my cat is anxious

The perception of a threat or danger causes anxiety. Your cat is therefore expecting danger, even though it is not present. Body reactions and behavioral changes in your cat are two effects of cat anxiety. Physical symptoms of anxiety in cats include panting, shaking, trembling, increased heart and respiratory rates, and salivation. The most noticeable alterations in behavior are an increase in movement, hiding, destruction, and vocalization.

A cat’s first year of life experiences play a large role in the development of many fears, phobias, and anxieties. Between the ages of five months and a year, cat owners frequently first notice symptoms of anxiety. When your cat is between the ages of one and three years old, these anxieties typically get worse, or new ones could emerge. It’s crucial to treat your cat’s anxiety as soon as you can because of this. This article will describe typical cat anxiety symptoms, potential causes, and available treatments.

Signs of Cat Anxiety

If your cat is anxious, you might notice excessive grooming, hiding, pacing or restlessness, vocalization, hypervigilance, trembling, and decreased appetite. From mild to severe, the following are additional indications of cat anxiety and fear:

Mild Signs of Cat Anxiety

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Shifting body or head away
  • Holding their tail close to their body
  • Slight tail flicking
  • Partially dilated pupils

Moderate Signs of Cat Anxiety

  • Ears partially to the side
  • Increased dilation of the pupils
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Looking at the stimulus
  • Holding their tail tight against their body
  • Crouching and leaning away

Severe Signs of Cat Anxiety

  • Trying to escape or completely freezing in place
  • Fully dilated pupils
  • Holding their ears back
  • Hair standing up
  • Staring
  • Aggression

What to Do When Your Cat Is Anxious or Scared

Follow these suggestions if you notice any signs of anxiety.

Try comforting your cat.

It is acceptable to make an effort to reassure or calm your cat when it is experiencing a moderate or severe fear response. Contrary to what is widely believed, this does not “reward” the fearful behavior.

Never punish your cat.

Avoid punishment at all costs for anxiety, phobia, or fear-related behavior, as this will only amplify the fear response. It may even cause hostility toward the person imposing the punishment. This includes methods like screaming at your cat and spritzing it with a water bottle.

Don’t try to confine them.

Avoid attempting to put your anxious cat into a carrier because not all cats relax when confined. In fact, some animals who are confined or caged in fear may hurt themselves by biting or scratching at the cage until their nails or teeth are torn or broken.

Causes of Cat Anxiety

Cat anxiety can result from a variety of factors, including:

Illness or Physical Pain

Any disease or excruciating physical condition can exacerbate preexisting anxieties in your cat or cause them to grow. Fears, phobias, and anxieties are behavioral issues that can be brought on by infectious diseases, toxic conditions (like lead poisoning), and changes in the nervous system brought on by aging.

Trauma

Traumatic events frequently produce fear. It’s important to keep in mind that an experience that didn’t seem traumatic to you may have seemed extremely traumatic to your cat; it doesn’t matter whether you think it was or not.

Improper Socialization

Cats may develop a habitual fear or anxiety if they are not exposed to positive social and environmental experiences during the socialization period (7 to 12 weeks of age). When your cat is unable to flee or avoid a stimulus, such as being confined during fireworks or sharing a home with a frightening pet, cat anxiety and phobias can develop.

Being Separated From You (Separation Anxiety)

Cats may develop a habitual fear or anxiety if they are not exposed to positive social and environmental experiences during the socialization period (7 to 12 weeks of age). When your cat is unable to flee or avoid a stimulus, such as being confined during fireworks or sharing a home with a frightening pet, cat anxiety and phobias can develop.

How Do Vets Determine the Cause of Cat Anxiety?

Prior to treating your cat, your veterinarian will want to rule out any other problems that might be causing discomfort or thyroid disease. A complete physical examination, blood testing, and urine tests make up this process. According to the outcomes of your cat’s tests, additional tests might be advised.

