It can be confusing why a cat might be stressed when it seems like all they do is sleep, eat, and sit on your computer, but the fact of the matter is, cats can develop stress just like their human counterparts. This is especially true if their usual routine is disturbed and they don’t know what to do. It can be something as small as a litter box not being cleaned frequently enough, or something larger like feeling frightened, sick, or traumatized. Even you can stress them out!
There are some common signs of a stressed cat, both physical and behavioral.
How can I tell if my cat is stressed:
- Poor appetite or eating less than normal
- Looking lethargic and sleeping more than usual
- Excessive eating and/or drinking
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- A poor coat condition
- Symptoms get worse in cats with chronic health conditions or recovery from illness is slow (stress can affect a cat’s immune system and ability to fight disease)
- Large bald patches or sores on the coat caused by over grooming
- Runny nose and eyes (e.g. cat ‘flu’)
- Eating non-food items such as plastic or wool (this is called ‘pica’)
- Not going to the toilet as often as usual (faeces and/or urine)
- Frequent squatting, painful urination with blood in it (e.g. cystitis).
- Any noticeable change in your cat’s usual patterns of behaviour and routines
- Toileting outside of the litter tray (e.g. behind the sofa, under the bed, on the bed etc.)
- Spraying urine on furniture and other items around the home
- Scratching excessively on the furniture
- Aggressive behaviour directed towards you, your family or visitors
- Aggressive behaviour directed towards other pets in the home
- Excessive meowing
- Constant vigilance and jumps at every sudden sound or movement
- Frequent hiding when in the home (e.g. under a sofa or bed, on top of a wardrobe)
- Reluctance to play – having previously been very playful
- Reluctance to come into the home
- Reluctance to go outside
- Excessive grooming
- Repeated pacing when in the home, often accompanied by loud meowing.
- An increased dependency on you or your family, constantly wanting to interact
- Withdrawal from you and the family, no longer interested in interacting with you
- Unresponsiveness to things going on around them (they don’t jump or get startled by loud noises or quick movements)
You may notice your cat sits differently, their facial expression changes, or they exhibit strange behaviours.
Other Signs Of A Stressed Cat:
- Staring at the floor with a fixed, glazed expression
- Rapid frequent grooming that usually lasts around five seconds, starting and stopping quite suddenly
- Frequent head shaking
- Rippling, twitching skin on their back
- Exaggerated swallowing and quick flicks of their tongue onto their nose
- Often crouching and looking tense indoors
- Ears rotate backward frequently or flatten downwards
- Wide-open eyes with very dilated pupils which make their eyes look black
If you notice any of these signs of anxiety, be sure to go first to your veterinarian to make sure it isn’t a physical ailment causing the anxiety. If it isn’t, your vet will know some good solutions to help with mental anxiety. Some recommend a cat tree to allow your cat to climb and play and have their own space. Food puzzle toys are also a good activity for your cat to use their hunting and eating skills. Rotating toys help keep your cat active and anxiety low, so if you can, change up the playtime!
If your cat’s anxiety is extreme, it may be time to talk to your veterinarian about some natural supplements or other medication that can help your cat feel less stressed. Otherwise, be patient, kind, and offer your cat all the soothing kitty options, like snuggles and maybe some calming new toys and treats that will help ease that anxiety. While you’re at it, do the same for yourself too!