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9 Signs Your Cat Is Stressed Out (And How to Help)

stressed cat

While cats are often portrayed as low-maintenance pets, they’re actually quite sensitive creatures that can easily become stressed by changes or disruptions in their environment and routine. When stressed, cats may start exhibiting behavioral issues that range from mildly annoying to downright destructive.

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As a caring cat owner, it’s important to learn the signs that your feline friend is feeling stressed or anxious. Being able to identify feline stress early allows you to address the root cause before issues spiral out of control. Let’s look at 9 common signs of stress in cats, along with tips on how to help calm an anxious kitty.

  • Excessive Grooming While fastidious grooming is normal for cats, compulsive overgrooming can be a sign that your cat is feeling stressed or anxious. You may notice your cat excessively licking, chewing or pulling out their fur, sometimes leading to bald spots or red, irritated skin areas.

  • Changes in Vocalization Have you noticed your typically quiet cat meowing more frequently? Or perhaps your usually talkative cat has suddenly gone silent. Stressed cats may meow or yowl excessively when they’re feeling anxious. On the flip side, some kitties respond to stress by being very quiet.

  • Inappropriate Urination/Litter Box Issues There are few things more stressful for cat owners than coming home to puddles or piles outside the litter box. However, this is often a kitty’s way of saying “Hey, something is really stressing me out over here!”
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  • Hiding While many cats love to cozy up in small nooks to nap, an overly withdrawn, reclusive cat could be a sign of stress or anxiety. If your feline seems to be taking more “cat naps” and hiding away from people and activity, they may be feeling overwhelmed.

  • Decreased Appetite Is your normally food-motivated cat suddenly turning up their nose at meals? Loss of appetite is a common reaction to stress in cats and can lead to weight loss if not addressed.

  • Aggression Cats aren’t typically aggressive for no reason. If your usually sweet-natured cat has started biting, hissing, or swatting more often, built-up stress or anxiety could be the cause. Redirected aggression like scratching furniture, humans, or other pets happens when a stressed cat has no other way to release tension.
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  • Excessive Shedding Stressed cats may shed more than normal. You may notice an uptick in hair around the home or clumps of fur coming off as you pet your cat. This excessive shedding is often related to overgrooming as a reaction to stress or anxiety.

  • Gastrointestinal Issues Does your cat seem constipated or straining to use the litter box? Perhaps they are vomiting more than usual. Digestive issues can arise when your cat is highly stressed.

  • Destructive Behaviors Is your cat scratching up the furniture more than usual, or perhaps shredding areas like carpets or curtains? Random destructive behaviors like these can sometimes be an outlet when your cat is feeling stressed or anxious.

What Causes Stress in Cats?

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Now that you can recognize some of the common signs of stress in cats, you’re likely wondering “What’s causing my cat to feel so anxious?” Here are some common stress triggers in felines:

  • Environmental changes or remodeling
  • New people, pets or major disruptions in routine
  • Loud noises like construction or thunderstorms
  • Dirty, overcrowded, or unpleasant litter box conditions
  • Conflicts with other household pets
  • Lack of enrichment and playtime
  • Medical issues or health problems
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How to Help a Stressed Cat

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So what can you do if you spot the signs of stress in your cat? First, try to identify and remove any obvious stressors you can. Then follow these tips to help soothe your anxious feline:

Create Hiding Spots – Provide your cat with safe, quiet spaces to retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. This could be a covered cat bed or even a box with a hole cut in it.

Try Calming Products – There are many calming pheromone sprays, diffusers and supplements made just for cats to help ease stress and anxiety. Ask your vet for recommendations.

Play Calming Music/Videos – You can find specially designed calming pet music playlists on streaming services. Videos of birds or small prey animals can also be soothing.

Use Interactive Toys – Enrichment through playtime and food puzzles helps relieve pent-up energy and boredom that can contribute to stress.

Stick to a Routine – Cats thrive on routine and predictability. Try to feed, play and give affection at the same times each day.

Give More One-on-One Time – Sometimes cats just need extra TLC and quality time with their owners to feel secure.

Rule Out Medical Issues – It’s always wise to have your vet examine persistent stress signals in case they are symptoms of an underlying health issue.

With some creative tactics and a little extra patience and love, you CAN help reduce and manage your cat’s stress and anxiety. After all, a calm and relaxed cat makes for a much happier feline friend and a more harmonious home for everyone.

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