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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What Are The Signs Of Stress In A Cat
There are numerous cat stress signs to spot although theyre not always obvious. Signs of stressed cats can include:
- becoming more withdrawn or hiding more than usual
- becoming less tolerant of people
- hesitating or becoming reluctant to use the litter tray, go through the cat flap or sit on your lap
- eating or drinking less
Those Anxious Felines: Reducing Stress In Your Cat
Cats can be anxious and nervous pets. Separation or changes to daily routines and family life can put a lot of stress on your cat, and this stress can manifest in some destructive, annoying behaviors. Eliminating the cause of the stress and helping your cat handle the situation are the keys to relieving their anxiety. Weve got some veterinarian approved tips for alleviating your cats anxiety .
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How Would I Know
Typical symptoms of anxiety or stress can include:
- Destructive behaviour like clawing at the curtains or scratching the furniture
- Overgrooming themselves, sometimes to the point of causing bald patches or sore skin
- Being easily startled or fleeing
- Medical Vocalising or miaowing more
- Problems such as cystitis
Its important to work out when your cat began to show symptoms of anxiety. This will help when identifying the best technique to help them.
Cat Anxiety Versus Fears & Phobias
According to petMD, cat anxiety is defined as the anticipation of future dangers from unknown or imagined origins that result in normal body reactionsassociated with fear. These anxieties are different than fear, which is an instinctual, normal behavior, and phobias, which are excessive fears of a specific situation.
For example, many cats are scared of loud noises, such as fireworks or the vacuum. They view this situation as a fight or flight scenario, which is their innate survival mechanism. They may hide under the bed if they feel like they are threatened, or hiss at an intruder if they think they need to fight.
In contrast, cat phobias are habitual fears of a specific situation or object. Some cat experts argue that once a phobia is realized, anything associated with that phobia will result in a similar response. An example of this would be an abused cat who fears loud voices. Every time they hear a loud voice, they remember their past phobia and automatically register the same behavior. These phobias are not always rational, but illicit a response in a fearful kitty.
Lastly, anxiety is often manifested in long-term behavior or behavior in advance of a situation. The most common form of anxiety that cats experience is separation anxiety, which is when cats become stressed and act up if their owners are gone for extended periods of time.
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Cat Anxiety Treatment Options
Once your kitty is diagnosed with separation anxiety, your veterinarian will recommend treatment. Cat anxiety treatment includes behavioral modification, and drugs may be necessary. If the symptoms arent too severe, most vets will start working with you on modifying behavior. Cat behavior modification techniques focus on reducing stress and increasing stimulation.
If you get stuck, you can always seek help from a pet behavior expert. If you’re a Petcube Care member, you can reach out to Vetted’s network of vet techs and specialists via live chat or phone.
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.
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Behavior Modification To Relieve Cat Anxiety
If you try behavior modification, it will be up to you to put in the time and effort. As with all illnesses, it is best to start treatment early.
You will need to teach your cat some coping skills that can be used in a variety of settings. The goal of behavior modification is to change how your cat feels about a frightening stimulus . This change improves a cats prognosis instead of indefinitely avoiding the stimulus.
Two methods of behavior modification that may be recommended by your vet are desensitization and counterconditioning. Both of these methods require specific timing and the ability to read your cats body language and to notice the earliest signs of fear and stress.
Ask for help from your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist. If behavior modification does not work over the long-term, your veterinarian may want to modify the approach.
Desensitization is the repeated, controlled exposure to the stimulus that usually causes a fearful or anxious response. The key is that you expose your cat to the stimulus at a low level so that your cat does not show any signs of fear or stress.
A popular version involves playing a sound that your cat is afraid of at such a low volume that there is no fear or stress. After playing the sound three or four times at a low volume without a reaction, then you can increase the volume very slightly and repeat the process.
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Cat snuggling whether its winter, spring, summer, or fall, having your cat next to you in bed can be like having a free electric blanket. However, when your precious furry bundle of joy begins to take over your pillow, or significant portions of your mattress, demoting you to the small corner where the coil spring pokes your back you have a clingy cat issue.
Meow Me a River
Clingy cat behavior involving meowing cats calling out to get their owners attention is quite common. It can be bothersome enough when you are at home, but the meowing can become constant throughout the owners absence. Again, separation anxiety usually fosters this behavior.
Physical Signs Of Cat Anxiety Include:
- Trembling or shaking
- Pacing around the house, often accompanied by meowing
- Easily spooked by noises or movement
If you are concerned about your cat, always check with your vet to rule out any illness that your feline friend may have contracted. Then, once you are sure that your pet has no physical condition, you can delve deeper into the cause of their anxiety.
