Cat anxiety can be challenging
An anxious cat isn’t ideal for the pet owner or feline. Not only is kitty feeling stressed out about the world around her, but this situation can also wreak havoc on your household. For example, cats with anxiety can exhibit destructive behaviours such as peeing outside of the litter box or getting into areas they shouldn’t. It can also cut into your ability to get some real human and animal bonding time. While cat anxiety can be a challenging problem to deal with and it won’t magically go away overnight, it is by no means impossible to overcome. We asked veterinarians to weigh in on this issue – and provide some possible solutions to save everyone’s sanity.
Common reasons why cats experience anxiety
Cats tend to be sensitive creatures who are highly attuned to their surroundings. Anything that disrupts the status quo can trigger their anxiety, notes veterinarian Dr Jessica Hermann. Examples including moving to a new home, introducing (or losing) a pet or family member, or changing their daily feeding or playing schedule. Even something as simple as rearranging the furniture can upset your cat.
Dr Hermann adds that boredom may also cause anxiety and destructive behaviour in our feline friends. Though expert loungers, cats do require mental and physical stimulation. Cuddles, toys, and one-on-one time can help.
Finally, pain and illness are also common sources of anxiety. Those sorts of issues can run the gamut, from a hurt paw to an upset tummy to a more serious diagnosis. When a cat isn’t 100 per cent herself, she likely feels vulnerable, on guard, and without all her defences. That would cause anyone to feel a bit of anxiety!
Are some cats more anxious than others?
You might have noticed that some cats saunter around without a care in the world, while others are known for being skittish ‘scaredy cats.’ And that make sense, because their personalities and life experiences are all different. “Just like humans, some cats are more anxious than others,” says Dr Mikel Delgado, a postdoctoral veterinary fellow, certified applied animal behaviourist, and resident cat expert for the pet food company Smalls. “This is due in part to genetics, so some cats just might be born a bit more prone to anxiety. At the same time, socialisation at a young age is also very important to how sensitive a cat’s stress response may be.”
For that reason, Delgado says it’s ideal for kittens to get lots of gentle, positive exposure to different people, animals, types of handling and experiences – such as being in a carrier –when they are young. This will help them cope better with change when they are older.