Cat Anxiety: How To Find Stress Relief For Cats

If your cat perceives danger in a situation, he will feel anxiety. If you do not know the cause, you will find it important to investigate, as stress could come from pain or illness, or it could stem from a psychological problem. In order to help your cat, you first need to learn how you can provide stress relief for cats.

As causes vary a great deal, your first task becomes that of playing detective. If your vet has given the cat a clean bill of health, the cause, then, of the cat’s stress comes from some other problem.

How to reduce anxiety in cats illustragioin

Does your cat become anxious and stressed when left home alone? Separation anxiety is one of the most common forms of stress in cats. If your cat has a history of abandonment or has been rehomed a few times, these factors could cause such a problem.

This list of symptoms can show up in a stressed cat, so watch for them:

  • Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Exhibiting aggressive behavior suddenly
  • Not using litter box, but spraying on floor or furniture
  • Eating too much or losing appetite
  • Development of Pica, defined as eating non-food items, such as plastic
  • Either wanting constant attention or not interacting at all
  • Excessive loud vocalization and extreme vigilance of surroundings
  • Hiding, twitching, or shaking
  • Overgrooming

How Can You Reduce Stress For Your Cat?

Here you will find suggestions for reducing kitty stress. While you try to figure out what is wrong, use this checklist to try to help kitty relax:

Cat sleeping on dog
I love my new dog bed

1) Is kitty comfortable?

Does he have a clean, cozy sleep area, a litter box always kept clean, a scratching post or two, a proper healthy diet, and clean drinking water?

2) Do you disrupt his routine?

Cats like to follow the same routine each day. If you change that pattern, you could cause kitty lots of stress.

If you make a significant change, such as moving or adding a new family member, keep kitty’s immediate surroundings the same while everything else changes. Also, make sure the cat has items with familiar scents around him.

3) Do you allow the cat some alone time?

Do let the cat decide when he wants to cuddle and play. A cat also needs alone time, and you must honor that need. Sometimes the noise volume or activity level can become too much for kitty, and quiet time alone will be much appreciated.

4) Have you taken kitty for a regular check-up?

If you see physical signs of distress, it’s best to make sure there’s no physical problem causing them. Once the vet gives the “okay” signal, you can mark some dangers off the list.

5) Do you ward off intruders?

Black cat playing with feather
Time for a mock hunt

Because the cat is very territorial, he does not share his space well with other pets. When you first introduce a newcomer, feed them separately to avoid problems. Once they become used to and accepting of the other, all will be well.

Protect kitty’s food from being stolen by a stranger. Make sure no other cat can enter your house.

6) Does he become stressed at sudden loud noises?

Make sure kitty has a good hiding place if things get too noisy. A quiet spot at such a time offers security.

7) Have you consulted a behavior specialist?

If you cannot figure out what problems stress your kitty, call on an expert. A behavior specialist has training that allows her to know stress trigger points. She can help you find a way to help your cat.

Here Are Some Steps You Can Take To Help Alleviate Kitty Stress

1) Make sure the routine does not vary, whenever possible.

If feeding twice a day seems an issue, you can feed the cat three or four times a day. This change copies more closely the feeding pattern of cats in the wild, who may eat three or four small meals a day, depending on their luck with hunting.

2) Try play therapy

Play therapy will differ from casual play in that it is scheduled and interactive. Use something like a feather toy on a wand (You might want to try “Da Bird” for a special toy reserved for interactive play.) You control the “prey’s” movements, so it seems like the real thing, and kitty can have a mock hunt.

Cat with multicolored wand

These sessions should occur at the same times, once or twice a day. At completion, serve a high protein snack, such as meat or chicken.

3) Give lots of toy variety

Give your kitty choices of what he can play with. He will get bored with the same old toys, so change them from time to time.

At present, my cat, Mocha, has become obsessed with kitty springs. He doesn’t want to play with anything else. I’m guessing he will gradually tire of them, but thus far they get all his attention.

4) Use a puzzle ball

Mocha loves his. When he finishes his regular meal, I give him his puzzle ball, which has a portion of his allotted dry kibble inside. He plays with the ball until he has eaten all the food; then he’s ready for a nap.

5) He needs a window seat

Give kitty a place where he can sit either in a window or on a cat tree, so he can watch all the bird population from his perch.

Mocha sits in the office window and watches the hummingbird feeder. The little birds still come to eat, even when the cat sits in the window. Sometimes they come up to the window and look in, though usually this occurs when the cat is absent.

tiger cat massaging orange cat

6) Try a bit of kitty massage

Sometimes a “feel-good” activity can relax kitty quite successfully. If kitty likes to be groomed, you can also add a bit of brushing and combing to the routine.

This one doesn’t work with Mocha. I brush him with gloves on, as he tries to bite. I keep treats handy for giving for good behavior. Nonetheless, the attention probably does some good.

What happens if you don’t deal with kitty’s stress?

You may find that, over time, undesired behavior becomes even worse. Just as with us, the kitty can receive a negative effect from chronic stress.

To keep kitty healthy and to keep your home peaceful, try to find the reason for your cat’s anxiety and do what you can to alleviate it.

Can you use chemical stress relievers?

You can try medications, pheromones, and aromatherapy. You might ask your vet about these options.

Mocha gets so wound up that I am now using a Feliway pheromone dispenser at night. It seems to help him calm down. Also, we plan a thorough play session right before bedtime, as he then seems to sleep more soundly.

The bottom line: Try to find ways to reduce stress if your kitty exhibits stress symptoms. If you can’t figure out the cause or a viable solution, you might consult an expert.

It’s important for kitty’s health and your own peace of mind that you make sure he has the calmest, most stress-free lifestyle as possible. You and kitty will both benefit from his well-being.

Calico cat sprawled on fence post
References I used for this post:

2 thoughts on “Cat Anxiety: How To Find Stress Relief For Cats”

  1. Hi Fran,

    This post was very helpful. We have had our granddaughter visiting for three weeks now. She has another three weeks to go before returning home.

    Two of our cats, Emily and Marie are not people-friendly and stay as far away from guests. When Diana goes to sleep they emerge and behave normally.

    Our third cat Sabrina tolerates Diana and allows Diana to pet her when she is on my lap. Other than that, they seem to have found ways to live their lives around her.

    We are following your suggestion of trying to keep their routine as normal as possible. Within this context, everything appears to be fine with the cats.



    • You have had an interesting experience with your granddaughter. Now she’s also been exposed to cats. Perhaps you have started a life-long interest for her. It’s good to teach children about cats when they are young. I’m sure she will benefit, and the cats have gained new experience as well.


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