Sharon L Campbell Dvm Ms Dacvim
Dr. Campbell received her DVM degree from University of Wisconsin and completed a residency in internal medicine and a Masters Degree at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. She was a Clinical Instructor at the University of Tennessee for 2 years, then worked at a private referral hospital for many years before joining Zoetis, where she is a Medical Lead for the pain management, anesthesia, sedation, behavior and anti-infectives portfolio of medications.
Dr. Campbell is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. She is Fear Free Certified and is on the Fear Free Advisory Board.
Signs Your Cat Is Dealing With Anxiety
Detecting cat anxiety isnt always easy. Obvious signs can include increased aggression, hissing, vocalizing, pacing, and extreme mood changes, notes Dr. Hermann. But in terms of the more subtle signs, you should be on the lookout for behavioral shifts, such as not using the litter box, hiding, or becoming needier or afraid to leave your side. The anxiety may also manifest itself physically. A cat experiencing anxiety may eat less and lose weight, try to escape, or overgroom , creating bald spots or even skin sores, explains Dr. Hermann. Sometimes, it can even present as a medical symptom, such as diarrhea.
Why Do Cats Develop Separation Anxiety
While most cats are okay with being left for a while, a surprising number of them can develop separation anxiety. Some potential triggers for developing separation anxiety include:
- Cat was taken away from the mother at a very young age
- Death or removal of a favored caretaker from the household
- Change in circumstances that causes a drastic decrease in playtime or attention from a favorite caregiver
Why Do Cats Eliminate and Scratch Inappropriate Items When Suffering Separation Anxiety?
Urinating, defecating, and scratching all leave a cat’s scent on surfaces, marking their territory. This scent-leaving process is soothing for cats and helps them feel better. That’s why stressed, sick, and anxious cats often inappropriately eliminate or scratch.
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Summary Of Anxiety In Cats
Anxiety is a natural response to certain situations and stimuli, but it can become debilitating for your cat, leading to poor quality of life and worsening or causing medical issues, so its important to watch out for the signs of anxiety and consult your veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible. With an approach combining behavioral modification, environmental changes, calming aids and potential medication, most cats can overcome or lessen their anxiety, and be able to lead a much happier life.
Our medical experts
How To Prevent Anxiety In Cats
One of the best ways to help your cat grow up to be well-adjusted and anxiety-free is to ensure theyre well socialized as a kitten.
Expose your cat to a variety of social situations and experiences while they are young to decrease the likelihood of them developing anxiety in the future. This could include being petted by strangers, human visitors coming and going, meeting other cats and dogs, travelling in a car, and hearing a variety of loud noises.
When introducing a new pet to the home, take things slow. If you notice any signs of anxiety or territorial behavior in either pet, separate them and let them live in separate rooms for a while. Reintroduce them slowly, starting with their scents use a common towel, brush, or other item between your pets to help them recognize and get used to each others scents. Next, slowly allow them to spend time together. Gradually increase the duration of their interactions until they have adapted to living in the same space. Continue to introduce and separate your pets until they are coexisting safely.
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Provide Playtime And Enrichment
Start a daily routine of exercise and play with your cat. Even 15 minutes a day with a laser pointer or wand toy will help your cat get the exercise he needs while reducing his stress. Similar to creating a safe space, youll want to make sure your cat has enough environmental enrichment while youre away to stay distracted from ensuing anxieties. Keep him stimulated with catnip toys, food puzzles, cat grass, and window-watching spots.
Signs And Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety In Cats
Does your cat display any of the following symptoms of separation anxiety? If so, it might be time to see the vet.
- Inappropriate elimination of urine or feces
- Increased vocalization
- Destructive behavior
- Excessive grooming
- Increased activity
Because cats are good at hiding it when something is wrong, it can be helpful to keep an eye on your cat when youre not home to see if he or she displays any of these indicative behaviors. According to Martin, Video camera recordings can be instrumental in diagnosing separation anxiety in cats, as some clinical signs may be missed or go unobserved when the owner returns to the cat. Martin recommends Blink cameras for this purpose, as batteries can power the device for two years and they can be moved easily around the home.
If you notice any of the common signs of separation anxiety, dont assume its an automatic diagnosis, as these symptoms can also potentially arise from other health issues. Martin recommends contacting a veterinarian to rule out other medical causes of anxiety and get guidance on a proper treatment plan.
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Diagnosis Of Extreme Fear And Anxiety In Cats
It may be difficult to take your cat to the veterinarian when they are displaying signs of fear and anxiety. However, your veterinarian needs to make sure the symptoms are not related to another health issue. Your veterinarian will talk to you about their symptoms and medical history. You should also expect to discuss any events that may contribute to their fear. You can help your veterinarian make an accurate diagnosis by writing down the symptoms and behavior changes your cat is displaying.
There is always a chance an illness, injury or toxic exposure is the cause of their fear and anxiety. A physical exam and blood test can identify or rule out another health condition.
It is important to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any symptoms or behavior changes. The key is to identify the problem and help your cat to feel comfortable with the situation.
Spotting Signs Of Stress
Many of the signs of stress are similar to those when your cat is in pain.
