A Guide to Cat Anxiety

Sep 20, 2021

We know you love your precious kitty cat. That’s why you’re concerned about whether your cat is anxious. Cat anxiety can stem from several different sources and can get worse without treatment. It may also be difficult to tell when your cat is anxious because cats are very different creatures from humans. In this article, we’ll look at signs of cat anxiety, its causes, and different ways of treating and addressing your cat’s anxiety.

Is My Cat Anxious?

Causes of Anxiety in Cats

How to Improve Anxiety In Cats

Calm and Relaxation for Cats

Cat CBD by Pet Releaf

Is My Cat Anxious

According to PetMD, “anxiety is the anticipation of a danger or threat. So even though your cat is not actually in danger, they are anticipating it. Cat anxiety can cause bodily reactions and changes in your cat’s behavior.”. Some of the more subtle signs of cat anxiety are physical reactions such as:

  1. Increased heart rate. 
  2. Increased respiratory rates or breathing more heavily.
  3. Panting. Like dogs, cats can pant when they’re anxious.
  4. Trembling. This can be a sign that they’re scared and are having a nervous reaction.
  5. Excess salivation. Also, like dogs, a lot of slobber can be a sign your cat is anxious.

While these are some of the more subtle physical reactions, there are more obvious behavioral reactions to anxiety such as:

  1. Moving and running around more than usual. All cats get the crazies now and again, but if your cat is running and leaping around more than normal, it could point to anxiety.
  2. Increased vocalization, or lots of meowing or yowling. If your cat is normally very vocal, it might be hard to tell if there’s anything out of the ordinary going on, but if your normally quiet kitty starts yowling more frequently, he or she could be trying to tell you that they’re scared. 
  3. Hiding more frequently than normal. This is a sensible reaction; if a cat is feeling anxious, hiding is a natural response. 
  4. Destructive behaviors, or an increase in destructiveness. All that anxious energy needs to go somewhere, and it might be channeled into scratching up furniture or chewing on cords. 
  5. Urinating outside of their litter box. This also might be a sign of a urinary tract infection, but it could be that your kitty is trying to tell you they’re feeling anxious. 
  6. Excessive grooming. This falls under the compulsive category, and especially if you are noticing hair loss, could be a sign of anxiety. There is a risk of breaking the skin and potential infection if your cat is over grooming.  
  7. Lack of grooming. While this could also be a sign of dental issues or pain in the mouth, sometimes cats react to anxiety by stopping their usual grooming routine. 
  8. Emotionally needy and acting “clingy”. While this may seem cute, or a sign of how much they love you, clingy behaviors like following you around the house could be a sign of anxiety. 
  9. Aggressive behaviors, including biting you, or fighting with other animals in the house.
  10. Changes in eating habits. This includes eating less, vomiting after eating or eating everything they can get their little paws on. 
  11. Your cat is pacing and can’t seem to sit still.
  12. Or, the opposite, your kitty seems to have low energy.

Causes of Anxiety in Cats

Many things can cause your cat anxiety. Here are a few of the reasons why your cat may be feeling anxious:

1. A change of space

Did you recently move or have another big, life, or space-changing event, like having a baby? Any big changes to your cat’s world can cause your pet companion to experience anxiety. Cats are territorial and very sensitive to their environment. 

2. Another animal in the house

If you have a multi-pet home, be on the lookout for signs that one of the other animals is affecting your cat. It doesn’t have to be bullying per se, a hyper puppy who wants to play and doesn’t understand cat body language is enough to stress out your feline friend.

3. Illness or physical pain

Unfortunately, one of the signs that your cat might be sick is anxious behavior. Or, if your cat is normally anxious and it seems to be getting worse, this could be a sign that your cat has an underlying physical condition that needs attention from a vet. 

4. Age

As cats age, their nervous systems can change, which alters their awareness and perceptions of the world around them. This can understandably cause anxiety in our kitty friends.

5. Trauma

Any cat can experience trauma, but if you have a rescue cat, it’s more likely. Though cats experience trauma differently than we do, your cat may have been traumatized by something and you weren’t aware of it. Or perhaps some other external stressor is bringing out latent trauma from when they were younger. 

How to Improve Anxiety in Cats

There are a variety of ways to treat anxiety in cats, ranging from medications to nutritional supplements to increased playtime. 

1. Remove stressors from your cat’s environment

As much as possible, try to identify any environmental stressors in your cat’s life and remove them if possible. Perhaps using a baby gate to give your cat an escape from an overly friendly dog. If you can’t remove the stressor, such as if there’s a new baby in the home, use positive training techniques like rewarding with treats when your cat is exhibiting the behaviors that you want to see. 

2. Nutritional supplements and herbs

Cats respond well to supplements used by people for stress, like Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and valerian root. Look for high-quality pet supplements, and check ingredient labels with google before administering any products made for people to your cat. Plus, be sure to consult with your veterinarian before adding any new supplements to your cat’s daily regimen.

3. Pheromones

Use pheromones to communicate calmness to your cat at the chemical level. According to Pet MD, “Pheromones are odorless and colorless chemical signals that are species-specific.”, and can be used to help calm both cats and dogs. But don’t worry, the pheromones used for cats don’t affect dogs, and vice versa. The pheromones send a comforting message to your cat and may help  them feel safe and secure at a chemical level. There are many ways to use pheromones such as in a plug-in wall diffuser or on a special collar that releases the pheromones. 

4. Exercise and playtime

Make sure your cat is getting enough exercise and playtime. Not only is mental stimulation good for anxiety, but exercise is also good for anxiety in cats the same way it’s good for anxiety in humans. Cats need up to two twenty-minute play sessions a day. 

5. Medication

Your vet might prescribe an antidepressant or an anti-anxiety medication for your cat. These can take several weeks to work, and depending on your cat, they could be on them for years or slowly weaned off after a few months. Here are a few examples of medication your doctor might prescribe your cat: 

  1. Fluoxetine

          This medication is good for generalized anxiety and is classified as an SSRI.This can help manage your cat’s serotonin levels. 

      2. Paroxetine 

           This medication can be helpful for aggression, compulsive behavior, urine spraying, and other fearful behavior.

      3. Gabapentin

           This medication is useful when your can is anxious and aggressive. Don’t use oral gabapentin for humans—it contains xylitol which is toxic for cats. This is a short-acting medication that takes effect in 60-90 minutes and lasts about 8-12 hours. 

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