What is cat anxiety?
Do you ever feel stressed out in certain situations? Well, this is the same for your cat! They can feel tense and nervous for a number of reasons, including being left alone, travelling in the car or simply by everyday objects. Cat anxiety is usually seen as an irrational fear or when they believe something is dangerous when it usually isn’t. Cat behaviour changes are often the biggest sign of cat anxiety, so if you notice your cat acting strangely at specific times or to specific objects, then they may be suffering from anxiety.
What causes anxiety in cats?
Each of our feline friends is unique and special in their own way, but there are some common cat behaviours to look out for to tell if they’re dealing with stress and anxiety. Although there can be many reasons, they can generally be split into these three categories:
One of the biggest causes of cat anxiety is from some sort of fear. This will vary but are usually due to meeting new people or animals, loud noises such as storms, being in a new environment, certain objects such as the vacuum cleaner, or going to places they dislike such as the vets. It may seem amusing to us, but it appears that many cats are even afraid of unusual objects such as balloons, cucumbers and bananas! This may seem strange but is probably because they are unknown objects to cats that they wouldn’t usually come across.
Cat separation anxiety is one of the major causes of stress in cats and is often simple to notice. Separation anxiety in cats is when they fear being away from you and can result in them following you around all day as well as crying, yowling and pacing around when you leave the house. In worse cases, this can even happen when you simply leave the room or start putting your shoes on to prepare to leave.
Anxiety in older cats is usually due to their declining cognitive function. Similar to humans with the early stages of Alzheimer’s, cats minds can deteriorate with age, affecting their perception, learning, awareness and memory. This results in stress for your feline friend, as it can be difficult for them to remember where they are or what they are doing.
Cat anxiety symptoms
If you think your cat is suffering from some sort of anxiety, there are a number of common cat behaviour signs to look out for. Some of these symptoms include:
- Hiding away and withdrawal
- Aggressive behaviour
- Destructive behaviour
- Excessive meowing
- Trembling & shaking
- Excessive grooming
- Bald patches
- Biting & scratching
- Not using the litter box
- Urinating or defecating around the house
- Change of eating habits
- Following you around
Cat anxiety treatments
Dealing with an anxious cat can be difficult, as it’s not always straightforward to tell what they’re afraid of. The first step is to understand their behaviour. Identifying when they are exhibiting abnormal cat behaviour is key, as well as understanding if it is due to anxiety or another issue. This is especially important for an aggressive cat as they could be causing serious harm to themselves and others due to their anxiety. If you are unsure what it is, you can take your cat to the vets so they can diagnose the issue and rule out anything else.
Once you know that it is cat anxiety, you can find the best feline anxiety treatments and techniques for your specific cat. To start with, try removing the source of the fear by taking the object out of their view, keeping them in familiar environments and avoiding areas with lots of new people. Unfortunately though, most of the time the source can’t be avoided and is something that they instead need to learn to live with and not fear. This includes things like separation, travelling or going to the vets.
One useful way of providing cat anxiety relief in many situations is to keep their mind occupied, as a distracted cat is a calm cat! This can mean leaving the radio on, giving them treats as you leave the house or stroking and talking to them whilst travelling. These are only temporary aids though, not permanent solutions for changing your cat’s behaviour in the long run. Some longer-term methods for dealing with cat anxiety include:
Cat behaviour training
Many cat behaviour problems are a result of fear and stress, so understanding cat behaviour first is key to knowing if your pet is acting strangely and then addressing it. Bad cat behaviours commonly associated with anxiety often include defecating or urinating inside, being destructive, chewing or scratching furniture and aggression. If you have an aggressive cat then it is imperative that you address their behaviour as soon as possible before their aggressive behaviour gets worse. Teaching them to not be afraid of objects, people or situations can be done through behaviour training, and although it can take time, it can really help with those unwanted feline behaviours your cat exhibits when they get stressed out.
Cat anxiety medication
If you feel it is serious, you can visit your vets and ask about anti-anxiety medication for cats. Feline anxiety medications, however, are often are associated with having a number of unwanted side effects. For this reason, make sure when buying any sort of calming medication for cats that is has been prescribed and is used correctly.
If you don’t want to turn to medications quite yet, then products promoting natural anti-anxiety for cats could be the perfect option. These are often found in the form of cat calming tablets, as well as powders and liquid supplements. They use natural ingredients such as chamomile and passionflower as well as vitamins and minerals to help promote relaxation, relieve anxiety and restore calmness during stressful situations. You can also find tasty cat calming treats that work in the same way but are easy and simple to give to your furry friend on a daily basis. In addition to this, you can also find natural cat behaviour products such as anti-chew sprays to help with bad habits relating to stress, including scratching and biting at furniture.
Preventing cat anxiety
The best way to prevent cat anxiety is to deal with it from the very start. Addressing negative kitten behaviours related to stress and teaching them not to fear certain situations can help prevent an anxious cat in the future. Making sure there is a strong bond between you and your cat is also key to helping them, as that trust can help them feel more safe and secure.
Overall, if you’re dealing with cat anxiety, be patient and make sure you fully understand what the issue is first and what they fear. After that, do what you can to help your feline-friend through. Whether that's removing the source of the fear, training them how to live with it or by giving them calming treats and supplements, there is always something you can do to help!