Jun 09

How To Deal with a Stressed Cat

Click the picture to get your copy of The Complete Book of Home Remedies for Your Cat

Click the picture to get your copy of The Complete Book of Home Remedies for Your Cat

If your feline friend is behaving strangely or inappropriately, you could have a stressed cat on your hands. Chances are you don’t need to reach for the kitty Prozac, nor should you become anxious yourself. Fortunately, with a little patience and effort, you can help calm your cat and yourself at the same time.

Signs of a stressed cat

If your cat is engaging in any of the following activities, he or she could be stressed.

  • Pacing (and vocalizing)
  • Grooming excessively (although this could be an allergy)
  • Not grooming (also an indication of other problems, but the other issues can have a stress component)
  • Verbalizing excessively
  • Suddenly not playing like he/she used to
  • Suddenly not sleeping as much as normal
  • Eating inedible objects such as string, fabric (including clothing and furniture), plastic, and plants
  • Not using the litter box
  • Scratching the screens, doors, windows, or walls in your house
  • Hiding or withdrawing more than usual
  • Suddenly being aggressive toward familiar family members or other animals in the house

Naturally, other factors could be involved, such as an illness. If you have any reason to believe your cat could be ill, you should take kitty to your vet as soon as possible.

However, there are numerous circumstances and situations that can cause a stressed cat. For example

  • Recent change in environment (e.g., did you move or confine the cat to a new area of the house?)
  • Addition of a new human (e.g., a new baby) or pet family member
  • Change in food
  • Change in litter
  • Travel to the vet (some cats hate to travel in the car for any reason)
  • Death of a family member or pet
  • Surgery or illness
  • Loud noises (e.g., loud music, construction inside or outside the home, shouting among family members)

How to help a stressed cat

One study found that playing yoga meditation music for cats who were recovering from surgery (certainly a stressful experience) had a calming effect. In that study, which was reported in 2010, one group of cats who had undergone surgery were exposed to the music while another group was not. Those who heard the music had a significant decline in their respiration rates that was much faster than that of the cats who did not hear the music. This is important because stress has a negative impact on the immune system, which slows the healing process.How To Deal with a Stressed Cat

Other ways to reduce stress for your cat (and yourself) is to:

  • Provide safe climbing places such as cat condos, ladders, or window shelves
  • Provide hiding places such as empty cardboard boxes placed around the house. Move the boxes every few days so the experience is “new.” This works wonders for my two cats.
  • If you are introducing new food or litter, do so gradually. Mix the old with the new over a period of days
  • Hire a cat sitter if you are going away. Cats do not like changes in their environment, and being confined in a strange kennel in a foreign facility can be very stressful.
  • Provide a safe place where your kitty can look outside and watch the birds or any other activity. A window shelf attached to the window sill, a small table next to a window, or a secure glass door should suffice.
  • Play quiet music in the background, especially when you go out
  • Play cat videos. There are specially made videos for cats that some (but not all) cats will watch
  • Introduce some calming scents, such as catnip, lavender, chamomile, and valerian root. You also might consider pheromone products. Cat pheromone products reportedly mimic the “real” thing and are available as sprays, wipes, collars, and diffusers (plug-ins).
  • Provide toys for your cat. They do not need to be expensive or even store bought. My cat loves to play with plastic soda bottle caps, crumpled paper, and straws. Toys that contain catnip also can be a source of fun.
  • If your cat is receptive to massage and/or brushing, be sure to provide both as much as possible.

If all else fails and your stressed cat is not improving, talk to your vet. Be sure to tell him or her everything you have tried and about any stressful situations present in your home.

Whatever you do, do not shout at or punish your stressed cat for her strange behaviors (or ever!). Cats are sentient creatures that deserve your patience and understanding. Nurture the relationship with your feline family member and the days of living with a stressed cat should gradually disappear.

For more about how to live in harmony with your cat(s), see The Complete Book of Home Remedies For Your Cat.

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