How To Calm Cat Anxiety And Stress: Symptoms And Relief
Cats are usually independent creatures, so their day-to-day life should not change overly even if your routine changes for example, because you stop or start working from home. However, some cats might feel stressed by changes in routine, so its important to know the signs of a distressed cat and how you can help them.
When circumstances in your home change, it is important to stick to normal routines with your cat as much as possible and be aware that a change in your behaviour can have an impact on them.
Animal behaviourist Inga MacKellar shares her advice:
Inga also tells us the signs to look out for if your cat is feeling anxious, and how you can help them. Here are some tips on using your body language and surroundings to ease your pet’s distress.
Try Not To Handle Them If Theyre Not Keen
While many cats like to be stroked for a long period of time, others are happier to enjoy their own company. Some cats might be quick to tell you that theyre unhappy while others are more subtle in their behaviour. Pay attention to their body language and always make sure they have the freedom to move away from you when they wish.
Pet Your Cat To Reduce Stress
Pet Your Cat to Reduce Stress!
| Cornell Feline Health Center – Member Blog
With the current COVID-19 situation, we are all going through a difficult time and such times can be stressful. It has been shown that stress can have negative effects on our physical and mental well-being, so finding ways of minimizing stress is in everyone’s best interest.
We have a simple solution to this problem for all cat owners…try petting your cat. Most of us have experienced the calming effect of interacting with our feline friends, and numerous studies suggest that interaction with cats and dogs can have beneficial physiologic and psychological effects on us.
Talk about a safe and effective therapy…no side effects and an appreciable benefit to your mood. We say win-win for both you and your cat.
In fact, a recent study that used university students as subjects found that petting cats and dogs for 10 minutes decreased the amount of cortisol in their saliva. These findings are consistent with the notion that interacting with cats and dogs decreases stress.
We know that these are trying times, but with people, cats, and dogs working together, we will all be OK.
Interested in becoming a member to receive weekly blog posts from Dr. Korneich himself?Learn more here about membership
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While Every Cat Has A Different Personality The General Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Felines Are:
As veterinarians and pet owners, we know that some of these things can be frustrating, particularly the elimination outside the litter box. Many cat owners have gotten the gift of defecation on the bed, in a shoe, or on an item of clothing. Its important to remember that this isnt necessarily a sign of spiteful behavior but can often mean that your cat is looking to mix their scent with yours. Cats believe they are also helping you find your way home. Instincts run deep!
Your Cats Social Interaction
Never force your cat to interact. Let kitty set the pace of how much he wants to engage. Dont insist on holding or petting your cat if he doesnt want it. If he doesnt mind being held, always put him down before he starts to struggle. Keep the experience positive. You can give him incentives to be more sociable, such as offering a treat or playtime, but always let it be his choice of whether to accept or decline.
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Recognise The Signs Of Stress In Cats
1. An unhappy cat will often twitch the end of their tail as a warning sign, just before stress sets in. Their claws may also come out in self-defence.
2. If your cat feels unsafe or threatened, they are likely to hide and crouch down to make themselves seem as small as possible. That way they will feel less visible to any potential dangers.
3. A stressed cat may mark their territory by spraying while standing with their tail quivering in the air.
Be Prepared On Moving Day
Transporting kitties can go smoothly, or it can be a nightmare. Plan ahead be prepared if something out of your control occurs and your cat escapes.
Prepare the cat
Before transporting your kitty, make sure that the information on her microchip is up to date. If shes not chipped, ask your veterinarian to chip her. Dont forget to send the paperwork in. On the morning of the move, give your cat a small breakfast to help decrease stomach upsets. If she isnt a good traveler, talk to your veterinarian beforehand. Your vet might prescribe medication to help reduce her anxiety. Additionally, while in transit reduce any possibility of escape dont open the carrier to comfort her .
Prepare the carrier
Before transporting, prepare the cat carrier. Label it with your name and contact information. Additionally, tape to the carrier copies of your cats vaccination records along with information about medical issues and medications the cat might need. Place soft towels that have your scent on them along with your cats favorite toy inside to help comfort her during the trip.
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What Are The Consequences Of Stress For My Cat
As has been said, a stressed cat is a cat with weaker immune defences. They are therefore more susceptible to infectious and auto-immune diseases, making them ill more often than normal.
Just like with humans, chronic stress can also lead to skin and breathing problems. A stressed cat can suffer from asthma, eczema, or psoriasis. It can also lead to alopecia whereupon they lose all their hair that doesn’t always grow back in some places.
