Symptoms of Anxiety in Cats

symptoms of anxiety in cats

There are many symptoms of anxiety in cats that you need to be on the lookout for.  We often think of cats as lazy animals that spend their whole day napping in the sun.  With such a hard life, what could your cat possibly be stressed out about?

There are many situations that can indeed cause a lot of stress to your little friend, and knowing the symptoms can greatly help you aid your cat in stress relief.  It is normal for a cat to experience occasional stress such as stress when traveling in a car and anywhere else from home.

On the other hand, if your cat has constant anxiety and is always stressed out at home this can lead to some serious health issues.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety in Cats?

  • Hiding – If you notice your cat isn’t in his favorite room sun-tanning there may be an issue.  A cat will often hide due to intense feelings of anxiety.   A lot of these hiding places can be hard to reach or dark spaces that you probably haven’t seen him in before.
  • Aggression – Being aggressive is another sign of a heightened anxiety level.  Your cat may scratch or bite harder than normal while you are trying to play with him which shows agitation.  He might also attack your feet for no reason at all as you walk past him.  I definitely recall my own can doing this to me as I walked past him when he was under the coffee table.
  • Excessive Vocalization – Your cat may start meowing, or “meowning”, is what I call it.  This is similar to as if they are near another cat that they are hostile towards.  They will mix in a meow with a moan at the same time to cause it to sound like they are afraid and getting ready to attack.
  • Lethargy – We know cats are lazy, but has your cat been extra lazy lately?  Another big symptom of anxiety is when your cat’s energy levels are zero.
  • Vomiting – This symptom may be a hard one to spot since it is a generalized symptom for many illnesses.
  • Changes in Appetite or Weight – Out of nowhere your cat just stopped eating his favorite snacks and food.  This is not normal and is a big red flag.
  • Eliminating Outside the Litter Box – Anxiety can throw off normal patterns your cat has and going number 2  outside of his litter box is one of them.
  • Following You from Room to Room – Have you suddenly noticed your cat becoming overly attached?  This can be a sign of separation anxiety.
  • Destructive Behavior – Furniture scratching, spraying, and obnoxious meowing are all forms of destructive behavior.

What Causes Anxiety in Cats?

One form of stress can actually come from you the owner.  Changing physical and environmental factors in the house can cause an increase of anxiety in your cat.  Introducing a new member to the house as well as something simple like not changing the cat litter often enough.

Certain factors of a cat can contribute to even greater anxiety.  If your cat was abused or has been moved to several homes, they are more likely to suffer from anxiety than a cat that hasn’t been exposed to those elements.  Cats that were also not well taken care of in their younger years as a kitten may also contribute to heightened anxiety.

It is important for a cat to undergo many social activities before they reach 14 weeks in age.  Kittens that are kept isolated may grow up to be less social and more fearful of their surroundings.

The act of spaying or neutering a cat can also play a role in anxiety.  There have been studies to have found an increase in shyness in cats after this event, especially when it’s done at an early age.  Don’t let this change your idea about spaying or neutering a cat as they have their health benefits.  Another major factor to anxiety is genetics.  Some species of cats are just more prone to higher levels of anxiety than other types of cats.

What is Separation Anxiety In Cats?

A cat with separation anxiety will show distress and behavioral problems when they are separated from their owner or companion animals that they have bonded with.  A cat that suffers from separation anxiety will often follow their owner from room to room.  They will also try and hide when their owner prepares to leave the home.  If your animal develops this type of strong bond with you then it is very possible that they may be suffering from separation anxiety.

While you are away, your cat may refuse to eat, defecate outside the litter box, start destructive behavior, or even hide.  Once you return home, your cat might be overly enthusiastic when greeting you.  This is similar to a dog when they haven’t seen their owner all day.  Your cat might run up to your and instantly start purring while rubbing back and forth on your legs.  Cats that have a history of abandonment or frequent moves tend to be more prone to this type of anxiety.

If your cat exhibits this type of anxiety you can try getting another cat around the house.  If getting another cat is out of the question, then you will need to find some sort of item that will help divert his attention while you are gone.  You can try purchasing cat steps or various different interactive toys.

What Do I Do If My Cat Won’t Eat Because of Anxiety?

The first thing you can do is try a different cat food.  Purchase a few small cans of cat food from different brands and try each one.  Provide them to your cat at different times of the day.  If you usually feed your cat dry food try to change it up by introducing him to wet food.  You can even do what I like to do which is sprinkling dry food on top of the wet food.  My cat seems to love this kind of mixture although it can get a little pricey.  This may be enough to trigger your cat to start eating again.

