Vet Blog

10 Signs Your Cat Is Stressed

March 22, 2023

Stress is a common occurrence in our everyday life, because of pressure from work, family, and social obligations.

Stress can also affect pets, with cats particularly sensitive to anxiety and stress. Changes in the environment, family structure, and daily schedule can trigger stress in cats, so new changes should always be instituted slowly and carefully to keep your feline friend comfortable and happy. Cats can also become stressed if they fall ill or are injured. Stressed cats may change many of their behaviors-here are 10 of the most common clues that your cat is stressed.

Your Cat Pees Outside the Litter Box

Inappropriate elimination is one of the most common feline stress signs. Oftentimes, blood will be present in the urine, which you will see when your cat pees on a light-colored rug or piece of clothing. Many cat owners believe that their cat who pees outside the litter box has a urinary tract infection, but cats under stress easily develop feline idiopathic cystitis (i.e., bladder inflammation). Painful inflammation causes more frequent urination, although in smaller amounts, and the painful urination creates a negative association with their box, so the cat will seek other places. When cats experience further stress, they can also develop cystitis flare-ups, and urinate inappropriately again.

Your Cat Scratches Inappropriately

Cats can become stressed because they lack environmental enrichment and physical and mental stimulation, so they entertain themselves by scratching in inappropriate areas. The presence of a strange (e.g., stray) cat around your home can stress your cat, who will claw the frames around whatever windows or doors that the stray cat marked.

Your Cat Hides

Stressed cats may withdraw from interaction with other household pets, or their owners. If your cat suddenly disappears, and you find them hiding under the bed, behind furniture, or in small spaces, they may be stressed.

Your Cat Fights With Other Household Pets

If the addition of a new pet stresses your cat, they may act aggressively toward the new cat or dog. A change in the household dynamics can also cause your cat to react aggressively toward other pets, even those who are long-time housemates.

Your Cat Grooms Excessively

Some cats may groom themselves excessively to cope with stress or boredom, perhaps because licking is believed to release endorphins, which help alleviate stress. However, if grooming makes your cat feel better, that can become a compulsive habit. Compulsive grooming is often triggered by a change in the cat's normal routine or environment and can cause psychogenic alopecia.

Your Cat Doesn't Eat as Much

Like people, stress can cause lack of appetite in a cat. If your cat will not eat dry food, they may need warmed canned food to pique their appetite. Encouraging drinking is especially important, so you may need to change the water dish several times a day with fresh water, or purchase a drinking fountain.

Your Cat "talks" More Than Normal

Excessive vocalization, whether meowing or yowling, can occur during stressful times. Your cat may be more chatty than normal because they are attempting to communicate their anxiety.

Your Cat Has Become Aggressive Toward You

Your stressed cat may not limit their unusual aggression to other household pets-they may also react negatively by hissing and swatting at your hand when you try to pet them.

Your Cat Sleeps More

Your stressed cat may not only spend more time in hiding spots, but may also snooze more, despite already seeming to spend a large chunk of their day sleeping.

Your Cat Has Pica

Pica refers to the abnormal desire to consume non-edible materials, such as wool, rubber, leather, plastic, or cardboard. Cats with pica tend to be particularly susceptible to stress, and such chewing seems to release chemicals that produce intense pleasure. Increase your cat's opportunities to play with moving objects, such as fishing pole toys, to decrease the urge to eat non-edible materials.

If your cat exhibits behavioral changes, they could be feeling stressed from changes in their home life, or from an illness or injury. Contact our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center team to schedule an appointment, so we can determine the cause of your cat's stress.