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How to Identify and Address Signs of Stress in Cats

How to Identify and Address Signs of Stress in Cats

Cats are fascinating creatures with complex personalities. Regardless of breed or age, each cat has its unique behaviors, likes and dislikes, quirks, and habits. And that individuality extends to how cats process and signify when they are feeling stressed out. 

Cats are intelligent and sensitive creatures that will most definitely find a way to tell you if they feel stressed – but you need to know what to look for at times. Are you worried your kitty might be experiencing stress? Want to know how to help a stressed cat? This helpful guide will teach you what signs of stress in cats to look for, what causes them, and how to address them. 

What Are the Signs of Stress in Cats?

Some of a cat’s stress signals are similar to those of dogs, but – as any pet parent knows – cats and dogs have different personalities and different needs. Thus, the way dogs communicate their stress won’t necessarily apply to cats, and assuaging a cat’s stress might not be as simple as it can be for dogs. Sometimes, our feline friends can be a little more difficult to analyze and understand than our canine counterparts. 

While these are signs of stress in cats, it’s important to interpret stress as a behavior that’s out of the ordinary for your pet. If your kitty is happy and healthy but darts under the couch when someone rings the doorbell, you probably don’t need to be concerned about that behavior as a “sign of stress” in your cat. But if they show sudden or critical signs of stress, consult your veterinarian, as these behaviors can often result from underlying (and serious) health conditions that need addressing right away.

Since your cat can’t speak to you with words, he or she will find other ways to communicate with you. Some signs of stress in cats will be intentional behaviors, such as hissing, scratching, or hiding. Others will be passive and unintentional physical signs, like weight loss or reduced energy. These physical signs are critical signs of stress that cause concern and should be attended to by your veterinarian without delay. 

Here are some signs that might indicate your cat is stressed:


  • Aggression 
  • Hiding, pacing, and crouching
  • Changes in hygiene
  • Changes in bathroom habits
  • Spraying
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss


Aggression Such as Biting, Scratching, or Snarling

Aggressive behavior is your cat’s defense mechanism. Maybe your cat swipes at you with their claws when you touch a sensitive spot, or they hiss and snarl when they see the neighbor's dog. Your cat is sending a distinctive message to you and other animals with these behaviors. When your cat bites, scratches, or snarls, he or she is telling you, “I don’t feel safe right now. I need help.” Rather than being upset with your cat for behaving aggressively, try to identify what is causing your pet to feel uncomfortable and address it. Increased aggression in cats should be taken very seriously, as it can be unsafe for cats and their owners alike. 

Hiding, Pacing, and Cat Crouching Are Stress Signals

Hiding in a small, detached space is an extremely common stress response for cats. As smaller creatures, they tend to try to avoid and escape stressful threats rather than facing them. A stressed cat might dive under the couch, hide in closets, or retreat to small spaces between furniture when the doorbell rings or they experience another stressful situation like the appearance of the vacuum cleaner. 

Cats sometimes take on a lowered stance or posture – sort of a crouching position with their belly and shoulders close to the ground – when they feel stressed. This aggressive, on-alert pose is sometimes accompanied by growling or hissing. A nervous cat may express their discomfort by crouching down into a lowered position, and this behavior might even be accompanied by snarling or hissing. 

Pacing is a behavior used by many animals, including both cats and dogs, to communicate stress. If your cat is walking back and forth across the room rapidly, retracing its steps, this is a definitive sign of a stressed-out cat.

Changes in Hygiene Behavior

Keeping clean by grooming themselves is an integral part of a cat’s daily life. If you notice changes one way or another in your pet’s typical hygiene regimen, it might be a sign of stress. It might mean your kitty is over-grooming (i.e., licking her fur all day long) or neglecting her grooming schedule completely. 

Changes in Bathroom Habits

If your cat is a religious user of the litter box and suddenly starts going to the bathroom around the house, they might be feeling stressed out. Another behavior common in stressed-out cats is retreating to the litter box and spending too much time there, even using it as a bed. This behavior is very unusual for cats and indicates something is off.

Spraying May Indicate Cat Stress

Both female and male cats can spray. This behavior is sometimes useful to draw territorial boundaries, but it can also be a stress response in cats. If your cat doesn't typically spray and they start to do so, it might be because of stress in their daily life. 

