Recognizing Signs of Cat Anxiety

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Pet owners sometimes don't believe that anxiety could affect their beloved cats. After all, cats don't have to hold down a job and pay the bills. What is there to be anxious about? And in comparison to dogs, cats are a little more subtle about showing their insecurities, but they are suffering nonetheless.

"If your cat's anxiety is mild and she seems otherwise healthy, there are a few things you can try before calling the vet."

What is Cat Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, uneasiness or apprehension, which is normal under certain circumstances but can become a problem if it becomes severe or occurs at inappropriate times. A few of the more common situations that can cause a cat to become anxious include:

  • Separation from her owner, even for just a short period of time
  • Moving to a new home
  • The addition of a new family member (spouse, child or pet)

The symptoms of an anxious cat can be subtle and easy to attribute to other causes. Cats may

  • Hide more than normal
  • Greet owners exuberantly when they return home and follow them from room to room
  • Urinate or defecate outside of the litter box
  • Vomit
  • Compulsively groom themselves, sometimes to the point where they are virtually bald over a large part of the body

Of course other diseases, including some that are very serious, can cause these symptoms. Consult with your veterinarian before you assume that your cat has an anxiety disorder.

Home Care for Anxious Cats

Remember that cats suffering from anxiety are acting out of fear; they are not being "bad." Punishment is absolutely the wrong response in this situation and will actually make the situation worse rather than better.

If your cat's anxiety is mild and she seems otherwise healthy, there are a few things you can try before calling the vet. Feliway sprays, diffusers, and wipes that contain a synthetic form of a feline facial pheromone that is thought to help cats feel calm and relaxed are widely available. Many different nutraceutical, herbal and homeopathic formulations have also been designed to help anxious cats. Sometimes, providing your cat with a special toy at times of stress (e.g., when you leave for work) may be all that is needed, but be sure to put the toy away when you are at home. Perches in front of windows, particularly if there is a bird feeder in sight, can also provide a cat with hours of distraction.

Veterinary Care for Feline Anxiety


If the cat's symptoms worsen and treating the anxiety at home isnt effective, contact your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist for an appointment. These doctors can diagnose the particular type of disorder that your cat suffers from and come up with a behavioral modification plan that will best suit your cat's particular needs. In some cases, he or she may prescribe pet medications like amitriptyline, Clomicalm (clomipramine), or fluoxetine to increase the effectiveness of the behavioral modification protocol.

If a cat's anxiety is limited to particular events (e.g., travel or firework displays), a short term sedative may be all that is needed. In these cases, a veterinarian may prescribe a medication such as acepromazine that should be given a few hours before the offending event.

The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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