needs

The very first natural remedy for cats struggling with anxiety or stress is to be sure you have provided for all of their needs. As discussed above a predictable routine, ample opportunity for physical and mental stimulation, as well as a proper diet are all factors in making sure your cat can be at her best. 

If your cat is showing signs of stress, be sure that you have provided:

  • Clean litter
  • Fresh water
  • High quality food on a predictable schedule
  • Scratching posts
  • Safe, warm hideaway spots
  • Toys and games
  • Adequate companionship

Pheromone Based Calming Sprays

There are several products on the market that are made using the pheromones that cats produce when they are feeling calm. These products, often sold as sprays, can help induce feelings of calm for your feline friend. Sprayed in areas such as bedding or near areas where your cat likes to hang out can help calm some cats and alleviate stress and anxiety. 

CBD for Cats

Full Spectrum CBD made just for pets, such as Lolahemp, can help calm a stressed out cat. Not sure if CBD is right for your cat? Be sure to read this comprehensive article on CBD for Cats.  

If you do decide to give CBD a try, it is important to avoid CBD products made for people. They may not be safe for your cat! Felines are very sensitive to THC, a compound that can be found in high levels in CBD products made for people. And, some of the flavorings and sweeteners in these products, which are safe for people, can be toxic to your cat! 

Consult with Your Veterinarian

As with any pet health condition, consulting with your veterinarian is a good idea. As we have discussed in this article, signs and symptoms of cat stress and anxiety could be indications that your feline friend is dealing with an underlying issue such as pain or illness that may need veterinary treatment.

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