Also remember to take it slow.  If your cat hasn’t been eating for awhile it may take them some time to get back to normal sized portions.  The stomach shrinks as food intake decreases.  Your cat’s stomach will have to slowly stretch out again if they haven’t been eating normal sized portions.

If your cat still will not eat their food you can try this method at a last resort. Try pouring tuna juice or chicken brother on the food to try and tempt your cat to try it.  Maybe even put some off limit food into his food to see if that will shake his appetite at all.

How to Treat Your Cat’s Anxiety

If your cat is showing signs of anxious behavior, go ahead and schedule a visit with your vet.  Your vet will first check your cat by doing a physical exam to rule out any other underlying conditions that can be causing this behavior.   If your cat is diagnosed with anxiety, your vet may prescribe medication to treat the issue.  The next thing your vet will recommend is how you can help alleviate your cat’s anxiety levels.

He may suggest that you work with a certified animal behaviorist.  Making changes to your routine or your cat’s environment can help relieve their anxiety.  For example, if your cat suffers from separation anxiety, provided distractions to your pet such as cat toys and snacks.

Try to provide a more stimulating environment at home for your cat.  Try adopting another kitten to help keep him company for times when you are gone.  Leaving a cat at home alone can cause a lot of anxiety in a cat.  You can also try to buy things that will help keep your cat busy.  A cat tree, such as this one from amazon, can also provide a better environment by encouraging physical activity.

Should I Discipline My Cat When He Gets Anxiety?

No.  You should never respond to an anxious cat in a negative manner.  You never want to yell or punish your cat.  Never punish your cat by locking them in a separate room from you.  Reacting this way will make the anxiety your cat is already suffering from even worse.  The best thing you can do for your cat at this time is to try and find out what the common issues are in the house that can be making him act the way he is.

A few things to keep in mind are if anyone new moved into your house recently.  Did you get a new pet?  Maybe you started spraying your house with a new air freshener.  The possibilities can be endless and some may sound dumb, but your cat’s mood can change from something as simple as a new roommate living with you.

How Do I Get an Anxious Cat out of Hiding?

Try using toys or your cat’s favorite snack to encourage him to come out of hiding.  Different places he can be hiding may be from under the couch, under the bed, the basement, behind the refrigerator, and even the garage.  Only you would know your cat the best.  He may also be hiding in his favorite places around the house so be sure to check all of those as well.  Once you have located your cat the next step is to lure him out.  Place toys or treats near his place of hiding to try and lure him out.

Once he comes out for the treats or toys go ahead and secure him.  Try to find out what is triggering this behavior in your cat and address it so it doesn’t happen again.  Sometimes finding out what triggered your cat isn’t easy so be sure to pay close attention to his behavior.

How to Create a Calming Situation For Your Cat to Relax

Your cat may just need to relax in order to calm down.  Here is how you can create a calmer environment for your cat.

  • Give your cat as much time as they need in order to calm down.  Don’t yell or get frustrated with your cat.
  • Take him to a quiet place where he can be alone.  An empty bedroom often works well for this.
  • Try to keep your cat on a daily routine.  Keeping a routine will help alleviate stress in your cat by keeping surprises to a minimum.
  • Cat’s mark their territory with scent.  Do not fully clean areas that your cat resides in.  Perform “spot cleaning” instead.  This will help keep your cat’s scent in tact.  Familiar scents are shown to keep cats in a more calm state.
  • Try a few cat treats as well as his giving him his favorite cat toy.  Surround him with objects that may have his scent to stimulate a calm environment.

How Can I Control Destructive Behavior From My Cat’s Anxiety?

If you are having issues with your cat scratching your house, provide your cat with a cat scratch post.  Instead of your cat clawing away at the carpet or walls, they can use the scratching post.  This may take your cat some getting used to.  Simply introduce the scratch post to your cat everyday to remind them to use it.

If you are having problems with your cat spraying in the house  You should immediately take them to the vet to see if they are suffering from any medical issues such as cystitis.  You may also want to look into getting your cat spayed or neutered.  If your cat does not have an underlying medical issues you will need to narrow down what may be causing your cats stress.

If your cat is being very vocal, the first step to do is not acknowledge it.  Simply withdraw any attention you were giving your cat.  This will signal to your cat that what they are doing will not produce any positive reactions.  The worst thing you can do to an over vocalized cat is respond with any type of attention or reaction.

Final Thoughts

Not knowing the root cause of your cat’s stress and anxiety can be daunting at first.  If you take the time and effort to really dive into what is triggering your cat then you will be able to act accordingly.  Helping your cat live a stress free life will contribute to his overall health and well being.

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