Cat stress: how to recognise and calm an anxious cat
Cats get stressed for many reasons and don´t like change. Moving home, the introduction of a new pet or baby or a different routine can cause your cat to feel anxious and unsettled.
This article gives you some advice on helping your cat with its stress, particularly if you’re introducing him to a new home.
Why do cats get anxious?
Your cat may be one of the most chilled members of the family, but like humans, a change in situation can upset them. These are the most common causes of cat anxiety:
Your cat is comfortable in his environment and knows his way around. Suddenly boxes appear, things are being moved and life as he knows it is changing. As for humans, moving is one of the biggest causes of cat stress symptoms.
A new addition to the family
Whether he’s a puppy or kitten, an older cat or a new baby, your cat is going to have his feline nose put out when a new family member appears. He was number one before and now he has to share your attention with another animal or small human.
Many people adopt cats as a solution to the ever-increasing cat population. But a cat that’s been living elsewhere or a stray can show signs of anxiety. Adopting a nervous cat takes patience and time to help it adjust.
Visits to the vet
Not many cats like going to the vet and the experience can be extremely frightening and stressful for them. They may associate the cat box with something unpleasant happening and getting them in it can be a battle.
These are the causes of signs of stress in cats, so what can you do to decrease their anxiety?
What are the signs of a cat feeling anxious?
Your cat will show you he’s unhappy in several ways. Remember, he doesn´t understand why his normally comfortable environment is changing. Cat stress symptoms include:
- spraying (marking their territory)
- scratching furniture
- meowing constantly
- going to the toilet outside of the litter tray
- becoming aggressive – scratching or biting
There are several ways to offer cat stress relief, so both you and your cat can live happily together.
How to calm a cat that’s stressed?
Understanding the cause of the problem and doing everything you can to help is important as stress can turn into long-term behaviour problems and also make your cat unwell. As an animal lover you’ll know if your cat is stressed and so can take the necessary action.
If your cat knows something’s amiss when the cat box appears get him used to it for a few days before you travel or visit the vet. Put a favourite blanket, toys and treats inside so he learns it’s a safe space, not somewhere to feel threatened.
Cats that are going to the toilet indoors, and not in the litter tray or outside are showing definite signs of stress. They may go on your bed, behind the sofa or even in the bath or shower. First, you shouldn´t punish your cat for its behaviour. Instead, try a different brand of litter, place the tray in a quiet place and keep it clean. If your cat usually goes to the toilet outside, make sure he can always get out when he needs to.
Introductions to a new pet should be gradual. Give your cat a place that the new pet can´t get to – a separate room or a raised scratching post. Allow them to meet while you’re in the room and slowly extend the time they’re together. Don´t leave them alone until you’re sure they’re comfortable with each other.
How to get a cat used to a new home?
Any pets should be given time to adapt, whether you’re moving cats to a new home or have a new cat in your existing home.
Prepare the environment
Move all breakables and plants to ensure your cat won´t come to any harm (and your precious things won´t get damaged!). Make sure the cat can´t escape over a balcony and keep upstairs windows shut. When a cat is scared he may jump with no idea how far his fall could be.
Provide food and water
Ensure fresh water is always available and you feed your cat at a regular time. Don´t be tempted to overfeed as a treat as this could cause a stomach upset. My new kitten is hiding and not eating – don´t worry, it will eat when it’s ready.
Put the bed in a safe place
Cats like to feel secure and protected so place the bed in a warm corner or confined space where there’s no disruption from children or other animals. This is your cat’s haven, where it can sleep and relax.
Introduce to the outdoors slowly
When you move house or have a new cat you should keep it indoors for a couple of weeks. Then allow it outside for a few minutes a day, and gradually increase this time. Make sure there is food available to encourage your cat to return.
Some cats go back to their old home after moving house, so if your pet disappears this is one of the first places to look. It’ll slowly realise where the new home is and that you’re there to look after it.
If your cat is stressed in its new home don´t give it the run of the house. Keep it in one room to acclimatise to the new smells and surroundings. Allow it to explore other rooms one by one, keeping the door of the original room open so the cat has a safe place to return to.
Take things slowly, whether introducing a cat to a new home or dealing with a problem that is causing your cat to feel stressed in your current home. Once it feels comfortable and confident the signs of anxiety should disappear.
Lactium® is a natural solution that reduces stress in pets, contact us to learn more!
Written in collaboration with Sandrine Tran, Cécile Da Cunha and Julie Auger