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A Pet Owners Guide to Cat Anxiety: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Natalie H Ragland, DVM
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What is Cat Anxiety?

What is Cat Anxiety

According to PetMD, cat anxiety is a behavior problem triggered by the anticipation of danger or threat. Even if the cat is not in real danger, it may still feel threatened.

According to estimations, veterinarians say that around 20 to 25% of their feline patients exhibit anxious behaviors. Although not life-threatening, cat anxiety affects the quality of life and overall wellness.

The list of cat anxiety symptoms includes both physical and mental changes. Therefore, it is hard for a pet parent to recognize their cat’s behavior as anxiety. If you suspect feline anxiety, talk to a vet or veterinary behaviorist.

What Causes Anxiety in Cats?

Feline anxiety can be triggered by pain, trauma, loud noises, old age, changes in the environment, lack of socialization, and being left alone. Let’s take a closer look at each cause of cat anxiety:

  • Illness or Pain. Painful health issues, such as arthritis, make cats anxious. Basically, any health condition that causes pain can be the underlying cause of cat anxiety.
  • Trauma. Fear often results from a traumatic experience. Sometimes the experience may not seem scary for the owner, but for the cat, it can be a phobia trigger.
  • Loud Noises. Cats dislike loud noises, and frequent exposure may lead to anxiety. Thunders, fireworks, and construction sounds are common triggers.
  • Old Age. It is normal for senior cats to become more fearful as they grow old. This is probably due to medical conditions like memory issues and dementia.
  • Environmental Changes. Cats thrive on habits and can become anxious in the case of change in the environment (new pet, moving to a new home, rearranging the furniture).
  • Lack of Socialization. Fearful and destructive behavior in cats may stem from a lack of proper socialization. Early separation from the mother is a common cause.
  • Alone Time. Separation anxiety occurs in overly attached cats that cannot support being away from their favorite family member.

What are the Signs of Anxiety in Cats?

What are the Signs of Anxiety in Cats

Anxiety is a complex state and triggers an array of clinical manifestations. The symptoms of anxiety include physical reactions and behavioral changes. Here are the cat anxiety symptoms:

  • Changes in the Cat’s Body Language. This includes holding the tail close to the body, ears set aside, frequent lip licking, avoiding eye contact, dilated pupils, tail flicking, starring, erected hair, and crouching or leaning away.
  • Hiding or Escapism Efforts. When faced with danger, the “fight or flight“ response kicks in. As a result, some anxious cats hide and seek solitude, while others will do anything to escape (scratch and chew on doors and windows).
  • Excessive Vocalization. Cats meow at their owners when in need of attention. Excess meowing is a common sign of anxiety. However, stress-meowing is unique (it sounds very troubled, like a distress call.
  • Over-Grooming. Studies show that cats “typically spend between 30 and 50 percent of their day grooming themselves.” However, excessive grooming is often a sign of stress and anxiety. For some reason, self-licking is calming to pets.
  • Avoiding the Litter Box. There are two options when an otherwise potty-trained cat starts having accidents around the house. First, there is an issue with the litter box, and second, the cat is sick (physically or emotionally).
  • Appetite Changes. Anxiety is one of the medical issues that cause changes in appetite. Some cats refuse to eat when anxious, while others overeat.
  • Vomiting and/or Diarrhea. New research shows that “even healthy cats act sick when their routine is disrupted.” As a result, vomiting and diarrhea are often seen in anxious cats.
  • Unusual Aggressiveness. Aggressive outbursts in otherwise calm and mellow cats are a sign of anxiety. The outburst can be directed at other pets or owners. Anxiety-triggered aggression stems from the inability to cope with the stressor.

How do Vets Diagnose Cat Anxiety?

Sadly, there is no specific test to diagnose cat anxiety. When presented with a potentially anxious cat, the vet will perform a full physical examination. After the exam, the vet orders additional tests (blood work, urine analysis, diagnostic imaging).

This helps the vet rule out underlying causes. For example, accidents outside the litterbox can be due to a urinary tract infection. Excessive vocalization can be caused by thyroid gland issues and excessive grooming can be a sign of atopic dermatitis.

Once the veterinarian determines there is no medical issue, they will likely refer the anxious cat to a veterinary behaviorist. Based on what the behaviorist says, the pet owner will get back to the vet to establish the right treatment plan.

How do You Treat Cat Anxiety?

How do You Treat Cat Anxiety

There are different options for cat anxiety treatment. Which option is best depends on the individual cat and the specific stressor. For the best results, vets and behaviorists usually recommend a multimodal treatment plan – using several approaches at once.

