Stress in cats
Stress is a major factor in the development of common behavioral problems and/or diseases in cats. Do realize that not every cat is equally sensitive to experiencing stress. However, not every form of stress is immediately harmful to your cat. There is a difference between acute (relatively short-term) stress and chronic (long-term) stress. The sporadic experience of (acute) stress is no reason for panic. Chronic stress, like in humans, is an entirely different story.
Cats are masters at disguising stress signals. This means that we, as cat owners and cat lovers, must pay close attention to (subtle) stress signals in cats in order to recognize them. Acute stress in cats is easier to recognize than chronic stress.
What are signs of acute stress?
- The stiffening of your cat’s body
- Shaking all over your cat’s body
- The cat’s rapid breathing, sometimes even with its mouth open*
- A prowling attitude*
- A tail worn close to the body
- The head held lower than the rest of the body*
- Fully opened eyes, with complete dilation of the pupils
- Cat’s ears laid flat against the head
- The whiskers positioned backward
- Vocalization: meows, whines, growls*
- Hissing, growling, drooling, trembling
- Unintentionally letting urine or feces flow
- Aggression when approaching the cat
Note: this is not always a stress signal
What are signs of chronic stress?
- Eating less often or eating extremely much
- Washing themselves less frequently
- Reduced urination and/or defecation
- Exhibit more resting and/or sleeping behaviors
- Retreating and/or hiding more
- Exhibiting aggressive behavior toward people or other animals in the home
- Exhibiting extreme vigilant behavior
- Playing less
- A changed general pattern of behavior, for example, suddenly being outside much more/less regardless of weather conditions
- Defecating and/or urinating in inappropriate places
- Excessive licking of the coat
- Exhibiting ambivalent behavior (or conflict behavior)
- Increased/changed frequency of scratching at surfaces and/or rubbing their head along surfaces
Should you feel that your cat is showing (chronic) stress signals? Or is there a stressful event, such as a move, coming up soon for your cat? Feel free to contact us for more tips and/or check out the International Cat Care website.
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