Anyone who has suffered from stress and anxiety is well aware of their debilitating effects on health. Anxiety in cats works in the same way: not only can it cause discomfort and irritability, but it can also lead to several attitude problems.
If left untreated, anxiety in cats can negatively impact their health. If you think you might be dealing with a stressed cat, keep reading to understand what’s going on with your kitty, learn how to spot cat anxiety symptoms, reduce them and create a happy home for your cat.
Let’s start from the beginning. What is anxiety for a cat?
Anxiety in cats occurs when the animal feels threatened or insecure for other reasons in its environment. Unfortunately, it is a very frequent condition. Anxiety in cats can express itself in many forms; for example, the cat may show signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder, nervousness, hyperactivity, or all of these at the same time.
Besides, cats are also capable of “absorbing” anxiety directly from their owner. If the pet owner feels anxious or nervous, the cat will pick up on these signals and anticipate danger or threat.
Spotting cat anxiety symptoms
While every cat shows anxiety differently, there are common physiological responses in cats, this include:
- Increased heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Increased breathing rate
- Avoiding eye contact
- Dilated pupils
- Decreased appetite
Common body language signs that indicate anxiety in cats
- Ears backward
- Whiskers forward
- Growling, hissing, and other vocalizations
- Hunched back
- Walking very slowly with their body very close to the ground
- Spiking hair
Some common behaviors in anxious cats
- Look for places to hide
- Excessive grooming
- Try to climb high where they might feel safe or getting under furniture where they feel like they’re covered
- Act aggressively and enter ‘fight or flight’ mode
Here are the most common cat anxiety symptoms categorized from mild to severe:
Mild cat anxiety symptoms
- Avoiding eye contact
- Shifting body or head away
- Holding their tail close to their body
- Slight tail flicking
- Partially dilated pupils
Moderate cat anxiety symptoms
- Ears partially to the side
- Increased dilation of the pupils
- Increased respiratory rate
- Staring at the stimulus
- Holding their tail tight against their body
- Crouching and leaning away
Severe cat anxiety symptoms
- Trying to escape or completely freezing in her place
- Fully dilated pupils
- Holding their ears backward
- Super spiky hair
- Aggressive behavior
What can trigger cat anxiety?
- Being with unfamiliar people
- Being with unfamiliar animals
- An unfamiliar environment
- Loud sounds like that of vacuum cleaners, hairdryers, washing machines, fireworks, etc.
- Vet visits
- Nail clipping
- Handling (tight hugs, kissing, shaking, etc.)
- Carriers and strollers
- Car rides
- Litter change
Causes of anxiety in cats
Pain and illness
Painful physical conditions, including infectious diseases, toxicity, and aging-related problems, can develop anxiety or exacerbate it if it already exists, and this may lead to behavioral problems, including phobias and fears.
Traumatic experiences can highly affect your cat’s mental and physical health, even if they didn’t seem traumatic to you.
The socialization period, usually from 7 to 12 weeks of age, is such a critical phase. Depriving the cat of positive social and environmental exposures may increase the risk of developing fears and anxiety.
When you leave your cat alone, it exhibits anxiety or excessive distress behaviors. This can be due to rehoming, having only one family member, noise phobia, or being abandoned in the past.
Cats forced to live indoors may suffer from anxiety because of the inability to express their innate need and instinct to hunt and escape danger. Since there are no prey to hunt and no rivals to escape from, the cat must repress its instinctive reactions, and in the long run, this can lead to anxiety.
How do you manage cat anxiety?
Treatment for cat anxiety not only involves environment management but also treating underlying medical conditions. If left untreated, these disorders are likely to progress and lead to a worse behavioral reaction.
- Provide your cat with places to hide, so she feels safe.
- Cats are very scent-oriented, so changing a couch and a carpet at once may seem a lot to them and make them feel anxious.
- Control your reactions, and this includes being calm, talking in a lower voice, and managing your body language.
- Most importantly, don’t take it personally, your cat isn’t hiding from you, and she still loves you; you just need to help her ease her stress.
Here are 2 of the best calming aids for anxious cats
Calming Cat Collar
If you are looking for a safe, effective, and continuous calming aid, this calming cat collar may be a great choice for you. It is infused with natural essential oils to help reduce stress and anxiety and provide continuous calming aids to a nervous cat. It is fast and durable, with an adjustable size to suit almost all cats’ types and sizes. It is very simple to use; you just place it on your cat’s neck, which will last about 60 days.
Our light, seemingly simple-looking calming bed checks all the boxes on what makes cats snuggly, happy, and relaxed. Its squishy-raised walls allow your cat to fully sink into it and curl up while creating a sense of security. This will positively activate the cat’s nervous system allowing your fur friend to calm down faster and relax more easily.