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In this blog we will look at one of the biggest issues affecting cats – anxiety. I’ll share with you what you need to look for to determine if your cat is showing signs of anxiety. And we will cover 5 top tips to help reduce it.

What is anxiety in cats?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, usually related to a sense of worry or fear. Humans aren’t the only species that experience anxiety. Our cats can feel it too. Changes to their relationships, environment, nutrition, and routine can bring about anxiety in our feline friends. Cats are creatures of habit and when they feel a sense of change or upset in their world, they can start to feel anxious. It can be caused from a one-off event such as a neighbourhood cat coming into their territory, or a continued stressor such as a new baby in the home.

The good news is we can help our cats deal with change. We can support their mental and emotional needs to deal with this reaction. Some cats will cope with a certain level of change or upset int their world, they will adapt and adjust without any real evidence they have suffered any level of anxiety. Yet for other cats it can be the start of a very slippery slope of using upsetting, and sometimes frustrating behaviours to us humans, as they try to deal with how they feel.  

How can you tell if your cat is anxious?

No-one knows your cat better than you do.

You have the capacity to tell when something is wrong or upsetting your cat. Sometimes it might just be a feeling, other times you may notice a change in their routine or behaviour. These are some of the elements to look for when you are considering if your cat is anxious:

 Changes to their appetite

 Hiding more than their normal

 ‘Sleeping’ with one eye open

 Upset digestion

 Changes in elimination habits

 Jumpy or on edge

 Watching activity in the home

 Restless

 Reactive

 Trembling

 Changes to their version of normal

 Withdrawn

 Reluctance for interaction

 

This list is not exhaustive, and for a cat to be dealing with anxiety they won’t necessarily have every sign on this list. It varies for each cat, as it does for anxiety in humans. No two cats will show their anxiety in the same way. But looking out for the items on this list is a great place to start.

Get to know your cat, understand their habits and routines. When there are changes to their version of normal, that’s when you need to consider if they are dealing with anxiety.

Ask yourself – What has changed in their environment?

How does anxiety manifest in cats?

If a cat is continuously exposed to a stressor that causes them anxiety, or they are unable to deal with the emotions brought about from the cause of their anxiety, they will find their own way to cope.

Usually in cats this shows up as:

 Overgrooming

 Inappropriate elimination

 Aggression

 

Overgrooming is a self-soothing mechanism for the cat. They don’t just do it to keep their coat clean. They do it to ingest our scent which is comforting for them, the very act of cleaning and the mechanics involved in it are calming for cats. I will talk more about overgrooming in the next blog.

Cats are inherently clean animals and provided they have access to a clean litter tray, generally speaking they will use it. If you have a cat that is weeing or pooping on your bed, or around the home – this is a sign something is wrong! The cat is doing what it needs to to feel safe and secure in its environment. Granted, it’s hugely frustrating and probably upsetting for you, but for the cat – it’s what they need to do to cope.

Your scent is most concentrated in your bedroom, on your bed. So, if your cat is using it as a litter tray, they are doing it there because that’s where they feel the safest. And we all know when we are feeling anxious, we need to feel safe.

Finally, aggression – this isn’t as common as overgrooming and inappropriate elimination, but it can be a result of anxiety. Anxious cats are on alert. Their flight/fight/freeze response is activated. When cats feel threatened, they react. They will set boundaries; they will do anything they need to protect themselves. If you think your cat is anxious and this is showing up as aggression, give your cat some space. Don’t push their boundaries, force them to interact etc. Let them find some calm.

How can you help your anxious cat?

If you are dealing with an anxious cat, one of the best things you can do is remove the stressor, whatever is the cause of the anxiety. But this isn’t always possible, for example if you have a new baby or there are roadworks going on outside the home.

If you can’t remove the stressor, you can support your cat to help them deal with and work through their anxiety.

  1. Put down an anxiety herb garden

Offering your cat dried herbs and flowers that support their anxiety are a great tool. We can make a cup of chamomile tea if we feel stressed and need to calm our nerves – why not give your cat the same support!

  1. Looking at yourself

Cats pick up on our emotions. If you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious take a little time out. You would be surprised how our cats will calm if we are calm. Take a hot bath, go for a walk. Shift your energy and you will shift your cats.

  1. Accepting them as they are

Some cats have a slightly more nervous disposition. Take my gorgeous boy Leo for example. Just today, my Dad popped over to fix a leaky tap and as soon as he came into the house Leo ran behind the sofa to hide. You can’t change your cat. If they are a little more skittish or nervous, embrace them and love them for who they are.

  1. Getting help

If your cat has been in a chronically anxious state for some time and their behaviour is not changing or returning to their normal – get help. Always get a vet check done in the first instance to ensure there are no physical issues causing the cat distress. Usually with anxiety it is emotional not physical. Look to get support from a behaviourist, like me, or a complementary therapist.

A great tool for anxiety in humans is to have a relaxing massage working on the emotional and spiritual bodies. This is true for cats too. Offering energy healing or herbal remedies can really help.  

  1. Catering to their needs

As I’ve said we can’t change our cats. Leo will always be nervous of people in our home. His default will be to run and hide away. Instead of forcing him out of his comfort zone or making him do what I want him to do, I cater to his needs. I ask my house guests not to ring the doorbell. I make sure the cat flap has easy access so he can run out of the house. I give him time to do what he needs to cope. Other cats may need dark spaces to run and hide away in, heights or high levels to sit on and watch from a distance.

Anxiety doesn’t have to overrule your cat. It doesn’t have to dominate their life. You can help your anxious cat.

If you need extra help dealing with your anxious cat book a call with me. I’d love to see if I can support you both.

I’ve also put together a list of videos that can support your anxious cat. You can see them here: Help for anxious cats.

Together we can help your cat be happy, healthy and thrive in their environment.

With love,
Julie-Anne, Leo and Max xxx

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