How can I reduce my cat’s stress?

By nature, cats are very secretive, so it can be tricky to tell when they’re feeling a bit down in the dumps.

All cats are different, and some will be generally more relaxed than others.  Anxiety in cats can come from both environmental and genetic factors.

There are two types of stress that may affect your cat:

1. Acute stress

Acute stress in cats is relatively easy to recognise. It’s often caused by a threatening situation, such as a trip to the vets.

Signs of acute stress include:

  • Crouching and not moving
  • Holding the tail close to the body
  • Wide eyes with dilated pupils
  • Ears flattened to the head
  • Yowling or growling
  • Drooling
  • Involuntary urination or defecation
  • Aggression

2. Chronic stress

This is more difficult to detect and tends to develop over a longer period of time, and can often lead to behavioural or medical problems. It can occur because of a cat’s interaction with its environment, with other cats, or also with its owner.

Signs of chronic stress include:

  • Hiding under or behind furniture
  • Soiling or wetting in the house
  • Spending more time hiding or resting than interacting
  • Refusing to eat, groom, or use the litter tray
  • Defensive aggression
  • Excessive grooming, particularly of the tummy area
  • Jumping at small noises

Reducing your cat’s stress

Owners can inadvertently be responsible for increasing their cat’s stress levels. Timid cats that want to hide should be left to their own devices – forced attention can just make the problem worse.

If your cat has access to the outside, they should be allowed to choose when they go out (if possible). For example, they may only go out when there are no other cats around. After all, being forced to confront your archenemy can be very stressful!

The environment is key when it comes to reducing stress in cats. Things, like having the litter tray in the right place, and providing the right kind of food bowl and hiding places, can make the difference between a stressed-out cat and a chilled out moggy.

A cat-friendly home for a happy cat

Make sure other cats can’t get through the cat flap. Cats are very territorial and another cat encroaching on their territory and eating their food can be very stressful. If this is an issue, think about using a microchip-activated cat flap, or remove the cat flap altogether.

Cats can be notoriously fussy about water – some don’t like the smell of chlorine in tap water, and some will only drink directly from the tap. Try experimenting with different bowls and locations to see what your cat prefers. If your cat likes water from the tap, try purchasing a pet water fountain, alternatively, you could try bottled water or keep a bowl outside that can collect the rain.

Cats can also be fussy about the bowl they eat from – some won’t eat out of plastic bowls, as they don’t like the smell. Others will only eat out of a metal bowl. Again, experiment with different bowls to find out what your cat prefers.

Make sure you don’t place a cats food near their litter tray – they don’t like eating where they poo! - who can blame them?!

Make sure your cat has access to high level resting places, if they’re old and arthritic, make sure they are able to get up and down safely and easily. Experiment with cardboard boxes or a cat bed in different places and see where your cat prefers to go.

Litter trays should be placed in a discreet corner, away from busy thoroughfares, food, and water. As a general rule, you should provide one litter tray per cat, and one extra in a different location. It’s also important to make sure they’re cleaned every day.

Provide your cat with a scratching post. Since most cats like to stand on their hind legs to scratch, the post should be nice and tall.

House cats should be provided with different stimuli every now and then, otherwise, life may become a little dull. Alternating toys and cardboard boxes, and even providing some kitty grass, can help. Make an effort to allow for regular quality time together.

Cats like routines. Try and keep their environment as familiar and predictable as possible to reduce your cat’s stress.


Cat anxiety and stress relief products are also available from Bob Martin VetCare