Your cat may not have the same problems that humans do, but she can certainly experience similar struggles with anxiety. While your kitty may not be able to clearly communicate her needs and concerns to you, there are still plenty of steps you can take to keep your pet feeling happy and comfortable.
Causes of Cat Anxiety
Whether your furry friend is naturally introverted or more of a social butterfly, it’s important to take note of any changes in your cat’s behavior. If your kitty is showing signs of anxiety, take some time to assess her current environment to determine any possible causes.
Common causes of cat anxiety include:
Change in routine. This could include a dietary change or schedule change, or perhaps you’re heading back to the office after working at home for the past year and a half.
Unfamiliar environment, such as a car ride or vet visit, or moving to a new home. A home remodel could also cause anxiety—not only are the sounds of construction disorienting, but your cat also has to learn how to navigate the home in a different way.
Changes to the current environment. Perhaps you’re adding a pet or family member to the household, or perhaps your kitty is coping with the loss of a household member. Something as simple as a change in furniture could also cause a sensitive cat to experience anxiety.
Miscellaneous events, such as the 4th of July fireworks or a loud, crowded dinner party can also make a cat feel anxious.
- Separation anxiety. If your cat acts particularly clingy or suddenly displays behavioral problems when you’re gone or getting ready to leave, she may be experiencing anxiety at the thought of being away from you.
Signs Your Cat is Anxious
Similar to humans, not all cats display their anxiety in the same way. Some internalize it and become isolated, while others become more vocal and clingy. Keep in mind that some cats are also natural loners, while others are naturally more social. When assessing whether your cat is experiencing anxiety, compare her behavior to how she acts on a relatively normal basis.
Common signs of an anxious cat include:
- Loss of appetite
- Bathroom incidents outside of the litter box
- Over-grooming, or self-harming behavior such as chewing on her tail or paws
- Digestive issues, such as recurrent vomiting
- Aggressive behavior
- Scratching, especially on inappropriate objects
Keep in mind that a cat who is feeling sick or uncomfortable may exhibit anxious behavior as a result. In these cases, anxiety is a symptom of another health problem rather than the main issue. Talk to your vet to rule out any underlying health issues.
Additionally, some cats can be hyperactive without being anxious… if you’re a cat owner who has witnessed those 4 am zoomies, you can attest to that. Healthy outlets are important for expending some of that excess energy, as well as relieving anxiety.
How to Calm an Anxious Cat
Every cat has their own unique personality. Depending on the cause of your cat’s anxiety and your cat’s disposition, coping mechanisms may differ; what works for one cat may not work for another. How you calm your cat’s anxiety also depends on the cause of her stress.
There are plenty of calming cat products available, including compression shirts or vests, calming collars with pheromones, pheromone diffusers, calming treats, and interactive toys for mental enrichment.
You don’t have to break the bank to create a relaxing atmosphere for your pet, though.
Make sure your kitty has access to a calm, quiet, secluded room with plenty of undisturbed space and time to decompress. At the minimum, she should have a crate or box and hiding spots to claim as her own safe spaces to escape to on her own terms.
Some cats feel comforted by soothing music and/or videos. An online search will show you plenty of soothing nature videos made specifically for cats, some of which can play for hours at a time.
Positive interaction is also healthy—and not just when your kitty is feeling stressed. In fact, cat anxiety is usually a sign that you should give her some space. The happier and more relaxed your cat feels around you on a regular basis, though, the less likely she is to experience anxiety. Make time every day for plenty of playtime and cuddles, and give your cat access to plenty of toys, treats, and catnip to create a comfortable, loving environment.
Give your cat a sturdy scratcher, too. Whether it’s a scratching post, scratchpad, or interactive scratching toy, scratching is a feline instinct that can act as a healthy outlet for emotions such as excitement and anxiety. Plus, your furniture and walls will thank you!
If your cat is particularly scared of a specific object in your home, take some time to create a positive association. For example, give your cat a treat or some catnip every time you turn on the blender or vacuum cleaner to let her know that it’s not so bad.
If you’re moving, try to keep things as familiar as possible—moving to a new home is not the time to try out new cat beds and toys. Instead, keep your cat’s old bed, toys, scratchers, and food to maintain a sense of normalcy as she adjusts to her new surroundings.
A healthy cat is generally a happy cat, so it may help to offer some dietary supplements to boost your kitty’s overall health. Help soothe anxiety with Pet Honesty's Calming Chews for Cats, support mood and reduce overall stress with Omega-3 Fish Oil, and promote healthy digestion and overall health with Digestive Probiotics+ Powder for Cats.
In extreme cases, your vet may be able to prescribe anxiety medications to keep your cat’s mood under control.