Lethargy and Disengagement Are Common Feline Responses to Stress

If your cat stops enjoying his or her usual activities or generally becomes unresponsive and inactive, this may be a critical sign of stress or another health issue. If your kitty used to spend all day scaling the cat tower, and now they barely touch it, something is definitely wrong. You need to keep a close eye on your cat's daily habits so you know when things have changed and you can identify signs of cat anxiety. 

Weight Loss and Cat Stress

Unexplained weight loss is a very concerning development for any animal, but especially for cats. Weight loss can be a stress sign for cats and can be very dangerous if not addressed. Your cat's healthy daily diet is an important part of their quality of life, so if your cat experiences dramatic changes that keep them from getting their daily nutrition, they might be feeling stressed out. 


A cat outside stretching it's back.


What Causes Signs of Stress in Cats

If your cat is exhibiting signs of stress, your immediate desire is to make your pet feel safe and comfortable again. But the only way to do that is to know what is causing your cat to feel triggered. Let’s look at some things that can cause stress in cats. 

Your Cat Might Be Stressed Because He’s Bored 

Cats need a healthy amount of mental stimulation in the form of play and affection. They need plenty of toys, and parents should spend some time each day engaging with their kitty. Cats are hunters by nature, and if they don’t have physical stimulation to replace or mimic this natural instinct, they can get bored and find negative ways to work out excess energy or show signs of stress.

Overstimulation Can Also Increase Stress Levels 

Just as boredom can be a cause of stress in cats, overstimulation can as well. Don’t overdo it with the laser pointer! Overstimulation can also come in the form of a busy household with many visitors or the constant coming and going of family members throughout the day.

Cats Are Often Triggered by Noise

Cats prefer a calm, quiet environment. Excessive noise – either repetitive noises or very loud ones – can contribute to a stressed-out cat. Cats need a quiet space to retreat to, so make sure they have safe, calm spots to nap or rest, away from the household commotion.

Too Much Holding and Touching Isn’t Good for Your Cat

Cats have very sensitive skin, so excessive petting and touching can be overwhelming for some of them. If you have children or lots of people in your house, your cat might be getting more physical attention than they want, and it could be stressful for them.

Changes in Routine, Including Rehoming, Are Stressful for Cats

Cats are creatures of habit and routine – rarely are they lovers of change. As such, change can be a real stress inducer for cats. And “change” can mean many things – from a simple reorganization of the living room furniture to a more major event, like introducing a new pet or a baby. 

When a cat is moved to a new home for whatever reason, this can be especially stressful. Most cats will show one or several stress signs when they move in with a new family, or even if they just move house with the same family. 

Changes in the Season or Temperature

Cats are highly sensitive to their environment, and therefore, changes in the season and climate can sometimes cause your cat to show signs of stress.

How to Help a Stressed Cat

Of course, if you start to notice signs of stress in your cat, the first thing you’ll want to know is how you can help your frenzied feline. There are many practical ways to lower the stress level of a cat, including improving your cat’s environment, reducing visitors and movement as much as possible, and adding CBD oil for cats to your pet’s daily routine. Here are our tips for cat stress relief:


  • Understand your cat’s moods
  • Visit the vet often
  • Train your cat
  • Play with your cat
  • Improve your cat’s environment
  • Maintain a healthy routine
  • Make changes slowly
  • Let your cat set the boundaries
  • Try CBD oil for cats


Understand Your Cat's Moods

Perhaps one of the most crucial things you can do to reduce your cat's stress levels is understanding them. If you know when your cat is in one of their moods, and how they communicate their feelings to you, then you can address the situation swiftly and effectively. You have to know there is a problem to fix it! 

Understanding your cat's moods is sometimes more difficult than it sounds. Your cat is an ever-changing creature and you have to spend plenty of time with them to understand their behaviors, likes, and dislikes. The more time you spend with your cat, the better you will know how to help tackle their stress. 

