things that stress out cats

There are a lot of things that stress out cats. These include new people, other pets and changes to their routine or environment. Being outdoors or even just looking outdoors can cause a cat stress. Feeling trapped or having their owner be away for extended periods of time can be stressful.

Understanding all the possible stressors for your cat will help you know when to curb them. Learning ways to de-stress your cat is also essential.

1. New People Can Stress Out Cats

New and unexpected visitors mean new behaviors, body language, sounds and smells to cats. All this can be overwhelming. Let your cat hide for a while if they need to. And let them come out and greet the new person on their own terms.

2. Being Handled When They Don’t Want to Be Can Stress Out Cats

Cats are independent creatures; being picked up, pet or held when they want to be left alone is a stressor. You can usually tell when your cat is getting angry or annoyed by their body language. Flat ears, squinted eyes and thrashing tail are all signs you need to back off.

If your cat starts to run away, hide, struggle when you hold them, or make annoyed noises, leave them alone for a while.

3. Owners Being Away Can Stress Out Cats

One of the great things about cats is that you can leave them alone for a few days at a time. But some cats are really social and attached. And leaving them home alone for a few days or even a few hours can be stressful.

Be sure to give your cat plenty of attention when you finally return home. They might even be mad at you for a while because they’re still getting over feelings of abandonment.

4. Being Trapped Can Stress Out Cats

Just putting your cat in the bathroom or bedroom with the door closed can make them feel trapped. Sometimes you have to put the cat in a room while a plumber or mechanic is over so the cat doesn’t try to escape out the front door. A worthy distraction like a new can of cat food can be avert their attention for a while. Try not to leave your cat in rooms for a long time without access to food, water and the litter box.

5. Other Animals Can Stress Out Cats

Cats are territorial animals. In their mind they’ve staked out the whole home or part of the home as being “theirs”. New pets introduced into the home can make a cat feel like their land is being invaded.

In fact, new pet introductions can take months to settle in. Usually it’s the resident cat that doesn’t like the invader and needs time to warm up.

Existing pets in the home might be antagonizing your cat. Playful dogs mean well but don’t understand that’s not how cats interact. Puppies can sometimes have far too much energy for a cat and make them feel overwhelmed.

Other cats in the home might be hostile and create stress for the cats around them. Take note of how your cat interacts with other pets. And make sure your cat has their own space they can retreat to and call their own.

6. Changes to Their Environment Can Stress Out Cats

Adjusting to new sights, sounds and smells can be stressful to cats. Rearranging furniture, moving homes, or otherwise modifying their environment is a lot for a cat to take in.

Sometimes even a small adjustment can me stressful. Some examples can be:

  • Buying new/different groceries
  • Changing brand of kitty litter
  • Changing the temperature of the home
  • Replacing a couch
  • Moving their cat tree

Try to introduce changes slowly if possible. If you have to make big changes all at once, like moving homes, set up a kitty area with familiar items for your cat while they adjust.

7. Basic Needs Not Being Met Can Stress Out Cats

Not having food, water, a litter box and shelter is definitely going to be stressful to cats. Make sure your cat always has access to food and water. If your cat is overweight and can’t have dry food available all the time, make sure you feed them at consistent, predictable times.

Clean your cat’s litter box at least every couple of days. Simply scooping out pieces into a trash bag goes a long way in keeping your cat’s litter box clean.

Having a warm, safe place for your cat to go is important. Even designating a place where you don’t pick up your cat (like the top platform of their cat tree, for example) makes them feel safer.

8. Boredom Can Stress Out Cats

Believe it or not, boredom can cause a cat stress. Cats need stimulation like people do. Lack of interesting things to do actually increases cortisol, the stress hormone, in cats.

Find ways to banish boredom in our article here.

9. Mirrors Can Stress Out Cats

Some cats actually think their reflection in the mirror is another cat. And as we mentioned earlier, seeing other creatures is stressful for a territorial cat.

Not only that, but just suddenly seeing their own reflection when they walk by a mirror can be surprising and jarring. Even if they don’t think it’s another cat, just suddenly glimpsing themselves can send a jolt of stress through your cat.

10. Looking Outdoors Can Stress Out Cats

Seeing the chaotic outside world can be stressful to cats. Looking at birds and squirrels, but not being able to chase them, is tough for cats.

Also, crowds of people, random vehicles or pets is similar to cats experiencing changes to their environment. Too much stimulation from the outside world can be hard for a cat to deal with.

11. Being Outdoors Can Stress Out Cats

Studies show that indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats, sometimes up to a decade longer. This is because the outdoors is filled with all sorts of dangers. Predators, traffic and poisons are all reasons cats don’t live as long outside.

Similarly, the outdoors can be really stressful to a cat. We don’t recommend letting your cat go outside, but if you feel like you must, try to keep it to only the daytime.

12. Changes in Routines Can Stress Out Cats

Just a change in routine like your work schedule or feeding times can disrupt a cat’s sense of tranquility. Cats can’t tell why changes in routine happened, so they perceive it as a threat to their safety even if it’s just a simple change.

Leaving for work at a different time, staying away from home longer, or going to bed at a different time can be stressful to a cat.

How To De-Stress My Cat

So we’ve mentioned a lot of reasons your cat can feel stressed out. But how can you help de-stress them? Here are a few ways:

  • Make changes to environment or routine slowly. Establish routines and if you have to change something give your cat time to adjust.
  • Make sure your cat always has a “safe spot” where they can get away from people or other pets. Don’t pick them up from this spot. Make sure your cat has plenty of toys and play with them at least once per day.
  • Interact with your cat at least once per day. The amount of interaction will really depend on the cat. Some really needy cats might need more cuddle time than others.
  • If your cats seems scared or angry, leave them alone.
  • Learn your cat’s body language so you know when they’re stressed.