With any unusual behaviour change, it is important to get your cat checked out by the vet. Signs of stress can include:
- becoming more withdrawn or hiding more than usual
- becoming less tolerant of people
- hesitating or becoming reluctant of using the litter tray, going through the cat flap, sitting on your lap
- eating or drinking less
- a scruffy or matted coat
- house soiling
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What Is Extreme Fear And Anxiety
Fear and anxiety can be difficult for both your cat and your family. A loss of appetite or destructive behavior could lead to illness or injury for your four-legged friend. The fear and anxiety can also cause your cat to become aggressive towards other pets and members of your household.
Cats experience extreme fear and anxiety when a situation becomes too much for them to handle. A stressful situation can bring on feelings ranging from mild fear to anxiety. A current situation, fear of the unknown, or memory of an event can trigger these feelings in your cat.
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We Hate To Break The News To You But Theres A Good Chance Youre Accidentally Stressing Out Your Kitty Heres How To Change That And Keep Your Cats Anxiety At Bay
An anxious cat isnt ideal for the pet owner or feline. Not only is kitty feeling stressed out about the world around her, but this situation can also wreak havoc on your household. For example, cats with anxiety can exhibit destructive behaviors such as peeing outside of the litter box or getting into areas they shouldnt. It can also cut into your ability to get some real human and animal bonding time. While cat anxiety can be a challenging problem to deal with and it wont magically go away overnight, it is by no means impossible to overcome. We asked veterinarians to weigh in on this issueand provide some possible solutions to save everyones sanity. When youre up to speed, find out what else your cat would love to tell you.
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Some Of The Ways To Minimize Separation Anxiety In Cats Are As Follows:
- Leave the radio or TV on a station that is often on when youre there
- Keep arrivals and departures low key
- Create a nook, safe haven, or refuge for your cat that is their safe space
- Provide plenty of toys and/or puzzles for playtime while you are gone
- Channel prey instincts by hiding food in toys that make them work for it
- Start with shorter absences first
- Provide a perch or catio so that your cat can see their favorite views
- Consider a room diffuser or pheromones to provide a calming scent for your cat
- Remove departure cues put your keys in your pocket a few minutes before leaving)
- Provide plenty of cuddles and playtime once home
- For more serious cases, consider having a sitter coming for 1-2 play sessions during absences
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of checking with your veterinarian when you see any change in your cats behavior before you chalk it up to separation anxiety, as early treatment of illnesses is crucial to cat wellness. For example, some cats go outside the litter box when they have urinary tract infections.
In extreme cases, medication may be an option, but your vet will usually leave that as a final alternative. As the ASPCA notes: “Sometimes for cats, veterinarians will advise using pheromones or calming treats before prescribing medication. Always consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist before giving your dog or cat any type of medication or supplement for a behavior problem.”
Surprisingly Stressful Things For Cats
Cats are creatures of habit and do not like change, says Dr. Karyn L. Collier, medical director of wellness medicine at Saint Francis Veterinary Center of South Jersey. As such, minor changes to your environment that might not bug you could send your cat into a stress spiral.
Here, a few surprising sources of cat stress and how to help your cat relax:
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Is It A Good Thing To Be Quiet And Walk Slowly When Im Around My Anxious Cat
Owners often behave in a certain way around nervous cats, presuming that hushed voices and movement from room to room on the tips of their toes is the right strategy to adapt to avoid scaring them. Unfortunately, the air of tension in the home that this creates, may fuel your cats anxiety.
Acting normally and feeling relaxed as a consequence would have a more positive impact. Constant attempts to communicate and demonstrate love, involving seeking a nervous cat out and extracting it from a hiding place or focusing on it as it enters a room is also undesirable for a timid cat, often making the owner look threatening and obtrusive.
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 shouldnât 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.”
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How To Calm An Anxious Cat
If youre worried about your anxious cat, you should first make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out possible illnesses and diseases that could be contributing to his symptoms. Following that, youll need to try to get to the bottom of what is causing your cats anxiety. From there, you can tailor your treatment plan to suit your cats specific needs.
How To Treat And Manage Anxiety In Cats
The best way to treat most cases of anxiety is a multi-modal approach that combines behavioral modification techniques, making changes to your cats environment, natural calming aids, and potentially anti-anxiety medication, depending on the severity of your cats anxiety. Any underlying or linked medical conditions will need to be treated as well.
Successful treatment plans require consistency and commitment, as it may take several months for your cat to overcome their anxiety, or to reduce it to a manageable level. Be patient and remember that even small changes in their behavior and symptoms will have a meaningful and cumulative impact on their wellbeing and quality of life.
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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.
How To Help A Cat With Separation Anxiety
Before you do anything, take your cat to the veterinarian to be thoroughly checked over for a medical problem. If she checks out okay, here are some things you can try that might help your kitty:
- Environmental enrichment: add scratching posts, cat walks, and hiding spots to the environment, which help your cat blow off steam and feel better by marking territory
- Increase interactive playtime with your kitty, using wand toys to allow your cat to exercise both physically and mentally, indulging her hunting instincts to feel better
- Use puzzle toys to give your cat something to think about and focus on while you’re away
- Rotate toys often, so your cat doesn’t get bored and start ignoring toys. Be sure not to leave wand toys out, however, because they can be strangulation hazards when your cat tries to play with them unsupervised.
- Try a cat perch near a window, so your cat can sit and watch the goings-on outside. Seeing birds, squirrels, and chipmunks moving around out there can help your cat feel better.
- Use Feliway to help calm your cat. It is a substance that mimics the calming pheromone cats emit from their cheek glands. Use diffusers to saturate the area with these scents, and it might help keep your cat calmer.
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