Cats can be mysterious, so it can be difficult to spot changes in their behavior. Cat anxiety takes many forms, and can stem from a variety of triggers and situations. At the same time, it’s important to rule out physical illness when a new behavior presents.
The qualified veterinary staff at West Park Animal Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, can examine your cat and determine whether anxious behaviors have a physical cause or require behavioral interventions. Here, we discuss some telltale signs of cat anxiety and possible treatment options.
What Are the Signs of Cat Anxiety?
Anxiety is related to fear. Similarly to humans, cats and other pets can develop anxieties based on experiences. If your cat is stressed, it may be remembering incidents or situations that caused discomfort or alarm. And corresponding incidents may re-trigger those memories and reactions. Cats will take action to express their anxiety, or they may adopt unusual behaviors in an attempt to calm themselves.
Once you become aware of these types of changes in your cats, you should note when they started, plus any incident that may have elicited the behavior. All of this information will be helpful when meeting with your veterinarian. Here are some behaviors that may signal cat anxiety, stress, or illness:
- Change in normal mood
- Destructive scratching
- Guarded body posture
- Avoiding certain areas and/or people
- Following owners more often
- Elimination outside the litter box
- Excessive grooming
- Loss of fur
- Changes in appetite
Determining the Cause of Cat Anxiety
When you notice these changes, your primary concern will likely be fixing your cat’s behavioral problems. Taking your cat to an appointment at West Park Animal Hospital for veterinary services is a good first step to rule out any potential health concerns. The doctor will carefully examine your pet and gather information about the behavior and any recent changes in their environment. Depending on the behaviors displayed, tests may be recommended by their veterinarian.
If your cat is physically healthy, it’s time to determine the cause of its anxiety. Finding out exactly what the behavior entails will help our veterinarians understand the cause. For example, if your cat is hiding more than usual, it may need a quieter environment. If it’s grooming itself to the point of harm, it may need more exercise or fresh air.
Treatments for Cat Anxiety
When looking for the best treatment for anxiety, start by seeing if the environment can be altered to help calm your cat. If a new piece of furniture or room layout is causing cat anxiety, perhaps the cat will adjust over time. Other solutions might be providing a vertical space for the cat to climb and get a different, more fun perspective on the room. Play activities in the area may help with familiarization, as well.
If a change in human schedules triggers stress, the cat may need more stimulation during the times you are at home, helping them to rest when the house is empty. You may also want to try treat puzzles or games that are safe to leave out unattended while you are away.
However, some cat anxiety behaviors are dangerous, such as aggressive fighting or biting. While others, such as constant vocalization or elimination outside of the litterbox, are just disruptive to our daily routine. Depending on the case, these symptoms can be treated with prescription medications, such as anti-anxiety drugs or tricyclic antidepressants.
These medications may take some time to start working, or for the cat to become accustomed to them. Dosages often need to be adjusted, sometimes more than once. Drugs can also have side effects, including changes to appetite, nausea, restlessness, constipation, dry eyes, excessive thirst, and dizziness.
There are other types of treatments for cat anxiety, including calming collars that utilize pheromones to affect your pet’s mood. Diffusers, herbal supplements, flower essences, and other aids are also available. Ask your veterinarian for advice before using any medication or supplement for your cat.
Expert Veterinary Guidance Is Available
Pet owners have excellent resources for diagnosing and treating cat anxiety in West Park, North Olmsted, Berea, Rocky River, Lakewood, Fairview Park, and Cleveland, OH, as well as the surrounding areas. The compassionate, experienced staff members at West Park Animal Hospital offer your pet continuous care, from kittenhood to senior status. Additionally, our in-house laboratory is available for any necessary testing. If your pet needs care or is experiencing cat anxiety, contact us today.