A thorough history and any videos you may have of the behavior are both necessary for making a diagnosis. If a medical reason cannot be found for your cat’s anxiety, these will offer hints as to the stimuli and circumstances that trigger it.

How Do You Treat Anxiety in Cats?

Management of your cat’s environment, administration of cat anxiety supplements or medications, and behavior modification techniques are frequently combined in the treatment of behavioral disorders like cat anxiety. Additionally, any underlying medical conditions must be treated.

These disorders are likely to worsen if untreated. Depending on the severity and number of symptoms as well as how long the condition has persisted, the majority of treatment options will be long-term, perhaps lasting years. The average length of treatment is four to six months.

Managing cat anxiety

Avoiding situations that make your cat anxious or fearful is part of management. Hospitalization may be the best option if your cat is severely afflicted and needs to be protected until medications start working, which can take several days to a few weeks. If not, you will need to take care of your cat at home and offer safety from self-inflicted physical harm while you wait for him to calm down.

Your cat might need to live in a safe place with the least amount of stress possible. For instance, a cat that is frightened of strangers shouldn’t be exposed to new house guests.

cat anxiety medicine

The majority of cats react favorably to a mix of behavior modification and vitamins or medications for cat anxiety. It takes many weeks for drugs like antidepressants to start working. To lessen stress, they alter the brain chemistry of your cat. Some cats use them for years, while others can wean themselves off of them within a few months. The main objective is to make your cat content and happy, not to make them into zombies or alter their personalities.

Additionally, there are cat anxiety medicines that have a one- to three-hour half-life. These work well for events that are predictable and short-lived. For instance, your veterinarian might prescribe medication for your cat to take only prior to Fourth of July fireworks or prior to visiting the vet. Your veterinarian will want to follow up with periodic blood tests while your cat is taking medication to make sure the balance of its blood chemicals is maintained.

Behavior Modification to Relieve Cat Anxiety

You will have to put in the time and effort if you try behavior change. As with any sickness, it is best to begin treatment as soon as possible. You’ll need to give your cat some adaptable coping mechanisms that she can use in a variety of situations. Behavior modification aims to alter your cat’s reaction to a frightening stimulus. Instead of permanently avoiding the stimulus, this modification improves a cat’s prognosis.

Desensitization and counterconditioning are two strategies of behavior change that your vet may suggest. Both of these techniques depend on being able to read your cat’s body language and decipher its tail motions in order to identify the earliest indications of anxiety and tension. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist for assistance. If long-term behavior modification is unsuccessful, your veterinarian may want to change the strategy.

Desensitization

The repeated, controlled exposure to the stimuli that typically elicits a scared or anxious reaction is known as desensitization. The important thing is to expose your cat to the stimuli at a low level so that they don’t exhibit any signs of tension or terror. One method is to play the sound your cat is scared of at a volume so low that there is no stress or dread. You can slightly raise the volume and repeat the process after playing the sound three or four times at a low volume without receiving a response.

Before you turn up the volume, it’s crucial to make sure your cat isn’t displaying any signs of stress or fear. Be aware that desensitization does not involve repeatedly exposing the cat to the frightful stimulus and hoping that their fear will vanish on its own. Your cat will only get worse using this method.

Counterconditioning

A negative emotional response to a stimuli is changed to a favorable one by counterconditioning. A cat that is scared of the family dog, for instance, could be given her favorite reward whenever she sees the dog. Over time, her initial reaction to seeing the dog may transition from fear to pleasure at the prospect of the special treat.

Is There a Way to Prevent Newly Adopted Cats From Becoming Anxious?

Look for a cat that is outgoing and self-assured when adopting one. While research has shown that proper socializing can benefit a cat up to 14 weeks old, the socialization phase for kittens ends at 7 weeks old. To lessen the possibility of scared behavior, expose your cat to a wide range of social interactions and places in an overwhelmingly positive way when they are still young. This does not entail subjecting your cat to unpleasant circumstances. Always keep in mind that bringing a cat into an environment where it is obviously moderately or severely fearful for them will only make things worse.

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