Finally, your cat’s bladder can also be affected by stress. A stressed cat will urinate more than normal and often outside its litter. This could lead to urinary infections such as interstitial cystitis.
All these disruptions in a cat’s health can reinforce stress. It is therefore important to be able act before their health is affected.
Let Your Cat Be A Cat
Toys, games and climbing equipment let your cat do what it has evolved to do. Climbing and exploring are big parts of your cats nature. Let them embrace this side of themselves by creating vertical spaces for them to climb, and by encouraging their scouting behaviour for example, hide some food around the house for them to sniff out.
As perceptive as they may seem, dont assume your cat understands what you are saying, or shout at them when they dont understand you. Punishing your cat will only teach them to fear you and will not correct the unwanted behaviour. Instead, demonstrate and reward positive behaviours around your cat.
Equally, be careful when petting not to bear down on your cat or grab their head. Cats like to know they can escape a situation. Restricting their movements by holding them too tightly or by trapping them in a corner only stresses them out.
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Techniques To Calm A Scared Cat
These are techniques that I have used successfully to calm a stray cat that lived on the streets for 3 years. She is now this biggest cuddler and purrer that I have.
Always be calm. Cats feed off your stress so if you are the slightest bit stressed around them, they will be stressed too. The stress not only comes from your body language but also from your voice. Always speak in a calm relaxed voice.
Let your cat be. Cats need to feel safe. When people or other animal approach a cat, the cat is automatically defensive. Trust needs to be built.
Always move slowly. Never make quick movements when you are approaching a cat.
Listen to what your cat is telling you with her body and her actions. A hiss is not aggression. It is saying I am not comfortable right now, please do not come closer. Too many people think hissing is aggression which it is not. If a cat hisses, just ignore it and walk right by it like the cat isnt even there. Dont look at her or scold her.
Use a Feliway diffuser. It wont magically solve all the problems automatically but it will help greatly.
Let the cat lead the way. Let her come to you. If she snuggles up to you, dont pet her right away. Let her get used to being close to you without any action on your part. This builds trust that you arent going to harm her.
If a cat is hiding, let her be. It is crucial that she never be forced to socialize. Things happen
faster when she makes that decision. It may take a few days. It may take a few months.
Create A Chill Out Zone
Just as teens retreat to their bedrooms, and adults to their homes, cats need a place they know is theirs, where they are safe, calm and away from the daily feline grind.
Set aside a corner in your home and place a few of your cats favourite toys, blankets and some climbing equipment. Make sure this area is away from anything too loud for the cat, such as the TV, stereo, fridge or washing machine. Remember, nobody likes to feel trapped, especially cats, so make sure they can access this area whenever they need to.
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How Do You Relieve A Stressed Cat Or Kitten
It’s not always easy to know how to relieve your cat or kitten that turns out to be stressed. Once your vet has confirmed that it is in fact stress and not an underlying health problem, then it’s up to you to identify the possible causes of the stress.
Sometimes the cause of the stress is obvious, such as a change of home or a new arrival in the family. However, sometimes it can be much harder to find out. It could be down to boredom or perhaps a change in their food which they don’t agree with, even if they’ve accepted many dietary changes beforehand.
Once the origin of the stress has been identified, you can put measures in place to cancel out the cause, or perhaps get treatment from your vet. It could also be worth considering getting dietary supplements or calming pheromones. In worst case scenarios, medical treatment could also be considered.
To reassure a stressed cat, it is important to give them attention. You could, for example, play for longer with them, make new places of rest available , adapt their diet
Most importantly, try not to lose your temper with them if they make a mistake linked to stress. This could exacerbate the situation.
Gabapentin Administration: When How Much And How
When: For many kitties, a single dose of gabapentin, given in a small amount of food about an hour before you begin readying for the car ride, can make the whole process much easier. Some kitties do even better if they are given gabapentin the night before as well as the morning of the visit some do best if they are given gabapentin once or twice a day for a few days beforehand. It all depends on each cats own anxiety level.
How Much: Each individual cat responds a little differently to different doses. Try giving gabapentin at home before the day of your visit to help determine what dose will be most effective for your cat. Your cat vet can advise you about how to determine an ideal dose for your cat.
How: Giving gabapentin is easy: just open the capsule and mix the contents in a small amount of food, and feed that 1 2 hours prior to your visit. This works best when your kitty is hungry, so an overnight fast before the visit can be really helpful.
