All about cats

What can cause stress in cats

In most cases, stress results from a combination of environmental, social, and/or emotional stressors. Environmental stressors include:

Environmental changes (e.g., changes in temperature and humidity)

Elimination problems (e.g., the cat spraying to mark her territory)

Changes in food or water supply

Changes in environment (e.g., a new person or pet in the household)

Social stressors include:

Change in status of the cat (e.g., if the cat is moved from her familiar environment to a new home)

Change in status of the people in the cat’s life (e.g., if the cat is adopted by a new family)

Change in the cat’s relationships with other cats in the household

Change in the cat’s relationships with people in the household

Emotional stressors include:

Changes in the cat’s emotions (e.g., the cat is grieving the loss of a friend or is experiencing separation anxiety)

Changes in the cat’s mood (e.g., the cat is depressed)

Changes in the cat’s personality (e.g., the cat has developed a particular personality trait due to the cat’s experiences)

Changes in the cat’s mood

What are the signs of stress in cats?

The signs of stress in cats can be similar to those seen in dogs. If a cat is stressed, she may have increased heart rate and breathing, decreased appetite, and a droopy appearance. She may also be less active and less vocal, often seeming listless and depressed.

Stress can also cause behavioral changes. For example, cats may become more aggressive, not sleep well, or appear to have a "split personality."

How can I tell if my cat is stressed?

Stress in cats can be subtle. So it is important to observe a cat’s behavior over time and consider a variety of possible causes.

Examples of behaviors that can be seen in cats that are stressed include:

Increased vocalization (e.g., vocalizing while eating, while grooming)

Decreased activity (e.g., less interaction with the household, less play or interaction with other animals)

Increased anxiety (e.g., hiding, pouncing)

Increased fear (e.g., acting aggressively toward people)

Stressed cats often appear to be depressed or withdrawn.

Some cats may also exhibit more "irritability" or "irritable behavior." This is particularly true if a cat has a history of training (e.g., aggression) and is frustrated with the attempts to train her.

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