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Lifestyle

Anxiety in cats

Help your pet relax and stay calm

If you’re worried your cat is struggling with anxiety, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian is here for you. She's breaking down cat anxiety so you can protect your best friend and help them feel more confident.

Symptoms of anxiety in cats

There are some key signs that your cat could be experiencing anxiety, like aggression towards people (or other pets) and by going to the bathroom outside of their litter box. Other indications include (ranking from generally mild to severe):   

  • Decreased appetite
  • Frequent meowing
  • Decreased or increased changes in activity level
  • Going to the bathroom outside of their litter box
  • Pica, or eating things like rubber, soil, plastic, wood, string or fabric
  • Fighting with other cats
  • Excessive grooming or barbering, which can cause painful bald spots

Can cats experience separation anxiety? 

Yes, cats can experience separation anxiety. They may express this emotion by becoming increasingly vocal, wandering from room to room, expressing anger or going to the bathroom somewhere other than their litter box. ‍‍

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How to help a cat with anxiety

Talk to your vet about cat anxiety treatment options

Ask your vet to run tests to determine if an underlying illness is causing your cat’s anxiety (constantly peeing could be a sign of kidney disease). If they rule out an underlying illness, talk to them about bringing your pet to a behavioral therapist for training. They may be feeling stressed out after being introduced to a new pet or because they were left alone — a professional can help your pet learn to cope.

Consider asking your vet about cat anxiety medication and supplements

If an underlying illness isn’t the cause of your cat’s anxiety, they may need anti-anxiety supplements (ask your vet about Prozac). Your vet may also suggest testing out different pheromones (scents that mother cats release can be used to calm your pet), which come in pill, collar or diffuser form. Be sure you talk to your vet about the safety hazards of each solution, as anxiety medication may not interact with other medications and pheromone diffusers can be unsafe near birds or aquariums. 

Create a safe space 

Create an environment for success, or a refuge, that makes your pet feel comfortable. Avoid any spaces that could trigger their anxiety. For example, if your cat becomes anxious after seeing something in the window, make sure their safe space isn’t a windowed room.

Do you have multiple cats? When cats are anxious, they become territorial, so you want to make sure every cat has their very own area. Put several clean litter boxes, food bowls and beds around your house (add one more litter box per the number of cats you have) to help relieve tension amongst pets.

Keeping your cat on a schedule and never punishing them while anxious can help, too.

You’re an amazing pet parent — with this knowledge and your vet’s help, your cat will hopefully start feeling better. And that’s because you always give them the best care.

Photo by Daria Shatova on Unsplash

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