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How To Help Your Stressed Cat
Thankfully there are a number of things you can do to help your cat if it is stressed. If you can figure out the source of the stress, the best thing to do is to eliminate that source but that isn’t always possible. You can’t get rid of a family member or new pet or stop construction because your cat is stressed about it but that doesn’t mean you can’t still help your cat.
Sprays, wipes, and diffusers containing pheromones are good starting points for helping to manage anxiety in your feline friend. Products like what Feliway makes can be used continuously and long term or as needed. They help cats feel calm and safe but may need to be used alongside something else if they don’t help by themselves.
Supplements and special diets are the next steps in helping your stressed cat. Various ingredients like L-theanine, milk whey proteins, magnolia, and phelodendron extracts have research showing they may help a stressed cat and can be found in items like Zylkene and even special cat foods like Royal Canin’s Calm diet.
If necessary, stressed cats may need a combination of pheromones, supplements, diets, and even medications. Fluoxetine, gabapentin, amitryptilline, and other prescription items may be recommended by your veterinarian for stress cases that cannot be addressed with other modalities. Depending on the situation, these may need to be given temporarily or long term but if you can help your cat feel less stress than whatever you need to do is worth it.
Stress In The Older Cat
Stress is a big factor in managing the health of a senior cat, or any cat with a serious physical condition. Cats with weakened immune systems, such as FIV or FeLV patients, do not thrive under stress.
Older cats and cats with a chronic and/or terminal disease do much better in a quiet setting, with a minimum of environmental changes. It would be very unwise to bring home a new kitten or a noisy dog under these circumstances. A hospital or hospice situation with tip-toeing and hushed voices is not necessary, but loud noises and sudden movement should be avoided, if possible. If there are children in the house, a discussion might be in order, not only to enlist their help in reducing stress to the older feline patient but also to help prepare them for what will inevitably come.
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Give Your Cat Some Space
Cats are solitary creatures, so they dont like to be crowded by others that counts for other cats, other pets and even children or other family members. Ensuring your cat always has space to escape from the chaos is a good way to reduce their stress. A quiet spot, preferably somewhere high up, is ideal. Try a cardboard box on a sturdy shelf, for example.
Make Sure Your Cat Has Everything It Needs
It might seem obvious, but ensuring your cat has a litter tray, food and water bowls and even a scratching post can help reduce stress. Where you put these items can also have a surprising impact on your cats stress levels too. Keep litter trays away from eating areas, for example, and make sure your cats resources arent in an area with lots of noise or people.
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How To Recognize Stress In Your Cat
Hiding is one of the most obvious signs that your cat is stressed but it’s not the only one. Hissing, running away, growling, scratching items, and eliminating outside the litter box can be other signs of stress in your cat and should not be ignored, especially if they are occurring regularly. Monitor your cat for these symptoms and think back to what may have changed before you noticed these behaviors.
Wash Your Cat’s Carrier After Each Vet Visit It Helps With Their Stress
When you do actually take your cat to the vet, its always a good idea to wash their carrier afterwards. This can help by getting the smells of the vets office out of and off the carrier and the padding or blankets inside. Those smell memories alone can stress your cat and make it more difficult to get them into the carrier the next time. Here are some veterinarian-recommended cleaning products.
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Make Sure The Air Conditioning Is On In Summer And The Heater In Winter
Be mindful of the outside temperature.
Keep the air conditioning running or the heater depending on the time of year and the weather youre traveling in.
Remember to keep any human bathroom breaks as short as possible because a car can quickly heat up and cool down when the engine is off.
If your cat starts panting in the car, then it could be anxiety or it could be a sign that theyre overheating.
Make sure cool drinking water is available, too.
Familiar Smells In The Carrier And The Car
Cats feel calmer in places that smell familiar.
If they regularly climb into their carrier, then theyre going to feel safer and more comfortable inside. If your cat isnt used to the carrier or the car, then there are a few things you can do to create a safe smelling environment.
Firstly, put things inside the carrier that your pet is familiar with: favourite toys, familiar bedding etc is ideal as it will already smell of them.
You can also wipe a soft cloth over the cats face and then wipe it around the inside of the box.
Theres also a variety of rescue remedies specifically designed to reduce anxiety in felines. One of the most well-known in Bachs Rescue Remedy for pets which uses plant extracts to reduce pet stress and tension.
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