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Stress in Cats

change in the relationship with companion cats

elimination outside of the litter box

aggression

Reducing Stress in Cats

The first step is to have your cat examined by the veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical problem. Don’t assume that the cat’s inappropriate elimination problem or aggression toward a companion cat is due to stress until other health concerns have been looked into.

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If possible, try to identify the cause of the stress. This isn’t always an easy thing to do because the stress trigger may not be obvious. Still, do your best to try to figure out what might be the source. When it comes to trying to determine any less-obvious cause of stress, it will help if you remember the sensitivity level of a cat’s senses. Your cat hears much better than you and her high-level hearing is especially sensitive. Imagine how ongoing loud music might affect her. Your cat’s sense of smell is also much more sensitive than a human’s so scents that might not bother you could be disturbing to her. It could be the scent of another cat, the odor from having a room freshly painted, pest control chemicals sprayed in the environment, cleansers, etc. When it comes to your cat’s sense of touch, having a room carpeted or having the carpet removed and flooring put down could be disturbing not only from a noise and smell perspective but also from a textural point of view. If you have a cat who already tends to be a bit jumpy and reactive to change, imagine how these types of changes could cause an increase in stress.

black and white cat looking frightened

Photo: Pexels

Here are Some Tips:

Gradually prepare your cat for known upcoming changes so she won’t get blindsided. The bigger the change – the more prep time needed.

Make sure your cat has safe hideaways and safe retreats for when she doesn’t want to be bothered.

Keep litter box conditions pristine and make sure the set-up is appealing (type of litter, type of box, location, number of boxes).

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In a multicat home, if there is any tension, use behavior modification techniques to help each cat feel secure. Make sure there are multiple locations for resources. Offering choice is a great start toward decreasing stress.

Make sure your cat has ways to get away from unwanted attention from children, dogs or other family members. Be sure all family members (and guests) know that when kitty is in her safe spot she is to be left alone.

Engage in daily interactive playtime sessions to build confidence and help your cat develop a positive association with you or with certain areas of the home.

Increase vertical territory in the home. Cat trees are a great way to do this. Cats depend on elevated areas for security.

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Cats don’t like change so try to keep changes to a minimum. This applies to even the simplest things such as brands of litter, food or even the food bowl itself. If a change must take place, do a gradual transition.

Increase environmental enrichment so kitty has activities to keep her occupied when home alone. Puzzle feeders, activity toys, cat entertainment DVDs, etc., are valuable tools to use when creating more stimulation and fun in the cat’s everyday life.

If you have to travel, have a pet sitter or friend come to your home to care for your cat. Make sure it’s someone your cat is comfortable with. Don’t leave your cat home alone – even if it’s just for overnight. This can be very stressful.

Clicker train your cat so you can work on confidence-building.

Need More Information?

For more specific information on stress in cats, refer to the best-selling books by Pam Johnson-Bennett. Pam’s books are available in bookstores everywhere, through your favorite online book retail site and also here on our website.

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You can find more information on cat behavior and training in the articles on our website as well as in Pam’s best-selling books. If you have a question regarding your cat’s behavior or health, please contact your veterinarian. This article is not intended as a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care. This article is for information purposes only and not offering medical advice or providing a medical diagnosis.

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