12 Signs Your Cat Has Anxiety, According To A Vet

#11 is often overlooked.

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13 Signs Your Cat Has Anxiety & What You Can Do About It
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Anxiety isn't just for humans; cats can get it too. “Just like humans and dogs, some cats have personalities that are more prone to anxiety,” Dr. Stephanie Austin, DVM and medical director and veterinarian of Bond Vet, tells Bustle. “Sometimes this can be due to upbringing or previous traumas, but it can also happen for unknown reasons or a cat’s natural disposition. Signs your cat has anxiety can include everything from peeing outside the litter box to excessive grooming. This is something I personally have experience with: My cat Teddy used to suffer from severe anxiety to the point that he was on a low-dose anxiety medication for a few years. While the vet was never able to determine what caused my cat's anxiety, Teddy's symptoms started the first time we moved. As soon as we began packing, he started peeing outside the litter box, was aggressive toward my other cat during meal times, and became super clingy, which I later learned are all symptoms of anxiety in cats.

"Anxiety is the anticipation of future dangers from unknown or imagined origins that result in normal body reactions (known as physiologic reactions) associated with fear; most common visible behaviors are elimination (urination and/or passage of bowel movements), destruction, and excessive vocalization (barking, crying)," PetMD explained on its website. "Separation anxiety is the most common specific anxiety in companion animals. When alone, the animal exhibits anxiety or excessive distress behaviors." PetMD noted that cats generally begin to show symptoms of anxiety when they're between 12 and 36 months old. If you're worried your feline fur baby is anxious, these are the signs to look out for so you can help keep kitty calm:


Your Cat Hides Most Of The Time

While some cats are less social than others, if your cat hides all of the time to the point that it feels like you don't even have a cat, Fluffy could be anxious, according to PetMD. Typically, research has found that this sign is typically short-lived. However, if you notice that it’s continuing on for a few days, that is your sign you should take your kitty to get checked out by the vet.


Kitty Is Extra Aggressive

If your cat is aggressive for no known reason, anxiety might be behind kitty's behavior. "A well-behaved pet wouldn’t go repeatedly berserk on you without a solid motive, so try to discover the root of the problem and fix it for them," iHeart Cats advised on its website. What's more, "boredom can result in anxiety for a cat that needs attention, and taking out their frustrations on your belongings is one way they can express their discontent to you."


You Cat Has A LOT To Say

In general, cats meow to communicate with their humans versus each other. If your feline friend is trying to get your attention with excessive meowing, and you're not sure what kitty wants, they might be trying to tell you that they're feeling dark and twisty. "If your cat has become excessively chatty in their meow language then this definitely means they are trying to tell you something," iHeart Cats explained. "Often this vocalization will sound very troubled, something like a distress call that they need you as they are desperately trying to get your undivided attention."


Kitty Can't Stop Grooming

Every pet parent appreciates a fastidiously clean cat. However, if your cat is grooming itself all damn day, kitty might be anxious. "You may notice that your cat is grooming so much that she is starting to lose hair over some parts of her body," Princeton Veterinary Hospital noted on its website.


Your Cat Won't Use The Litter Box

If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box and starts peeing in other places in your home, they're trying to tell you something. Once you've ruled out any physical medical problems, like a urinary tract infection, have tried different litters, and added an extra litter box with no success, it's time to consider that your cat is anxious.


Your Cat Is Trembling

In general, cats don't like to be startled. If your cat becomes fearful to the point that they tremble on the regular, it might be time to consider that kitty is overly stimulated and needs a break. Create a safe space for kitty that's all their own so your cat can retreat when it begins to feel anxious or overwhelmed.


Kitty Follows You Everywhere

Just like dogs, cats can develop separation anxiety. If your cat doesn't want to let you out of its sight, and begins to follow you everywhere, anxiety might be behind this behavior. "Some cats become more attached to their owners when they are anxious," Princeton Veterinary Hospital explained. "This can be endearing behavior, and often makes us feel loved by our cats, but it could be a sign that she is stressed or anxious."


Your Cat's Eating Habits Change

Cats that eat everything in sight, or stop eating altogether, could be suffering from anxiety. However, before you determine that your cat is anxious, it's important to rule out any other medical problems first. "Eating or choosing not to eat is a way for them to deal with their anxiety and a common sign that there is an underlying issue present," iHeart Cats noted.


Kitty Is Pacing Or Can't Sit Still

Cats sleep a lot, so if your cat is spending more time pacing than sleeping, it's a sign that kitty is anxious. "For an animal that sleeps up to 16 hours on almost any given day, a restless cat shouldn’t be a difficult sign of anxiety to spot," iHeart Cats noted. "Humans who suffer from anxiety are known to pace or have difficulty sitting still, and this is true in cats as well. Anxiety triggers sensors in the mind that can cause your cat to feel stressed, nervous, and uneasy for no reason at all."


Kitty Is Lethargic

Sometimes cats that are anxious might lose interest in playing or interacting with their humans. Basically they turn into bumps on a log. While a lethargic cat can signal a myriad of feline health problems, once you rule everything else out, it's time to consider that kitty might be anxious.


Kitty Gets Sick

This may seem like a common sign, but it’s often one that people overlook. “Sometimes cats can also get digestive upset (vomiting or loose stools) from stress,” says Austin. It also does not have to just be digestive issues. If your cat seems tired, or is just acting out of the norm in general, this can be another clue that your cat is suffering from anxiety.


Your Cat Avoids Normal Activities

If your cat avoids doing activities that they may normally do, this could potentially be a sign of anxiety. “You might find that your kitty avoids things they usually love to do — for example, they might play less often,” says Austin. Pay attention — is your cat opting out of play time? Are they avoiding you? Take note, and keep track so you know how much your cat is acting up, so you can relay the information to your vet.


So Your Cat Is Anxious, Now What?

If anxiety is the underlying cause of your cat's strange behavior, there are quite a few ways to reassure kitty. Cats generally don't like change, so one way to keep kitty calm is to maintain a consistent home life, which means not changing the furniture around often and offering your cats their own space. “Cats are creatures of habit, so they don’t always like change, especially as they get older. Therefore, any big change in their life — such as boarding, the adoption of a new pet, moving to a new home, or even a pet owner working outside the home more often — could potentially cause stress or anxiety,” says Austin.

However, each cat is different, which is why it's important to work on a treatment plan with your vet. If anxiety is the underlying cause of your cat's strange behavior, there are quite a few ways to reassure kitty. "If your veterinarian diagnoses a simple fear, anxiety, or phobia, a prescribed medication may be all that is needed," PetMD explained. "But your doctor will most likely make recommendations based on your individual cat, what the fear trigger is, and how you can alleviate your cat's fears and anxieties through behavioral conditioning."

“Giving your cat a quiet place to hide and rest, where they feel comfortable, is a great start. This could be a room of their own or even a cat tower,” adds Austin. “It may help in the short-term to give extra attention to your cat, though this could end up reinforcing the anxious behaviors in the long-term. Stress-relief aids designed for cats — such as Feliway pheromone products or a ThunderShirt — might help, too.”

There are also some natural ways to alleviate your cat's anxieties. PetMD also has a guide to all-natural herbs that can be beneficial to cats with anxiety. Additionally, it's important to get to know your cat so you can try to give him or her what they want. Cats are wonderful companions, and just like people, it's important to take care of their mental health just like you would your own.

Additonal reporting by Siena Gagliano.

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