Cats are generally known to be relaxed and calm animals. Keeping them as pets may be a blessing for some. Your cat probably does a lot to help with your stress levels. However, there may be an event or ongoing situation that may cause your cat to become stressed. In such cases, you might panic and not understand why your cat is acting abnormally. Cat owners often do not understand why their cats start acting strangely. Stress is one of the most common causes of cats to act out of character. If you want to know how you can help destress your cat, click here. Otherwise, read on to find out more about your stressed cat.
Why is my cat stressed?
For cat owners who are seeing their cat stressed for the very first time, there can be multiple reasons or stressors that cause this. Some of the common reasons that have been identified by veterinarians and researchers include the following:
A new pet or human in the house
New situations generally stress anyone out, whether human or animal. However, if you have introduced a new member to your family, the chances are that your cat will be very stressed about it. Cats are creatures of habit, so they are not fond of any change. If you have a newborn baby, new significant other or spouse, or even a new pet living in the house, your cat will feel anxious and afraid. Dogs are particularly difficult to introduce in your cat’s territory because they might feel scared and unsafe around it. Also, if your partner does not like cats, your cat will likely sense this, causing further stress.
Change in environment
As mentioned above, cats are not fond of any significant changes made in their lives. One particular change is that which is made to their environment, no matter the size of the change. Cats can experience stress whether you move to a new home or even change the placing of their litter box. It is because cats are fond of their habits, and it takes them time to adjust to any changes made.
Do you have a rescue cat that you got from an animal shelter or saved from a tough situation? If yes, your cat will likely experience ongoing stress from the previously experienced trauma. Trauma may include a natural disaster, an abusive previous owner, abandonment, or even the cat running away from home. Previously experienced trauma may also make your cat distrusting of humans. It may cause them stress when they move from an animal shelter or are rescued off the streets and move into your home. They may feel stressed about whether or not they can trust you and the new environment you have brought them in.
Visits to the vet or kennel
Most animals dread going to the vet’s office or the kennel because both can be a very painful experience. Cats, in particular, may experience a lot of stress when anticipating a visit to the vet’s office or the kennel. Even the sight of the vet’s office can make your cat nervous because cats (and most pets) associate the vet with painful procedures, checkups, injections, and medicine. In contrast, your cat associates the kennel with being away from home for a long time.
Getting overstimulation from the environment can also be another source of stress for a cat. Overstimulation can be in the form of too many blinking lights, noises, and smells that come from their surroundings. Such overstimulation will confuse your cat, and they may not be able to concentrate on a specific point.
Another source of overstimulation is the emotions experienced when your cat is looking out the window and suddenly sees another stray cat or animal. Your cat may be overstimulated by the confusion and anger they feel towards that animal, and this will stress them.
Construction or other noisy work at home
An excessive amount of noise at home can also stress your cat. Are you remodeling your home, or do you have other noisy events going on at home (like a party)? Then it is likely that your cat will feel stressed out. It is because cats have hypersensitive hearing, and any noise is amplified for them. This amplification is what will cause stress, and constant noise will make them anxious and feel as if their territory has been violated.
Another primary source of stress in cats is a new or changed diet. Cannot find your cat’s favorite cat food, or has the company that manufactured it has discontinued that particular food? Then it is likely that your cat will take a long time to adjust to a new diet. This sudden change in your cat’s diet will force them out of their routine, which will be quite stress-inducing. Even changing the timing of your cat’s meal can cause stress for them because it is a change no matter how small it is.
A lack of stimulation
Having an environment that is bare of any stimulation does not provide your cat with the opportunity to grow and explore. It can be another source of stress for your cats. They are animals that may seem quiet and in no need of too much entertainment, but a bored cat will become a stressed cat. A lack of stimulation may even result if you do not pay enough attention to your cat or are out all day while they are at home. Their stress will likely be caused by having to be alone at home all day in such a case.
