Can Our Cats Be Stressed Out?
4 November, 2014
Our cats are very fun, sweet sensitive pets that warm up our household and give us so much joy. We know when our cats are happy or frightened, but sometimes we can’t read how they are feeling. In fact, cats can have stress issues just as we humans do. But, since cats are independent creatures and don’t complain verbally (unless they are incessantly meowing), we need to watch out for some of the signs.
What causes stress in your cat?
Even the smallest change in your home can cause a cat to be stressed. Some cats will feel stressed for an hour while others might sulk for a week. Your cat could be stressed for a number of small or big things. Did you just have your home painted? Change the carpet? Is the litter box dirty? Did you change your cat’s food? Or your cat’s bed?
There are also big factors or triggers that would increase your cat’s stress level. If you add another cat? Baby? Move to a new home or any other big environmental changes?
How can you tell if your cat is stressed?
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 miss that her stress level has increased if he or she is hiding under the couch for longer than usual.
Signs of stress may include: loss of appetite, over grooming, hiding out, sulking, eliminating outside of the litter box and hissing. Or your cat might act differently towards you or another household member or pet.
How to reduce the stress in your cat’s life
The first step is to take your cat to your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical problem. This would be the most obvious reason that your cat is acting up. If your veterinarian says that all is well with your kitty and gives your cat a clean ‘bill of health’, than you know that something behavioral or a change is causing your cat stress.
Try to identify what is causing the stress
When it comes to trying to figure out what is causing your cat stress, it is important to understand that your cat hears much better than you and has senses – hearing, smell, taste that are heightened. Only you know your cat well, so you could think about what has changed, what your cat like or doesn’t like to figure out why your kitty is stressed. Maybe your neighbor has a barking dog that makes your cat nervous? Or your TV is suddenly on a louder volume.
Look around your home, keep an eye of your cat to see if there is anything you can sense that has changed. It shouldn’t be that difficult to know what triggers your cat’s fear or what the cause might be.
To minimize stress levels for your kitty, below are some recommendations to help:
- If you have something that will change in your cat’s environment, try to prepare your cat for known upcoming changes so she won’t get too scared or confused.
- Make sure your cat has safe hideaways and safe retreats for when she doesn’t want to be bothered.
- Always keep your cat’s litter box clean and make sure the set-up is appealing (type of litter, type of box, location, number of boxes). Don’t move it or change it unless there is an issue.
- Make sure your cat has a place to run to and away from unwanted attention from children, dogs or other family members. Be sure all family members (and guests) know that when kitty is in her safe spot she is to be left alone.
- Engage in daily interactive playtime sessions with your kitty to build confidence and help your cat develop a positive association with you or with certain areas of the home.
- Cats don’t like change so try to keep changes to a minimum. This applies to even the simplest things such as brands of litter, food or even the food bowl itself. If a change must take place, do a gradual transition, especially food and/or litter.
- Have toys, treats, and interactive games for your kitty to keep your cat happy and entertained. The happier your cat is, the less stressed he or she will be.
- Although cats are very independent, if you decide to go away, even for a day, have a neighbor or friend come by to take care of your cat, especially if you have only one cat. If you leave your cat alone for a few days, he will be sad and stressed out.
There are many reasons why your cat might be stressed. If you really can’t figure out the trigger, there are many professionals who deal with behavioral issues in cats. They might be able to figure out something obvious that you missed or what the trigger is that caused your cat’s undue stress.