Life is full of stress and anxiety for both humans and cats. While you can’t completely get rid of it, there is a lot that you can do to keep it at a dull roar. A cat’s needs have a lot of similarities to ours, but with their own feline twist.

Cause of Stress and Anxiety in Cats #1 : Illness and injury.

Stress and Anxiety in cats Tuna afraid

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Lonien via Flickr

It really stinks being sick or hurt. The difficulty of every situation seems amplified. Have you ever noticed how much more easily you become flustered when you aren’t feeling well? It is the same thing for your cat.

Solution: Any time you feel that there might be something wrong with your cat it is time to pay a visit to your veterinarian. This should be done to rule out an illness or injury before attempting any other changes. Let your veterinarian know what you’ve observed and follow their advice to help make your kitty well again.

Cause of Stress and Anxiety in Cats #2: A change in routine or environment.

Cats are all about routine and familiarity. Even though you may enjoy change and variety in your life, your cat will not be a fan. Expect that there will be a rise in your cat’s stress levels any time you make a change in your home from moving the furniture around to a new work schedule to bringing home a new baby. Unfamiliar sounds and smells can be tricky too (dogs barking, fireworks, the smell of alcohol or drugs on you, etc). The more changes at once or the more unpredictable the changes are, the more severe your cat’s stress and anxiety will get.

Solution: Create a routine and stick with it. Make changes slowly (if it is at all possible) allowing your cat time to get used to each change.  Socialize cats when they are kittens so that new things won’t be as intrusive to them. It is possible to socialize older cats as well, but make sure you introduce new things and people at the cat’s pace.

Cause of Stress and Anxiety in Cats Cause#3 : Other cats.

Stress and Anxiety in Cats "I was hiding."

Photo Credit : John Morton

Cats are not big fans of sharing. In nature and in your home, they will create what they see as their own “territory.” This is not such a big problem if you have only 1 cat, but if you have multiple cats they may have territorial disputes. One cat will claim a certain food dish and not let others touch it. A cat might get ambushed by the other cats if he/she uses “their” litter box. A cat that is new to your home will experience stress and anxiety while integrating into the social hierarchy of the existing cats. The more cats that have to share a small space, the more likely it is that the cats will have higher levels of stress and anxiety.

Solution: Make sure that each cat has his/her own food dishes, scratching posts, litter box, and toys. Place these items away from one another so that the cats do not interfere with another cat’s territory. Also, make sure that the number of cats you have is reasonable for the amount of space that you have in your home.

Cause of Stress and Anxiety in Cats Cause #4: Improper behavior correction techniques.

While cats may understand a handful of words that we say, they don’t really speak any human languages. Rather, they read our tone and our body language. If you are yelling at your cat or acting aggressively towards them when they “misbehave,” all they see is a step up in aggression from you.The cat will not associate the yelling with his/her own behavior, but rather with you being an aggressive person who may not be trustworthy.

Solution: Use positive reinforcement to correct  your cat’s behaviors rather than punishment. Reward your cat with attention, treats, and toys when they do what you WANT them to do. Provide healthy alternatives to unwanted behaviors (i.e. – if they scratch the arm of the couch, make sure there is a scratching post available nearby). Redirect the unwanted behaviors towards the healthy alternatives.

Cause of Stress and Anxiety in Cats Cause #5: Hunger.

Stress and Anxiety in Cats Danya sneaking up on her food dish

Photo Caption: John Ross

Cats need to eat appropriately sized meals on a regular schedule. Wouldn’t it be tough on you not to know when you were going to get to eat next or if there would be enough food to fill you?

Solution: Talk to your veterinarian about how much of your cat’s food they should be feed each day and each feeding. Choose a food that is high in animal proteins and moisture so that your cat will the most possible nutrition from it. Good nutrition keeps people and cats feeling better longer. Make sure the feeding schedule is easy for your cat to predict.

Cause of Stress and Anxiety in Cats Cause #6: Litter Box Issues.

There are a number of different issues that cats can have with their litter box. Things like the number of litter boxes available, being ambushed by other cats, the location of the litter box, and the litter or litter box itself can be a problem. Not having a satisfactory place to go to the bathroom can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for a cat.

Solution: Try cleaning the litter box more often. Scoop it daily or a few times daily if you can. If that doesn’t work, try taking some of things suggested here. Remember that not using the litter box can also be a form of protest to one of the other stressors listed in this article.

Do you have any advice for someone who is dealing with stress and anxiety with their cats?