Like all animals, cats can become stressed. There are timid cats that run at the slightest noise and bolder ones that put up with almost anything. Cats have their own preferences and don’t respond well to change. Learn about the potential triggers of cat stress, symptoms, and how you can help your cat cope with them.
Causes of Cat Stress
Any changes in your cat’s life should be introduced gradually, because change often causes stress in a cat. They like routine and what they have become accustomed to. There are many every day things that could cause stress in a cat that you just take for granted, such as:
- New carpet installation: The change in smell, appearance and the floor texture may cause stress in your cat.
- Moving furniture around in the house: This creates new obstacles and may remove old hiding places for the cat.
- Overnight guests in the house: Unfamiliar sounds and smells from people can freak out your cat.
- Repairman in the house: Strange noises from their tools can add to the stress.
- Barking dogs, fireworks, a car door shutting: Sudden loud noises will alarm your cat.
Changes to your cat’s own personal world can cause stress such as:
- Favorite hiding places now being made off limits to the cat.
- Dirty litter boxes will smell and feel different.
- Changing the brand of litter also introduces different smells and textures.
- Changes in food is a big stressor for cats who are happy to get what they are used to every day.
Some activities combine many stressors that your cat must deal with. For example, if you travel and have a friend come to your house to take care of your cat, the cat will have to cope with a different person, changes in feeding schedules, a litter box left dirty a little too long, and the fact that you are missing. Some people say their cats ignore them for a few days after coming home from a trip, and it’s no mystery why.
Signs of Stress in Your Cat
Your cats live by their routines, so watch for any changes in their behavior for signs of stress. These can include:
- loss of appetite
- excessive grooming
- less engaged with family members
- hiding for long periods of time
- more aggression toward other cats in the household
- not using the litter box
Since many of these can be signs of illnesses, when you spot these, take your cat to your local pet hospital for a check up. If no physical reasons for the behavior are found, talk with the vet about what is happening at home that may cause stress. Your vet can often spot what is causing the stress from your description of any changes at home.
What You Can Do to Reduce Stress on Your Cat
Change is inevitable, even for your cat, but you can help by introducing change to them very gradually.
- Put out carpet sample squares for your cat to sniff and walk on before installing new carpet.
- Give your cat plenty of places to hide and be by themselves, and don’t change them. When your cat is in their safe place, make sure no one bothers them.
- Change litter and food gradually, taking days to change over from one to another. Add a little of the new to the old and increase the new over time.
- Give your cat a selection of toys that they can use to keep occupied when you’re not around. This will help when you’re traveling.
- Before leaving on a trip, have the person that will be watching the cats come over and play with them. Give them the cats’ feeding schedule so they will follow the same schedule you do with the cats.
Watch your cats for any behavioral changes. They may be the result of physical issues, or a reaction to stress. A visit to your vet such as All Care Pet Hospital of Harbour Point can confirm your suspicions.