What Cat Owners Should Know About Feline Stress

Cats are sensitive to stress, and the condition is a common trigger for many feline behavioral problems. It also can lead to serious health issues. Our Madison Street Animal Hospital team knows how difficult stress can be for cats, and we provide information to help you recognize feline stress and tips to reduce the effect on your furry companion.

Feline stressors

Cats can feel stress for numerous reasons, and what may stress one cat may not affect another. Cats who are socialized appropriately when they are kittens tend to experience less stress. Some potential feline stressors include:

  • Changes in routine — A change in your household routine can cause stress for your cat. Examples include your children starting back to school or you or your spouse transitioning to work from home.
  • Changes in the family — Welcoming a new baby can be stressful for your cat. In addition, someone moving out of your home, such as when your child goes away to college, can be stressful.
  • Guests — Unfamiliar people invading their territory can be stressful for cats, especially if many people are invited. 
  • Construction — Construction in or near your home can be upsetting for your cat.
  • Moving — Moving to a new home can be stressful for your cat because they have to leave their comfort zone.
  • Veterinarian — Going to the veterinarian can be stressful for your cat, especially if they don’t commonly travel.
  • New pets — Adopting a new dog or cat is often stressful for cats, especially if the introductions aren’t properly handled.
  • Fireworks — Scary loud bangs and pops can frighten your cat and cause stress.
  • Thunderstorms — Thunderstorms are another common stressor for cats.
  • Multiple cats — Cats living in a multi-cat household are more likely to be stressed, especially if not enough resources (i.e., food and water bowls, scratching posts, litter boxes) are available.
  • Intruders — Neighborhood pets and wild animals who enter your yard can upset your cat.
  • Illness — Cats who are sick or in pain are usually stressed. In addition, stress can contribute to health issues such as feline idiopathic cystitis and some dermatological conditions.

Feline stress signs

Your cat can’t ask you to schedule a therapy appointment for them, but there are ways they may be trying to tell you they are stressed, including:

  • Avoiding the litter box — Many stressed cats stop using the litter box. They are not being vindictive. They may be afraid to come out of hiding, feel unsafe in the box, or experience pain from urinary issues when they use the litter box. 
  • Hiding more frequently — Your typically social cat may hide more. This is a coping mechanism to handle stress. 
  • Grooming excessively — Cats tend to be fastidious groomers, but stressed cats may groom excessively, resulting in hair loss and skin lesions.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea — Some stressed cats experience gastrointestinal upset, resulting in vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Eating changes — Stressed cats may have a decreased appetite or become more focused on their food. 
  • Vocalizing — In some cases, stressed cats vocalize more, especially when left alone or if their primary caregiver leaves.
  • Sleeping — Cats sleep a lot, but a stressed cat may sleep more than usual. 
  • Playing activity — Your normally playful cat may lose interest in playing when stressed, and their favorite toy won’t be able to entice them.
  • Scratching — If your cat suddenly starts shredding your curtains and furniture, this could be a sign they are stressed.
  • Showing aggression — If your cat is stressed, they may exhibit aggressive behavior toward you or other pets in the home.

Tips to mitigate feline stress

The best way to alleviate your cat’s stress is to identify the cause and remove them from the stressor. Other tips include:

  • Scheduling a veterinary visit — Signs related to stress can indicate a health condition. Schedule a visit with our Madison Street Animal Hospital team so we can ensure a medical issue isn’t contributing to the problem.
  • Ensuring their litter box setup is approved — Cats are particular about their litter box. Steps to ensure your cat is pleased with their litter box setup include:
    • Scooping the litter box at least twice a day and changing the litter once a week.
    • Placing the litter box in a quiet but convenient area where your cat won’t be disturbed.
    • Ensuring you have enough litter boxes. You should have one for every cat in your home and one extra.
    • Using about two inches of clumping, unscented litter.
    • Ensuring the litter box is large enough. The box should be as long as your cat from their nose to the tip of their outstretched tail and as wide as your cat from their nose to the base of their tail.
    • Avoiding the use of box liners and hoods.
  • Creating a quiet zone — When you have friends and family visit, designate a room in your home where your cat can escape. Ensure they have all the resources they need to feel comfortable.
  • Providing appropriate resources — If you have multiple cats, ensure you have enough beds, bowls, scratching posts, vertical spaces to rest, and toys for every cat.
  • Providing enrichment — Cats need physical and mental exercise to prevent boredom and help them stay engaged. Schedule at least 10 minutes twice a day to play with your cat, and consider feeding them using a food puzzle toy to make mealtimes more enjoyable.

Following these tips should help keep your feline friend happy and stress free. If your cat appears stressed, contact our Madison Street Animal Hospital team so we can help determine the cause and find a way to address the problem.

By |2023-05-22T02:26:35+00:00May 21st, 2023|News|0 Comments

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