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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 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.

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.

A grey cat playfully bites on his owners hand

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

  • Aggression such as biting, scratching, or snarling. Aggressive behavior is your cat’s defense mechanism. 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. 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.
  • Crouching. 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.
  • Pacing. A behavior many animals, including both cats and dogs, use to communicate stress.
  • 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 behavior. 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. 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.
  • Lethargy or disengagement. If your cat stops enjoying his or her usual activities or generally becomes unresponsive and inactive, this is a critical sign of stress. If your kitty used to spend all day scaling the cat tower, and now they barely touch it, something is definitely wrong.
  • Weight loss. 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.

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 (like the ones listed above), consult your veterinarian, as these behaviors can often result from underlying (and serious) health conditions that need addressing right away.

A fluffy yellow cat lays on the floor upside down and plays with a toy

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.

Here are some things that cause stress in cats:

  • Boredom. 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. A cat that isn’t getting enough of this stimulation may show signs of stress.
  • Overstimulation. 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.
  • Noise. Cats prefer a calm, quiet environment. Excessive noise – either repetitive noises or very loud ones – can contribute to a stressed-out cat.
  • Touching. 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 household, your cat might be getting more physical attention than they want, and it could be stressful for them.
  • Changes in routine. 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.
  • 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.
A grey and white tabby cat leans down to pick up a kidney support chew from paw cbd

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.

  • 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. 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. 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.
  • 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 a favorite for your feline!
A young grey and white kitten sits in a basket next to a pair of cat tinctures from paw cbd

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.

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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