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How Can You Help Your Cats With Anxiety?

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by Alexander Thompson
Jun 02, 2022
4 minute read
TABLE OF CONTENTS
  • Separation Anxiety in Cat Explained
  • Causes of Anxiety in Cat
  • Symptoms of Anxiety in Cat
  • Helping Your Anxious Cat
  • Final Words
You would think a pet as independent as a cat does not suffer from separation anxiety. But this is untrue. Cats, as independent as they can be, are social in nature. They look for regular socialization and forge strong connections with humans in the process.

Separation Anxiety in Cat Explained

Many things cause anxiety in cats. For example, they get anxious when they sense danger and fear. These may also come with chronic stress in some cases. Anxiety occurs in different forms in cats. One of these forms is separation anxiety, which happens when your cats become stressed or anxious when you are not around them or alone.
a sad cat

Causes of Anxiety in Cat

The common causes of anxiety in cats are associated with their health, environment, and genes.

Genetic Composition

The genetic composition of some cats may contribute to their anxiety. For instance, Burmese cats, Siamese cats, and cats of other breeds tend to be more stressed than others. Therefore, they are at higher risk of separation anxiety. While this situation is not remediable, you can help your cat by staying close to them and offering them good recreational opportunities.

Environment

The environment of a cat contributes to their levels of anxiety. For example, if your cat moves to a new environment or you change their pet home, they may develop separation anxiety. Other environmental factors include the continuous absence of a family member or the expectation of a baby.

Health

Your cat’s health may lead to behavioral changes and, consequently, separation anxiety. If you notice unusual changes in your cat’s behavior, do not panic. Instead, please consult your veterinarian and have them examine the cat. Common health conditions associated with anxiety in cats include allergies, skin problems, intestinal problems, hyperthyroidism, and urinary tract infections. Check to learn more about How Does Your Cat's Diet Affect Their Urinary Health.

Hasty Weaning

Separation anxiety may set in if you separate newborns or young cats from their mothers or siblings too early. Therefore, it is best to allow your kittens to stay with their families for two months after their birth. This ensures they do not miss crucial periods of socialization, which may eventually lead to anxiety as they develop. The peak socialization period for cats is usually between week three and week 9.
an unhappy cat

Symptoms of Anxiety in Cat

You can easily identify an anxious cat in most cases. However, the signs are clear in some cases and require a closer look to detect in others. Either way, we have a list of the common signs of cat anxiety below:
  • Eating too fast, eating too little, or similar changes in eating or drinking habits.
  • Change in lifer box habits, including not defecating or urinating in the box.
  • Spending more time alone in hiding.
  • Diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Increased aggression, excessive vocalization, and destructive behavior.
  • Over scratching and over-grooming, causing injuries or hair loss.
  • Weight loss due to appetite loss, restlessness and compulsive pacing, and lethargy.
Extreme behaviors that happen again and again can point to an obsessive-compulsive order. These behaviors or habits include continuous yowling or meowing, incessant grooming, chewing, sucking, or eating fabric, and others. However, if your cat is experiencing separation anxiety, they will most likely exhibit the symptoms when you are not around or about to leave them.

Helping Your Anxious Cat

The first step in helping a cat suffering from anxiety is to know that it requires more than a single action to solve. Therefore, it is advisable to adopt an approach that treats the problem from various angles at the same time.
a cat in anxiety

Keep the Triggers Away

The first step is to identify what causes stress in your cats. The second step is to remove these triggers from their environment. For instance, if the trigger is neighborhood cats loitering around your house, you can deter them carefully or find a way to ensure your cats cannot see them or detect their presence.

Offer Positive Alternative Behaviors

Your cats’ instinctual needs often determine their overall health and state of mind. Meeting these needs can turn things around quickly. For example, get them into more situations where they can play, hunt, and stimulate themselves properly. Creating a sense of security around them can also help them with anxiety.

Avoid Abrupt Changes

A change in environment can be unavoidable in some cases. However, when this happens, it is best to do it gradually. For example, if you are changing an apartment, get a smaller area for your cat and gradually expose them to other parts of the new apartment. This may take several days or weeks. Similarly, work out a gradual introduction plan with your vet if a new pet is coming in.

Make Them Comfortable

Cats are big on comfort. They easily get scared if and when they feel a sense of discomfort. You can detect this by watching its body language. If your cat scratches or bites more than usual, it may just be afraid.

Help Them Stay Calm

You can help your cat stay calm by introducing calming products, including diffusers and sprays that fills their surrounding with a substance that looks like natural cat pheromones. This works best in combination with other solutions.

Place Them on Anxiety Medication

Anxiety medications for cats can help them cope with stressors better. While these medications can be very helpful, it is best to combine them with other tips on this list. Also, they should be used only on the advice of your vet.

Punishment Doesn’t Work

If you think punishing your cat will help them beat anxiety, you need to think again. It doesn’t help; instead, it worsens the situation by increasing their fear response. So, do not hit and yell at your cat or throw items at them.

Avoid Touching the Cat When Leaving

Touching and playing with your cat when you are about to leave them is mostly an involuntary action. However, it does not help your cat overcome their separation anxiety. On the contrary, the increased attention they get from you as you are leaving heightens the feeling of separation in them.
In the same vein, avoid hugging or talking to your cats on your return if you have been away for a while. Instead, give it some minutes before you start playing with them again.
a cat in anxiety

Final Words

Your cats will be OK on their own. Your absence is only a problem if your cat suffers from separation anxiety. You can identify such a cat by its continuous meowing, destructive moves, and urinating outside the litter box.
The most common cause of separation anxiety in cats is behavioral changes. Once you notice changes in your cat’s behavior, you should immediately report it to your vet. Do not overlook these changes, especially considering they may be pointers to or symptoms of separation anxiety.
If you keep a dog, check here to learn about Helping Your Dogs With Anxiety.
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