Anxiety, Behaviour & Stress in Cats
Just like people, cats are very susceptible to stress, which is noticeable by (subtle) changes in their behaviour. Below, you will find a number of common causes and symptoms for stress in cats.
There are many causes of stress in cats that you might think are so minor that they should go unnoticed like a dirty litter tray, new furniture or a change in food brand. Other causes that are easier to identify as triggers include moving house, a visit to the vet, travel, lack of fresh air or daylight, boredom, disease or fleas.
There are many different manifestations of symptoms when it comes to stress in cats. Most noticeably, symptoms include excessive grooming or no grooming at all, elimination outside of the litter box or the refusal to eat. Senior cats are particularly susceptible to stress as it becomes harder for them to turn off their instinctive stress reaction, even when they are relaxed, their brain continues to excrete stress hormones.
Besides stress, cats can also develop anxiety or extreme fear. Common causes of feline anxiety are mentioned below.
Some cats are genetically more predisposed to having a frightened character to others. Although genetics plays a part, their environment can too. It is important to socialise your cat well within their first seven weeks to get them accustomed to other animals, people and noise so that this does not develop into anxiety at a later stage.
The symptoms of anxiety in cats can be subtle or easily attributed to other causes like hiding in a dark corner and running away from visitors (people or animals). Other symptoms of extreme fear, however, are easier to identify such as trembling, huddling up or tensing the body and dilated pupils.
Another very common behavioural problem in cats is aggression, which could be caused by pain, fear, irritability or "hunting" behaviour. Symptoms of aggression include flat ears and eyes wide open, whilst hissing, growling or becoming increasingly vocalised. Additionally, their tail will become stiff and pointed upright or start swishing.
There are a number of products available to help alleviate or prevent cat's stress or fear related behaviour. One product that generally shows good results is the Feliway, which releases a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone. Feline facial pheromones are usually released when they rub their face against someone they trust and feel safe in a particular environment. Feliway creates a sense of security and a calming environment during stressfull situations and is a natural solution to unwanted fear related behvaiour and spraying. It is available in three varieties: the Feliway Diffuser, which can be plugged into an electric socket, the Feliway Spray and Feliway Refill for the diffuser.