Cat anxiety: Not feline very good!

Did you know that many cases of feline anxiety may sadly go unrecognised? 

This is because cats, not being pack animals, won’t always seek social support as a dog would, and instead may mask feelings of stress to avoid appearing “vulnerable”.

What are the potential symptoms of anxiety in a cat?

In more introverted cats, anxiety symptoms can be quite passive and may simply involve the cat seeming a bit quieter, hiding more or eating less.

Some cats may show more overt signs of distress, such as overgrooming (creating bald, irritated skin patches), toileting inappropriately around the house or becoming hypervigilant and “jumpy”.

Unfortunately, a significant state of stress can also affect a cat’s immune system, and may potentially trigger other health issues, such as:

  • Feline idiopathic cystitis – painful urinary tract inflammation that causes symptoms similar to that of a UTI
  • Recurrent “cat flu” symptoms, involving eye or mouth ulcers, conjunctivitis or nasal discharge
  • Gut upset – seen as vomiting and/or diarrhoea, particularly in cats who already had sensitive guts
  • Obesity, which increases the risk of conditions such as diabetes

What are some common causes of anxiety in cats?

In some cases of cat anxiety, there is an obvious stress factor associated, such as building work, the introduction of a new pet, housemate or baby to the household, or the loss of a beloved human or animal companion.

However, cats can be quite sensitive to changes in their social environment, and can potentially have anxiety triggered by more subtle factors, such as human emotional upset within their household, or changes in routine.

A very common reason for stress in cats is aggression between them and another cat within the household or neighbourhood. This does not always involve obvious hissing or fighting, and can sometimes just be seen more subtly as two cats glaring at each other in an unfriendly manner, or blocking each other’s access to litter, resting or feeding facilities!

What should I do if my cat seems anxious?

If your cat is showing any behavioural changes suggestive of anxiety, it’s best to book an appointment with our vets for further assessment, so we can confirm the problem and look for any potential associated medical issues.

In many cases, we will recommend environmental interventions to help reduce your cat’s anxiety, such as:

    • Supporting your cat in “avoiding” the stressful factor – ensuring each cat in the household has access to their own litter tray (plus an extra one), as well as a separate food and water bowl, and several comfortable, private hiding spots in quiet or elevated locations to retreat to if required
    • Trialling the usage of calming pheromone products, such as Feliway
    • Frequently offering (but not forcing!) gentle, pleasant interactions with your cat, such as grooming, playing with interactive toys, or petting

If your cat is very anxious, we may also discuss the usage of an anti-anxiety medication to help them recover.

With appropriate, understanding management, we can help your concerned cat to feel content and paw-sitive again once more!

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