Identifying and Dealing With Stress in Your Cat

Identifying and Dealing With Stress in Your Cat

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Cats do not exhibit their emotions as overtly as other animals do. They tend to withdraw and become silent, instead of acting out their anxieties. As a pet owner, you need to pick up on the subtle signs of distress so that you can provide them with the best possible care.

Is stress bad?

There are many physiological systems in a catโ€™s body that regulate stress, the HPA axis and the sympathetic nervous system being the chief among them. Both of these systems have evolved with time to deal with the short term stress that is associated with the speciesโ€™ natural lifestyle. These systems are responsible for controlling the release of hormones which prepare an individual for a challenge, often referred to as the acute stress response. But, these systems are not well adapted at dealing with long term stress, which is responsible for behavioral problems in cats.

Signs of stress
  • Acute stress โ€“ This might be caused due to an unexpected threat or incident and is quite easy to recognize. Some of the most evident signs include:o Immobilityo Belly โ€“ rapid breathing, not exposedo Body โ€“ crouched on all fours, shakingo Bent legso Tail held close to the bodyo Lowered and motionless heado Eyes wide openo Dilated pupilso Fully flattened earso Whiskers held backo Vocal cues โ€“ plaintive mewing, growling or yowlingo Growling, hissing, drooling, shakingo Involuntary defecation, urinationo Aggressive behavior when they are approached
  • Chronic stress โ€“ This is more difficult to identify as it tends to develop over a long period of time and the signs are much more subtle. It is more likely to affect the pattern of routines and behavior, like:o Inhibition of grooming, feeding, defecation and urinationo Feigned sleep or increased restingo Hidingo Defensive aggression towards other cats/peopleo Social withdrawal and increased dependencyo Extreme vigilanceo Lack of playo Changes in behavioral patterns (spending more time indoors, regardless of seasonal changes)o Inappropriate defecation or urinationo Indoor urine sprayingo Pica and over-groomingo Increased scratching and facial rubbingo Displacement activity (out-of-context behavior)o Redirected aggressiono Ambivalent behavior
What can you do to relieve the stress?

Cats constantly assess the risk around them and look for the presence of danger or threat in almost every new social encounter or location. They feel reassured if their daily routines have a degree of predictability as that spells safety. The resources (

water bowls


food bowls

, hiding places,



scratching posts

, high perches and


) you provide for your cat at home must be sufficient to satisfy his daily needs.You also need to make sure that you establish the proper relationship between you and your cat. A confident and social cat will crave for more attention than a timid one. Ensure that you allow your cat to initiate contact with you. It is the easiest way to establish the quantity and quality of affection that he wants from you.

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