Just like us humans, cats can also suffer with anxiety. They will experience anxiety if they perceive a situation as dangerous (regardless of whether it actually is or not). Although they can’t tell us, there are a few telltale signs they may show to indicate that they may be suffering with stress and anxiety.
How would I know?
Typical symptoms of anxiety or stress can include:
- Destructive behaviour like clawing at the curtains or scratching the furniture
- Overgrooming themselves, sometimes to the point of causing bald patches or sore skin (“OCD” or repetitive type behaviours)
- Toileting outside of their litter tray, or urine spraying
- Hiding away and withdrawing
- Being easily startled or fleeing
- Medical Vocalising or miaowing more
- Problems such as cystitis
It’s important to work out when your cat began to show symptoms of anxiety. This will help when identifying the best technique to help them.
What causes anxiety?
Again similar to people, cats can suffer with anxiety as a result of big changes to their routine or environment. An obvious example of this is moving house or staying in a cattery, where their entire environment has changed. The introduction of a new baby or another pet, noisy building work being done or a change in job meaning you’re spending more or less time with your pet can also be potential triggers. Changes can be outside the home making the cause harder to identify. Such as a new cat in your cat’s territory due to bullying or competition.
Some cats may be more predisposed to anxiety than others. Particularly if they have missed certain experiences and socialisation as a kitten. If left untreated, anxiety can become a serious problem. It’s unlikely to get better on its own and fearful behaviours can become more pronounced over time.
How can we deal with feline anxiety?
Firstly, if you’ve noticed any changes to your pet’s behaviour, you should always get them checked over by your vet as the symptoms of anxiety can also be signs of other illnesses. Your vet will be able to perform a thorough clinical examination and ensure there are no underlying conditions. Once they’ve ruled out other health issues they may diagnose your cat with feline anxiety and may recommend certain calming techniques or in some cases, medication.
The most important step is to identify the cause of their anxiety, as often a simple change in their environment or routine can be really helpful.
- If your cat has separation anxiety, then creating a stimulating environment to keep your cat distracted when you’re out of the house can be helpful. Activity puzzle feeders are great for this, as well as toys and perches with stimulating views.
- If you’ve introduced a new pet to the household, then a gradual acclimatization process will be necessary. It’s very likely your cat will need time to adjust to sharing their space, as well as sharing the attention that you give to them. You will need to ensure your pet has time and space away from the new pet if they need it, including perching places where they can get up high. Baby gates can be useful to give them a safe space.
- If there’s a new cat on the block, then using a microchip cat flap can ensure no unwanted visitors can get in the house. Shutting the curtains to stop your cat seeing or feeling threatened by a new cat outside.
- Certain cat calming products, such as Feliway are available in both spray and plug-in diffuser formats. They work by releasing pheromones which mimic natural cat pheromones which help to calm them. They can’t be relied on as a solution on their own but can be helpful alongside environmental modification.