Anxiety Medication for Cats

Cat anxiety medications work fast and provide good stress management. However, they are not available over the counter. Also, if using anti-anxiety medications, it is advisable to have your cat frequently examined.

When is a medication used for cat anxiety?

Anti-anxiety medications for cats are used in the initial phases of the anxiety treatment plan – until the effects of the other management options kick in. Anti-anxiety medications are also prescribed to cats with severe anxieties that cannot be managed otherwise.

Based on numerous interactions and reporting from many patients, our experts concur that Klonopin is https://winters.com/klonopin-2mg/ a safe and highly efficient method for managing anxiety and panic disorder. This medication can be taken on an empty stomach or with food and is recommended to be ingested with a full glass of water. Some common side effects included dizziness, lack of coordination, and drowsiness, but these symptoms did not detract from the wellbeing patients experienced as well. Talk to your doctor about Klonopin and how it can help make your life better.

Benefits of using cat anxiety medication

  • Fast-acting and provide quick stress relief
  • Work against different stress triggers
  • They are efficient and reliable
  • Can be combined with other approaches

Risks of using cat anxiety medication

  • Cannot be used in the long run
  • Require a veterinary prescription
  • May interact with other medications

Anxiety Supplements for Cats

Anxiety supplements for cats include options such as pet CBD products (oil, treats, edibles) and supplements with silvervine, catnip, or some other natural ingredient that promotes calmness.

Honest Paws CBD Oil for Cats
  • Enhance bone & joint health
  • Promote relaxation & combat stress
  • Boost immune system & cognitive function

When are supplements used for cat anxiety?

Supplements for cat anxiety can be used as a sole management option for cats with minor stress issues. They can also be used as adjuvant therapy in cats with severe anxiety issues.

What are the benefits of anxiety supplements for cats?

  • Usually natural and pet-safe
  • Can be combined with other approaches
  • Support calmness and relaxation
  • Do not require a veterinary subscription

What are the risks of using anxiety supplements for cats?

  • Not as strong as anti-anxiety medication
  • Do not work for all cats and anxiety types
  • Can be expensive (if of premium quality)

Behavior Modification for Cats

Behavior modification is an excellent way of managing anxious cats. The training process is lengthy and often requires help from a professional. However, it is a long-term solution.

When is behavior modification used for cat anxiety?

Behavior modification is used to manage various types of anxiety in cats. It includes techniques like counterconditioning, desensitization, habituation, extinction, shaping, and response substitution.

What are the benefits of behavior modification for cat anxiety?

  • Long-term solution
  • Does not cause side effects
  • Helps with overall training
  • Suitable for different anxiety types

What are the risks of using behavior modification for cat anxiety?

  • The process requires time and work
  • Additional management is necessary for the meanwhile
  • It often requires help from a veterinary behaviorist

What can I do When My Cat is Anxious?

What can I do When My Cat is Anxious

In addition to the above-mentioned options like calming medications, supplements, and training, there are several things pet parents can do to manage an anxious cat. Here are some options:

  • Cat Anxiety Bed. The cat anxiety bed is a special pet bed designed to provide calmness and relaxation. The calming cat bed is supposed to provide the cat with a safe and secluded space. Plus, it is made from warm and cozy materials.
  • Pheromones. Pheromones are chemicals cats release into the environment. The mother cat makes pheromones that are calming to the kittens. There are diffusers with pheromones that mimic these chemicals and support calmness and relaxation.
  • Mental Stimulation. If your cat is acting anxious, you can distract it by engaging in fun and mentally challenging playtime. If you are too busy to play games with your cat, you can invest in interactive cat toys.

How can I Prevent Cat Anxiety?

There is no single way of preventing cat anxiety. However, there are several things pet owners can do to decrease their cats’ risk of becoming anxious. Here are simple yet helpful tips:

  • Create a Routine. As explained, cats are creatures of habit. Therefore, it is advisable to create a routine and stick to it. For example, make feeding or playing schedule and respect it as much as possible.
  • Proper Socialization. Socialization is vital for preventing anxious behaviors. Do not get the new kitten separated from its mother too early. Alternatively, make sure you invest time in socialization – introduce the cat to new people, other pets, and situations.
  • Environmental Enrichment. This is a relatively new term that refers to making the cat’s environment more interesting. It includes various toys and puzzle games such as scratching posts and cat trees. They ensure a fun and mentally challenging playtime.

 

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This custom blend of relaxing ingredients is paired with a full-spectrum hemp oil and will help your cat with:

  • Maintaining calmness
  • Behavioral problem management
  • Promoting a healthy brain function