Signs and Symptoms
Your cat does not have a direct means of communicating with you. You will likely witness your cat’s strange behavior when it is in stress. Still, you may not be able to pinpoint what is the cause of such behavior. This is why recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress can be very important. If you do not pay attention to them, your cat’s condition will likely get worse or even become chronic. Many health problems can also ensue as a result of undetected stress, such as herpes, infections, feline interstitial cystitis (FIC), skin problems, gastrointestinal issues, etc. Such problems may be difficult to understand and resolve.
The following are some of the behavioral, emotional, and physical symptoms and signs that you should be on the lookout for:
If your cat starts to urinate outside the litter box or is experiencing any other problems during urination, it is likely stressed. Many people report that their cat (in stress) faces urinary problems, so it is one of the most common symptoms reported. However, you should also get your cat checked by a vet in such a case to make sure there is no physiological problem.
If your cat is experiencing diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, or any other gastrointestinal problems, a stressful event may be the likely cause. Vomiting is one of the most worrying symptoms. Still, if your stressed cat is vomiting, it is advised to meet your vet before making any assumptions. Make sure that there are no physiological causes.
Some cats prefer to be left alone when they feel stressed, and if you see that your cat has become excessively isolated and often hides, then it may be caused by stress.
Excessive grooming or scratching
Do you see your cat excessively grooming or scratching itself to the extent that you find scratch marks and skin lesions on its body? Then it is likely that your cat is stressed. In such a case, you should still consult with your vet to get a better idea of the condition’s cause.
Problems in appetite
Stressed cats often stop eating or overeat. A cat owner can easily detect a cat’s sudden decrease or increase in appetite. It is usually one of the first signs of stress that is witnessed and reported.
Excessive or decreased vocalization
When a cat needs help, it generally begins to vocalize more. Listen to their meowing because the tone can say a lot about what your cat is experiencing. A loud belted meow can be a signal that your cat is asking for help or is feeling helpless about something.
If your cat shows out-of-character aggressive outbursts or increased aggression towards other animals and humans, run being overprotective of you and its territory. This overprotectiveness may be brought on by stress.
If you find that your cat has turned towards escapism as its haven, then some kind of stress in their immediate environment may be the cause of the behavior. Escapism is often easy to detect but goes unnoticed by cat owners.
Trembling or shaking
Trembling is another major sign that you can easily notice. It often happens with rescue cats who have witnessed traumatic events in their past. It is a sign that your cat is fearful or stressed about something.
Similar to humans, stress in cats may lead to hair loss. However, this is most common in long-haired cats (as short-haired ones have tougher fur).
Frequently Asked Questions
Some of the most frequently asked questions by cat owners.
Is my cat stressed or sick? I cannot tell the difference
Many cat owners often mistake a stressed cat for a sick one, and while this may be common, it can be concerning. There is no clear way to tell the difference between a sick and stressed cat. Still, it can be helpful to consult with your vet and provide them with a detailed history of all events that happened at the time your cat fell ill.
Can cats die from stress?
Another common misconception is that cats can die from stress. While it is possible, it is very unlikely, unless it goes completely undetected. However, if you care for your cat and provide love and attention, your cat will not die from stress.
Will my cat run away from home because of stress?
Some cat owners report that their cats have run away from home because of ongoing and intense stress, but this is in extreme cases where the stress was not detected in time. If you use the above guide correctly and give your cat the needed help, your cat’s stress will decrease. All it requires is a little hard work from your end.
If you need to ask yourself, “Is my cat stressed,” then it is likely that it is. You need to take a good look at all of the signs and symptoms and observe any anomalies in your cat’s behavior and routine. If you cannot tell the reason for the stress, you may want to spend an entire day with your cat to get a better idea.
If your cat is stressed, then you should do some research on how to help your cat through a stressful situation and adjust to the new environment. Your cat will need your support, which you can only provide with research and an understanding of what your role needs to be in the healing process. You can even take an online “Is my cat stressed” quiz if you are not sure and want to confirm your cat’s current condition.