Although cats are significantly smaller and furrier than the average person, we do have many things in common with our furry friends. One of those commonalities is anxiety. You might not think cats have a lot to be anxious about. They don’t have to go to school, get a job, or pay taxes. Cats enjoy their routines and familiar environments, and any changes to that can cause stress and anxiety in your cat. Big events, like moving to a new home or bringing in a new pet, to smaller things, like moving your pet’s food bowl to a new location, can cause your cat anxiety. It’s important to be aware of what can stress out your cat, as well as the signs your cat is experiencing anxiety. Keeping an eye on your cat’s stress levels can be tricky as cats can’t talk to you and tell you when they feel anxious. However, there are plenty of signs in yourcat’s body languagethat will let you know your cat is anxious.
Symptoms of Anxiety in your Cat
Becoming more aggressive or destructive – this can include growling and hissing or scratching the furniture.
Becoming less tolerant of people
New changes in appetite or weight– either overeating or eating less food.
Becoming more withdrawn and nervous - hiding, pacing, crouching defensively, trying to escape, or freezing in place.
Changes in body language - Avoiding eye contact, shifting body or head away, holding their tail close to their body, dilated pupils, increased respiratory rate, looking at the stimulus, holding their ears back, hair standing up, staring.
Changes in their coat – either not grooming enough or grooming too much resulting in bald patches in their fur
Failing to use the litter box.
Vomiting or diarrhea
All these symptoms can be signs that your cat is stressed and anxious. It’s important to know what might cause your cat to become anxious so you can proactively prevent stress as much as possible. Changes to a cat’s routine or environment can be a big cause of stress for your cat. Moving to a new house,introducing a new pet, bringing home a baby, changing job hours, weird new noises, unfamiliar guests, or moving food and water dishes or litter to a new place are all possible stressors for your cat. Some cats may also suffer from separation anxiety and become clingy, loud, or destructive when you leave. To prevent stress, it’s important to take any of these changes slowly. Introduce new pets through a door before letting them interact together. Keep your cat surrounded by their favorite things when transporting them to a new home and start in a small space before letting them explore. Move food and water dishes to a new location gradually over time. If your cat is suffering fromseparation anxiety,try to create a stimulating environment for when you are away to keep them distracted. Don’t make a fuss when you leave or return home so your cat won’t have time to realize your leaving and panic. Always be mindful of new changes to your home and schedule and keep an eye on your cat to see how they are affected.
If you notice your cat is showing signs of anxiety, it’s important to react appropriately. Try to comfort your cat. This will not “reward” the fearful behavior but instead let your cat feel protected and safe.Never punish your catfor a negative reaction to a change, as this will only reinforce their fear. Don’t try to confine them in a carrier or crate. Many cats can panic when caged and may injure themselves trying to escape.
If symptoms persist or become a problem, be sure to contact your vet. They may be able to help identify the source of your cat’s anxiety and help you find a solution to the problem.
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