Stress in Cats: How to tell if your Cat is Lonely, Stressed, Bored or Unhappy

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Do cats get lonely, or are they naturally loners? The truth is that cats, like all animals, thrive on love and company (albeit when they need it), and a lonely, bored, unhappy cat may start exhibiting signs to vent his frustrations.

Are all cats prone to stress? Stress in cats may originate from its time in the womb, especially if the kitten’s mother had a stressful pregnancy, and even post-partum if a kitten is undernourished. Sadly many rescue cats who have spent time in shelters will exhibit more stress than a cat who was raised in a safe, loving environment as a kitten.

Lonely catA stressed cat will either withdraw and become quiet, whereas others will act out their anxieties.

Stress can either be acute (such as when a cat gets a fright or feels threatened during which time it will lower its body, sometimes hiss and spit, flatten its ears, meow in a strange way, and generally remain immobile), or it will be chronic in which case your cat will start to act out its stress.

If your cat decides to “act out”, you may notice some of the following signs:

• defensive aggression towards people or other animals in the household (unless your cat is naturally aggressive)

• urinating or defecating inappropriately – including spraying (males and females)

• scratching excessively to attract attention

• grooming or licking itself excessively or not at all

• being highly strung

• displaying destructive behaviour

• excessive meowing

• a lack of play activity

• excessive sleeping, or even feigning sleep

• a loss of interest in his food, or a significant increase in appetite (demanding food all the time)Sad cat

All of these signs will seem to come on suddenly, so whatever you do, do not ignore them. Cats cannot communicate to us verbally, so they rely on their behaviour to get the message across.

Leaving your cat alone all day, especially locked in a room or a house, and even with limited access to litter trays or places to hide, is definitely going to lead to a cat that is not having his social and psychological needs met, and this could lead to your cat displaying these signs of being stressed. If your cat is kept exclusively indoors, it is important that your home is made entertaining and cat friendly, with ample toys and places on which to perch and climb.

The most important thing you can do is to identify the possible cause of your cat’s stress. Have you moved recently (among other things, your cat may be struggling to find his place amongst the resident cat population), have you had a new family member human or pet that it doesn’t get on with, or has a family pet or family member left or even died? Have you perhaps had some unfamiliar visitors spending time in your home?

Once you have identified the possible cause, you can start correcting the behaviour. As soon as your cat feels safe again, the signs will abate.





by Phillipa Mitchell

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