Pet owners know that when something is bothering a beloved animal, they want nothing more than to make it better.
You may sometimes wonder what your cat is trying to say or if they even think of you at all! Learning how cats communicate can help you understand what they need. For example, does your cat often rub up against your legs? If so, they are inviting you into their territory!
All cats have unique personalities and display affection, stress, and other emotions in varying ways. However, some behaviors tell us our cat is experiencing anxiety.
Cats can feel anxiety from an instinctual response to fear of unknown danger, whether real or imagined. Pets sometimes develop these types of concerns and phobias around the age of maturity. Although, a cat might experience age-related anxiety due to a decline in the autonomic nervous system later in life.
You may notice that some cats are disturbed by the sounds of other cats or they prefer to eat alone, while other cats appreciate having a playmate or nap-buddy Your cat may seem sociable or not be bothered by other animals, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care before adding another pet to the family. If you do this the right way, your cat won’t be anxious about this significant change in their life.
Start by giving your cat time to adjust by introducing the scent of the new pet before putting them in the same room. Do this by letting your cat smell the carrier the new pet arrives in, or wrap the new animal in a blankie or t-shirt and allow your cat to sniff that. Keeping the new pet in a different area of the home for the first few days will allow the resident cat time to adjust, thus lessening anxiety.
All cats need places where they feel safe, but for an anxious kitty, it is a must. Provide the cat with a high perch or cave-like spot where they can see their surroundings without feeling like they are in danger.
A certain degree of fear is normal in cats, such as a cat running or startling at loud noises such as when you turn on a vacuum cleaner. Cats can also experience mild fears, panic attacks, and anxiety. If you’ve ever seen the videos of cats startled by cucumbers, you know that cats can also develop phobias or a perpetual fear of a specific object.
Causes of cat anxiety
- moving homes
- health problems
- visiting the vet
- traumatic experience
- conflict with other house pets
- a new pet in the home
- strangers in the home
- being separated from the owner (although this is more common in dogs)
- old age
- memories of past experiences (especially in rescued kitties)
Your cat experiencing anxiety may not be evident; knowing how your cat responds when they feel anxious can help you understand their behavior. Spending time with your cat will help you recognize behavior that might indicate anxiety.
Signs of Cat Anxiety
- changes in appetite
- scratching (cats do scratch to keep their claws short, to stretch, display happiness, and to mark their territory but it can also be a stress-relieving behavior and a sign that they are experiencing anxiety)
- hissing or other aggressive actions
- going outside the litterbox
- changes in bowel movements such as diarrhea
- Excessive licking/biting themselves – sometimes a cat will groom until they create a bald spot! Cats often lick each other and also their humans to strengthen social bonds. However, sometimes a cat may lick to comfort them and to relieve anxiety. If you notice your cat licking and she appears tense, it could be anxiety.
How to Ease Anxiety in Your Cat
- Natural calming Supplements
- Aromatherapy – believe it or not, using certain essential oils can make a cat feel calm! Using a cat collar diffuser can help anxious kitties to feel at ease.
- Toys – leave several toys around your cat’s area, so they have them to enjoy when they feel like playing.
- Playtime with the owner – most cats love a good game of chase. Keep toys around that peak your cat’s interest.
- Safe space – cats like to get in a high place that makes them feel like they are out of harm’s way. If you have children, provide a tower or other spot where they can go to get away from loving hands when they’ve had enough.
- Creating a routine for your cat can reduce anxiety. Clean the litter box every day around the same time. Feed your cat like clockwork.
- Food treats are an excellent way to create a strong bond with your cat. Offer the treats in the palm of your hand while getting down to their level can help them learn to trust you for comfort. In fact, when I saved my kitten’s life with chicken bone broth, I learned that plain chicken makes a delicious cat treat. All of my cat clan comes running when they hear the fridge snack drawer open.
With anxiety, as with other behavior issues, it is important not to lose your temper with your cat because that can reinforce their fears. It’s best to practice patience and reward rather than punish. If you find your cat is incredibly anxious when you are around, you might try pretending you don’t see him. Giving him a sense of invisibility can allow him to feel free to move around the home with less anxiety.
Stress is part of life, but because our cats depend on us, it is imperative that we are aware of the signs of anxiety. Knowing what to do to help your cat can not only make life more relaxing for the kitty but it improves your bond. If your cat seems to be more anxious than usual or appears to be suffering, seek help from a professional such as your veterinarian who can diagnose and treat the problem.
Rebecca Huff is USAF Veteran, animal lover, and mother of six children who loves to experiment with recipes. From her early 20’s Rebecca has developed a passion for health and wellness. She started exploring the globe at age 18 and thoroughly enjoys traveling and experiencing other cultures. In her free time, she can be found reading, knitting, or planning her next adventure. Visit her website at thatorganicmom.com.