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Is Your Cat Suffering from Anxiety?

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

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In a high-paced world with high-stress jobs and lifestyles, everyone is learning the effects of stress and anxiety. Appetite and weight changes, headaches, depression, digestive problems, nervous behavior, and loss of sleep are a handful of symptoms human anxiety-sufferers experience. Do cats have anxiety? Is it similar to human anxiety? Can it be prevented?

The answers: Yes, Yes, and Yes!

Cats absolutely experience anxiety. It is the owner's responsibility to be in tune to the cat and pick up on changes that might indicate the cat is struggling with stress. Cats experience anxiety because of psychological, physical, and environmental struggles. Without intervention, the results of a cat's stress may have detrimental affects on your home, your family, and the cat's overall health.

Signs of Cat Anxiety

Every cat shows signs of anxiety in his own way. If you are noticing a change in your cat's behavior, it is important to evaluate the situation, put yourself in your cat's paws, and determine if something is bothering him. Some possible signs of anxiety are listed below:

  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Excessive vocalizing
  • Changes in elimination habits (such as urinating outside of the litter box)
  • Compulsive behaviors or Excessive grooming
  • Aggression
  • Health changes
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • New destructive behaviors (such as furniture scratching)
  • Trembling
  • Restlessness

    If your cat is showing signs of stress and anxiety, it is extremely important to see your veterinarian to rule out medical problems. If your cat is physically healthy, your veterinarian will help you take the next step in treating his stress.

    Parallels to Human Anxiety

    As you know, being stressed and anxious is unpleasant. If you feel your cat is having a psychological struggle, relate it to your emotions and work hard to help your cat through his problem. As with human anxiety, without intervention your cat's immune system can become compromised, he may become severely depressed, and / or develop behavior problems. Eliminating the cause of the stress or helping your cat handle the situation is the key to relieving the anxiety.

    Causes of Cat Anxiety

    Determining the cause of your cat's anxiety can be a difficult task, as cats cannot communicate to us what is bothering them. Begin by evaluating your cat's daily life. Could any of the following be a problem for your cat?

  • Separation from family
  • Boredom
  • Lack of exercise / play
  • Fear (Loud noises, other cats, certain people or objects, etc.)
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Health problem / pain
  • Inadequate living quarters
  • Changes to daily routine
  • Loss or addition of family member or cat

    Prevention and Treatment

    There are several things you can do to try to minimize stress and anxiety in your cat's life. Making your cat's well-being a priority is the first step to preventing anxiety. For example, turn your cat's mental wheels through toys and games. Grow some catnip or cat grass. Toss out a cat nip toy. Add a new scratching post. Try playing with your cat with a laser pointer. Exercise your cat's body through playtime. Offer emotional support by giving your cat your time and love. Nurture his body by providing a high-quality, nutritious cat food, fresh water, and the shelter of your home.

    Treating anxiety in your cat can be a long, tedious process, but be persistent and you WILL help your cat find relief. Rule out medical causes of stress, eliminate other potential causes, enrich your cat's life with all the essentials, and explore PetPlace for articles on helping your cat handle the situations that make him anxious.

    Like humans, some animals are naturally prone to stress and some have serious struggles with past traumas. These cats may need the assistance of a veterinary behaviorist) or anti-anxiety medications prescribed by a veterinarian.

    The bottom line is that animals DO experience emotional stress, and it IS something to be taken seriously.

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