We as humans know how unsettling stress can feel. It can affect our ability to process thought, our daily routines and sometimes even result in serious health conditions. Cats are also susceptible to stress and their senses are more easily affected than their human counterparts. So, what are the causes of stress in cats, what are the signs of stress in cats and how do we help stressed cats? Let’s take a look:
Causes of stress in cats
Those of us who share our lives with felines are aware of particular stress triggers that are unique to our cats. Some of the more common causes of stress in cats include:
- Changes in food or litter brand
- Dirty litter box
- Travel outside the home
- New additions to the home — people or things
- Strange animals outside the home
- Repairs happening within the home
- Loud sounds like music or fireworks
- Inability to relocate to a secure area in the home
Signs of stress in cats
When it comes to the signs of stress in cats, cat behaviorist Pam Johnson Bennett says, “Cats don’t all show the same signs when it comes to stress, and they can be easy to overlook. You might attribute your cat’s change in behavior to something else, or the stress effects might happen so gradually that you aren’t even aware that there is a change in how your cat behaves. If your cat tends to hide on a regular basis, it can be easy to not notice that her stress level has increased.”
A list of some of the signs of stress in cats include:
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Excessive grooming or scratching
- Excessive isolation or hiding
- Nonstop meowing or other excessive vocalization
- Not eating or a decrease in appetite
- Increased sleeping
- Aggression toward people or other animals
Alleviating stress in cats
If you’re noticing any of these signs of stress in cats, consult a veterinarian to make sure there are no major health concerns at play. Once those are ruled out, it’s time to look for ways to help kitty and alleviate some — or all — of that stress. Here are some suggestions:
- Think vertically: Cats like to be able to relocate to a safe space if they feel threatened by a person or another animal. Cat trees are a great way to provide a safety zone.
- Gradually initiate change: Cats are creatures of habit, so abrupt changes — even small ones — can affect them in big ways. If you’re switching brands of food or litter, transition gradually by adding a little at a time to their existing brands until the switch is complete.
- Keep litter boxes clean: Kitties are fussy about their “bathrooms.” Scoop their boxes several times a day, and completely dump and add fresh litter once a week.
- Behind closed doors: If your cat is stressed by strangers inside the home, move her to a quiet space behind a closed door.
- Keep noise to a minimum: Some cats are more sensitive to noise than others. If yours is on the sensitive side, be mindful of how loudly you play your music, and place kitty in another room while vacuuming or using the blender or hairdryer.
- Regularly play with and exercise your cat: If your cat is wary of certain areas of your home, initiate play in that area to help her build confidence.
- Interactive toys: Distracted cats can be less likely to experience stress. While you’re away, leave puzzle toys and other environmentally enriching activities for your cat to discover.
The bottom line on stress in cats
Remain aware of the signs of stress in cats, and always check with your vet to rule out health concerns when you notice stressful behavior. Then, make the changes in your home or routine that will help keep kitty feeling safe, comfortable and confident.
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