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.”
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Your Cat Avoids Normal Activities
If your cat avoids doing activities that they may normally do, this could potentially be a sign of anxiety. âYou might find that your kitty avoids things they usually love to do â for example, they might play less often,â says Austin. Pay attention â 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.
Why Do Cats Get Anxiety
Cats experience anxiety because of psychological, physical and environmental stressors. Without your intervention, their stress can have detrimental affects on your home, your family, and your cats overall health.Determining the root cause of your cats anxiety can be challenging, so begin by evaluating their environment and daily life. Some things to consider:
- In your household has there been a loss or addition of family member or pet?
- Has there been recent separation from a family member?
- Recently, have they had minimal play or exercise? Is your cat experiencing boredom?
- Are there any new causes of fear that could have sparked their anxiety, such as loud noises, other pets or humans?
- How have they been eating? Might your cat be having less-than-adequate nutrition?
- Is your cat otherwise healthy or are they experiencing any pain or discomfort?
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Stick To A Routineand Clean The Litter Box More Often
An upheaval in your routine can result in separation anxiety in your cat. Give your cat food and water at the same time every day, and clean the litter box daily. Thats right, a common source of cat anxiety is a dirty litter box! Cats are such fastidious creatures that they dont want to step into a dirty litter box too oftenleading to urinating and defecating outside of the litter box, or potentially life-threatening lower urinary diseases. Make sure you scoop daily and follow the n+1 rule: If you have 1 cat, you need n+1 litter boxes . If you have 3 cats, you need 3+1 litter boxes . Or, skip the scooping altogether and get an automatic, self-cleaning Litter-Robot, which always provides a clean bed of littergreat for territorial cats!
Of course, we cant always avoid changes in schedule, so we recommend trying to ease your cat into a new routine whenever possible.
Do Cats Get Separation Anxiety
Yes, cats can get separation anxiety. Dog owners are making a big fuss out of it because canines make more noise and a bigger mess when theyre left alone. But dogs dont own the condition. Felines are very attached to their owners and family members. And they can become lonely and depressed, too.
The issue is, cats arent usually as destructive as dogs, so separation anxiety in cats often goes unnoticed until its severe. Some may think of cats as loners that dont need much interaction, but this is far from the truth. Your kitty needs enough playtime, attention, and a very stimulating environment to be happy and healthy.
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Problems And Proofing Behaviors
Cats may not immediately adjust to any changes you make, so be patient. If you have eliminated potential health concerns, do your best to make your cat’s environment as calm and inviting as possible. If one thing doesn’t seem to be working, add another one of the suggestions and see how the cat reacts to the combination.
At the same time, remember that change can stress a cat. Try not to make too many changes all at once. Likewise, if your household has experienced a change recentlymoving to a new home, a new or loss of a family member, or even rearranging the furnituredo your best to provide your cat with familiar things. A favorite toy or old scratching post can bring a good deal of comfort to your cat.
While waiting for your cat to come around, try to maintain a calm, stress-free home as much as possible. You don’t need to walk on eggshells for fear of disturbing the cat, however, and they should get used to your “normal” home. With time, many anxious cats settle in and find comfort.
Exposure To Other People
If your cat isnt used to being around anyone but you, they could become fearful of others. Have a few friends come over from time to time, and let them offer your cat a favorite treat or toy. It may take a few repeated attempts before your cat is brave enough to come near, so be patient. Getting them used to other people will make them a less anxious cat overall, and will help them to accept other caregivers when you go away on vacations.
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How To Deal With Cat Anxiety And Cat Separation Anxiety
The signs and symptoms of cat anxiety can often mask other illnesses, so always visit your vet to ensure that there are no underlying conditions. When these have been ruled out, your vet may diagnose your pet with anxiety, in which case they could prescribe medication, or advise certain cat calming techniques.
Signs Of Anxiety In Cats
While the symptoms of separation anxiety may differ from cat to cat, there are often some common symptoms that are displayed.
Cats suffering from separation anxiety might start around the house, which is a common sign of stress. However be aware, a cat could be displaying this behaviour for a different reason. For example, something in the environment might have startled the cat or upset her.
You might notice that your cat constantly wants attention and meows if youre not giving her enough. This may be a sign of over-dependence and may mean that your cat is distressed when you are not at home. Stressed cats can also sometimes over groom, or under groom.
With any concerns about anxiety in a cat, you should first seek veterinary advice to rule out any underlying health problems in your pet. For example, if your cat suddenly starts urinating in the home, it could be because of a urinary infection . If your vet cannot find anything physically wrong with your cat, then theyre likely to refer you to a qualified pet behaviourist.
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