Summer can be a strange time for cats. With holidays, it might be they spend some time in a cattery or you may have guests coming to stay. All of which could trigger some unusual cat behaviour and lead you to wonder ‘is my cat stressed?’
Here are four ways to tell if your cat is stressed or anxious.
According to Lintbells, all you need to remember is the P.E.E.P system.
POSTURE – is your cat hunched, tense or cowering?
EYES – are their eyes wide, strained or pupils dilated?
EARS – are their ears flattened or pinned back?
POSITION – is your cat turning away, hiding or fleeing/freezing?
If you spot any of these signs in your cat, there is a high chance they are feeling stressed. Here are a few of the most common reasons why cats show signs of stress and anxiety.
Cats: Have they crossed paths with any new cats?
One of the biggest triggers of stress can be encountering fellow felines, either in multi-cat households or where territories are shared/crossed.
Lintbells say, “Disagreements over territory can be a major cause of stress to cats and can end in serious injury. Problems arise if a more assertive cat extends their territory into yours – this can cause stress, fights or even lead to your cat becoming too scared to go outside. Stress can also affect indoor cats, particularly multi-cat households when they are forced to share resources.
“For homes with more than one feline, ensure there are plenty of feeding areas, water bowls, litter trays, beds, toys, scratching posts, high places and private places to hide so they don’t have to share (one per cat plus one is advised).
“There are several ways to reduce the number of unwanted felines around your home, use deterrents such as high fences where possible or invest in a chip/collar activated cat flap to avoid any unwanted visitors.
“Cleaning up any urine outside where possible could prevent your cat from becoming more agitated or frightened (don’t use ammonia-based products as this can make it worse- try enzymatic or bio cleaners). It could also help to temporarily limit the view from the window with a curtain or drape until the outsiders no longer visit.”
New situations: Have you had houseguests lately?
As life changes and we navigate our own way through, it can be easy to forget that something as simple as having houseguests can trigger a cat’s anxiety if they’re not used to that person.
Other new situations, such as house moves, new babies or changes to routine can make a cat feel less secure.
Lintbells suggest easing them into new changes by “introducing them slowly and make sure they have lots of familiar scents and sights around them such as toys, beds, litter boxes.”
Vet visits: Necessary, but often stressful
Whether it’s being enclosed in a carrier or the journey or the fact they know ‘something’s happening’ before arriving at the vet practice and they just pick up on tension if we’re worried, vet visits can often be stressful for animals.
Try to make the process easier with some familiar smells in their carrier, such as a blanket they are used to lying on at home. If you have booked an appointment in advance, you can also leave your carrier out at home so it’s less of a foreign object and your cat is used to seeing it around on other occasions and not just when it’s time to visit the v.e.t.s.
How to calm a stressed cat down
Helping your anxious cat can require patience and persistence and won’t happen overnight.
Supplements can help reduce anxiety, but here are a few things to try to make your home a calm environment for your cat to help them feel less stressed.
Instead of reassuring your cat if they are nervous, try to use positive rewards for calm behaviour such as interactive play to help bring them out of their shell (fishing pole type toys are great for this).
Generally keeping a quiet and relaxed atmosphere around the home will also help, as cats are able to sense the tension.
The key is finding the balance between encouraging your cat without smothering or making them the focus of the household will be key in developing their confidence, giving them enough space to learn comfortably and in their own time.