What Does Cat Anxiety Look Like?

Posted by Dr. Roth on

Cat on shoulder, what does cat anxiety look like?

Cats can be very sensitive pets and develop anxiety. Unfortunately, the signs of anxiety in cats can be mistaken as bad behavior. The following information will help pet parents identify and manage a cat anxiety disorder. 

What Does Cat Anxiety Look Like?

Identifying an anxiety disorder in a cat can be difficult because anxiety can look very different from cat to cat. Some cats display very obvious signs of anxiety, while others have very subtle signs of anxiety. 

Signs of an anxiety disorder in cats include:

  • Aggression
  • Hissing and vocalizing
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Not using the litter box or spraying
  • Hiding or less social
  • Extreme attachment to their pet parent
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive grooming
  • Suckling on cloth
  • Excessive kneading

Cats that excessively groom themselves when they're anxious can sometimes create bald spots and sores. Pet parents will need to seek medical treatment to treat any sores or wounds on the skin. 

What Causes Anxiety in Cats?

Anxiety in cats has similar triggers as in humans. Pet parents will need to identify as many triggers as possible to help manage their cat's anxiety. The following list contains common anxiety triggers in cats:

  • Moving to a new home
  • Changes to their environment, such as adding a new pet or new furniture
  • Change in routine, including changing their feeding schedule or play schedule
  • Boredom or lack of stimulation
  • Over-stimulation, fast movements, and loud noises (like fireworks)

Managing a Cat's Anxiety Condition

Cat advice for managing their anxiety condition will depend on the severity of the condition and the triggers. Pet parents who adopt or foster kittens, for example, should know about kitten care and how to properly socialize the kittens. This can help reduce anxiety as the kittens grow up. Some of the ways pet parents can help reduce anxiety in their cats include:

  • Routine: Cats with anxiety like routines. Pet parents should strive to set a feeding routine and playtime routine. When developing the routine, pet parents need to consider daylight savings time. Cats don't understand time changes, and their anxiety can get triggered if they're suddenly fed an hour sooner or later. 
  • Toys: Feeding toys and catnip toys can keep the cat stimulated and prevent boredom. Cats needing a lot of stimulation will frequently need new toys to keep them entertained. 
  • Cat Training: Cats can be trained using positive reinforcement. Some triggers are unavoidable, such as when company enters the home. Skittish or anxious cats may run whether they're familiar with the company or not (as in the case with strangers or workers). 
  • Cat trees and scratching posts: Cats feel safest when they're up high and can observe the entire room. Pet parents should provide their cat with multiple cat trees and perches throughout the home. The less time the cat has to spend on the floor to travel around the house, the happier they'll be. 
  • Safe space: Cats usually claim a hiding place in their home where they can escape their triggers. Pet parents can add comfort to this safe space by providing a bed and the cat's favorite toys. The cat's food and water bowls can also be placed in this area so the cat feels safe while eating and drinking. Placing their food and water in a high-traffic area could make the cat anxious about eating.
  • Clean litter box: Cats are fastidious groomers and like cleanliness. An anxious cat won't use a dirty litter box. Pet parents should scoop the litter box daily and clean it twice a week. If multiple cats live in the home, the pet parent should provide one litter box per cat plus one extra. 
  • Pheromone products: Calming pheromone sprays and diffusers can help keep the cat calm.
  • Cat anxiety medication: Anti-anxiety medications for cats are available. However, pet parents will have to get a prescription for their cat from the vet. 

Calming Pheromone Spray for CatsCalming Pheromone Plug-In Diffuser for Cats

What to Avoid

Instinctively, many pet parents will punish their cat for destructive behavior. However, if the destructive behavior is how the cat expresses their anxiety, then punishing them will only make the problem worse. The cat will likely become more destructive and aggressive because they don't know how else to communicate with their pet parent that they're anxious. 

If the cat is aggressive or destructive, the pet parent needs to take a step back and assess the possible cause of the behavior before reacting. Then, depending on the situation, the pet parent can give the cat space to calm down or attempt to redirect the cat's attention to something positive. 

Additional Cat Health Advice

Some of the signs of anxiety can also be signs of other health conditions. Additionally, anxiety can be a sign of illness or pain. Therefore, a vet may want to conduct more tests to rule out other possible health conditions before diagnosing and treating the cat for anxiety. Fuzzy members can get access to online vets 24/7 to answer cat anxiety and other pet wellness questions. 

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