Feline Anxiety: The 4 Most Common Causes - and What to Do About Them
In the animal kingdom, cats are among the most fickle, sensitive and picky of all creatures. They're adverse to change and even the slightest differentiation in daily life can cause severe stress.
This fact is compounded for indoor cats, due to the way their entire lives are contained within such a small space. This sensitivity to stress can lead to many different types of mood or behavioral complications which can become a difficulty for you, the owner.
Signs of stress can include:
- Refusal to use the litter box
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from social situations
- Spraying around the house (it should be noted that sometimes this is not the result of a psychological condition, but instead a medical condition such as a kidney disease or a urinary tract infection. Consult your vet to be certain.)
When your cat is 'acting out', the best solution is to relieve the source of stress. While feline anxiety can be the result of many different changes in lifestyle (Think about the most recent changes to affect your cat. That is likely the source), the following are some of the most common causes.
New Family Members
The introduction of a new member to the household, human or animal, is one of the more severe sources of stress. Cats are territorial by nature, and they may immediately be skittish or aggressive around new family members. The best way to help your cat become accustomed to a new friend is to allow him to slowly get acquainted. Don't be forceful or pushy. Allow him to come out on his own terms.
(For more ideas on dealing with aggression between cats, please check out trainer Victoria Swanson's blog "Why Cats Fight and How to Stop It")
Moving to a New Residence
A change of location will oftentimes disturb a cat, at least for a period of time. It's best to plan ahead when moving to help your cat adjust to the change. When you first move into a new apartment or home, quarantine your cat in just one room and fill it with familiar items such as blankets, toys, perches and forts, his litter box, food, and bed. Having these familiar items close by will help him realize he's home. After a few days, allow him to leave on intervals to explore the new environment.
Though cats are known for being independent because of the lack of affection they can show, the truth is that they learn to rely and depend on you. If changes in your schedule resulting from a new job, or other out of home activities cause you to be away for longer periods of time than usual, your cat probably misses you and feels insecure without your presence.
The best solution to this sort of problem is to give your cat something to do while you're gone. You can buy treat dispensers that work at intervals, dispensing cat treats every hour or two. Also, consider setting up a bird house directly outside a window he likes to perch near, so he can watch what is often referred to as "cat TV". Stop by a local pet supplies store and check out other options to entertain your cat while you're away. There are plenty of options.
Another problem common with indoor cats is this your cat sits at a perch near a window, watching your lawn. He sees another cat wandering across the yard, and immediately his territorial instincts kick in. However, he has no way to defend his territory and thus becomes moody and anxious. He may become aggressive toward you or other pets that are close by, as a form of release. In these circumstances, the only way to fix the problem is to prevent your cat from viewing his opponent out the window and to do your best to keep the other cat off your property.
While feline behavior issues are frustrating for the owner, the good news is that they're often easily taken care of. Once the source of the stress is addressed, your cat should have an easier time adapting.
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