Schedule Regular Veterinary Check-Ups

Keeping your cat's stress levels low will require regular veterinary visits. Cats need to be well acquainted with their doctor so that these visits don't cause stress. Furthermore, your veterinarian will be able to alert you to when a cat's freaking out is more than just a standard stress response and indicates something more serious. Regular veterinary visits help make sure your feline friend is healthy and give you the chance to discuss your concerns with your pet’s vet.

And if your cat is exhibiting any serious behaviors like changes in eating or litter box habits, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. These can be signs of physical issues that need to be addressed right away. 

Train Your Cat So They Know What to Expect

By training your cat clearly on certain routines, like the litter box and expectations on when you have playtime or meals, you can help them avoid stress. A well-trained cat has more self-control and a better understanding of its daily schedule. Cats are very trainable pets and the training process can also be a bonding experience, somewhat like playtime – but with more treats!

Playtime Can Reduce Cat Stress

Many folks think of cats as low-maintenance pets, and for the most part, they are. But your cat still requires daily mental engagement and playtime with you. Cats are incredibly smart, and they need to partake in stimulating activities with regularity. 

Playtime can also be a wonderful way to distract your stressed-out cat and bring them back to a place of stasis and comfort. If you notice your cat displaying stress signs, grab the laser pointer for a game of chase or get them interested in a crinkle ball by rolling it across the room. Don't expect your cat to play with their toys just because they are available. Be engaged and initiate a specific game to spark their natural instincts and play their stress away!

Make Your Home More Cat-Friendly

Your cat needs his or her area in your home. If you’re worried that your busy household stresses your cat, consider a private cat condo where they can retreat to feel safe and get some privacy. Also, be sure your cat has a clean litter box, access to water, things to climb, and plenty of toys. 

Maintain a Healthy Routine for Cat Stress Relief

Get into healthy habits with your cat, including consistent meals of high-quality pet food and daily exercise and play for mental stimulation. Your pet’s health should be viewed holistically – each piece is important, and if one part is out of order, it might cause stress. A healthy routine also includes regular visits to the veterinarian!

Make Changes Slowly When Necessary

We know you can’t avoid change entirely – your kitty is going to have to endure some inconsistencies in his life. When it comes time to reorganize the living room or introduce a new pet, take things slowly. Try to move one or two pieces of furniture at a time or give your cat time with the new pet in short spurts at first. If you’re moving to a new house, try to give your pet a chance to explore the place before you officially move in. 

Let Your Cat Set Boundaries

Never force your cat to engage, socialize, or play. Always let him or her set the limits for engagement with both human family members and other pets. Holding your cat should only happen when the cat is happy to be held and invites attention by crawling on your lap or approaching you. 

You want to socialize your cat so they know what to expect from people and can enjoy physical affection as much as possible, but every cat is different. Some cats will want to snuggle and be held regularly while others will naturally be more stand-offish. You can always invite more patting and affection by luring your cat over with a tasty treat


A cat sitting next to a paw cbd feline calming hemp oil bottle.


Consider CBD Oil for Cats

CBD for cats can be a wonderful support tool for maintaining your pet’s happiness and well-being. Consider introducing CBD for cats to the daily routine to ensure your cat stays calm and centered. With choices like chicken and catnip-flavored CBD soft chews for cats or salmon-flavored CBD cat treats with kidney support ingredients, you’re sure to find your feline’s favorite! 

Create a Peaceful, Relaxed Life for Your Cat

Ultimately, determining if your cat is stressed out is going to be an equation involving many factors: their typical behavior and routine, how that may have changed, and your interpretation of it all as their closest and most caring buddy. Once you’ve identified what causes stress in cats, you will know better how to help a stressed cat. There are many behaviors and physical indications that might qualify as signs of stress in cats, and it’s your job to monitor your pet closely and decipher their efforts to communicate.

Calming CBD products for cats can be an amazing addition to your cat's daily wellness routine. Our CBD Cat Calming Tincture includes calming ingredients like valerian, passion flower, and lemon balm. By establishing these relaxation pillars in your cat's daily life, you give them the best chance to thrive and live stress-free. 

With your veterinarian’s help, there are many ways to help stressed cats return to a life of normalcy and joy. CBD oil for cats can support your pet’s health maintenance, along with a proper diet, plenty of activity, and as much affection as they are willing to receive!


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