Cat anxiety can lead to undesirable behavioral issues and other health problems. As a responsible pet parent, you need to figure out if your cat is stressed out and act promptly. From eliminating the anxiety-causing stimulus to consulting the vet there are several ways to deal with this common problem.
Your cat can be anxious for many reasons. Change in environment, loud noises, flashy lights, storms, baths, vet visits, car-rides, illness, medication, and separation can cause anxiety in cats. Cats show their anxiety by avoiding their litter, seeking hiding spots, lashing out, and by refusing to eat their meals. If you see that your cat is anxious, you must immediately take steps to calm it down. Here are a few things that can help your cat overcome momentary or prolonged anxiety.
Give Your Cat Some Space
If there is a sudden change in the environment like the introduction of a new family member or pet, your cat might get anxious. You need to give your cat a safe space to process the change. Usually, with a new baby in the house, the crying can be as stressful for the cat as it is for you. Try to set up a cat tree away from your child’s room. By gaining a vantage point and a place to hide, your cat will feel calmer.
Create a Calm Environment
A party in the house, loud festivals, new pets and newborn babies can be too much commotion for your cat. Giving your cat a cat tree in the same room as the anxiety trigger will not help your cat. You need to create a space for your cat where they do not have to encounter the anxiety trigger. Use a room where your cat can be alone. You cannot stop parades, fireworks and storms causing anxiety, but you can try to be there with your cat to help them calm down.
Remove the Threat
Some external threats can be removed from the vicinity of your cat. An incessant toddler or pet can be a consistent anxiety trigger for your cat. A vacuum cleaner can also make your cat nervous. If you cannot give your cat a place to get away from the threat, then they might jump around the room creating havoc. Remove what your cat is viewing as a threat. Slowly introduce the threatening person, animal or object to your cat to help them normalize the encounter.
Limit or Increase Touch
When your cat is anxious, they might either want your touch or be fearful of it. As seen with older rescue cats, when anxiety grabs hold it is best to limit contact. If you see your cat getting into an aggressive position, you need to back off and give your cat some space. However, if you approach your cat and see that your cat is leaning into your touch, then they need your touch to feel protected. You can pick your cat up, hold them close to your body and calm them down. Never force your cat to take your touch since it might make the situation worse and damage your cat’s trust in you.
Use A Calm Voice
Whether your cat is allowing you to touch them or not, you can try to calm them down by talking to them. Use a hushed, calm voice to talk to your cat if they seem stressed out. Even though your cat will not understand what you are saying, they will feed off of the calm energy in your voice. If your cat is accepting your touch, then you can slowly stroke them while using your voice to calm them down.
Provide Food and Water
Just like humans, some cats tend to stress eat. If you have some food kept for your cat they might feel better after eating. There are also non-medicated treats that you can give your cats to calm them down. When your cat is stressed out, they might generate a lot of body heat. To cool off a drink of water is useful. Keep a bowl of water in reach of your cat, so that they avoid getting overheated with a drink of water.
Keep Litter Box Clean and Available
When your cat is stressed out, they might show litter box avoidance. Litter box avoidance increases if the litter box is not clean. By keeping the litter box clean and within reach you will encourage your cat to use the litter box. Using the litter box can help your cat normalize the changes around them. If your cat is drinking water to cool down and stress eating then keeping their litter box ready will ensure that you do not have to clean up their mess around the house.
By engaging your cat’s sharp sense of smell, you can help your cat calm down. The natural pheromones emitted by cats to communicate can be used to help your cat calm down. Pheromone sprays, collars, diffusers, and wipes are easily available. You can spray a cloth with the pheromone and try to swaddle a cooperative cat. If your cat does not want to be swaddled, then you can use a plug-in diffuser to help the pheromones spread around the room and calm your cat. You can use the wipes to wipe things that might be stressing your cat out.
Consult a Vet
Many internal reasons might be behind your cat’s anxiety. By taking your cat to the vet, you can be sure that it is not an ailment that is causing your cat’s reaction. Internal parasites, fleas, and physical pain might be causing stress. If there are no medical triggers, then your vet might recommend a few medications and ask you to take your cat to an animal behaviorist.
Administer Prescribed Medication
For reducing anxiety in cats, your vet can suggest two types of medication-
1. Short-term medication- sedatives like Benzodiazepines (like alprazolam, midazolam, and lorazepam), SARI (like Trazodone), Clonidine, Gabapentin, Benadryl, Chlorpheniramine and Phenobarbital.
2. Long-term medication- Antidepressants like Amitriptyline, Buspirone Hydrochloride, Clomipramine, and Fluoxetine.
The short-term medications should be used only for extreme circumstances. Long-term medications need to be slowly introduced to your cat’s body. Your vet should prescribe the doses and duration. It’s also a good idea to take the advice of another vet before administering any medication for anxiety to your cat.
Medication might seem like the easiest solution to your cat’s anxiety. Use medication as the last resort as they do take a toll on your cat’s internal organs. Try to calm your cat down without medication and visit a vet if your cat exhibits anxiety frequently.