Most of us know that cats are easily stressed. Even a minor variation in your cat’s daily routine can make him a nervous wreck! Major changes, like moving or the arrival of a new cat, dog or baby into the household can send even the most mellow kitty into crazy mode. In these circumstances, learning about cat stress relievers is a must.
One of the reasons cats get stressed might be because cats equate routine with control. Change the routine, they lose control. Or at least that’s the way they see it. If cats don’t feel like they’re in control of their environment, then tend to get anxious.
Many people don’t realize how we can create stress for our cat. Here’s a list of some triggers, as well as ways to relieve your cat’s stress.
10 Things That Stress Your Cat Out
1. Punishing Him for Acting Like a Cat.
Don’t ever hit your cat – even a slight swat will accomplish only one thing – and that’s teaching him to fear you. Yelling has the same effect – it will scare him off, but won’t teach the cat what behavior you don’t like. Instead of yelling at your cat or physically assaulting them (I mean it – knock it off!), distract him with a toy or activity to SHOW him what you want him to do instead of whatever behavior he’s doing that’s bugging you. Teach your cat what’s acceptable and what’s not by SHOWING him. And when he does right – reward him with affection and/or treats. And make sure your cat has things he can climb on and scratch. Get him a scratching post or kitty play condo. These things will keep him busy, active, and away from your stuff!
2. Assuming He Understands What You’re Saying.
Most animals, including cats, use body language to communicate. That’s why our talking to them and expecting them to understand just doesn’t make sense. Instead of talking to your cat then getting frustrated when he gives you a blank stare, try teaching your kitty instead. For example, show the cat what you’d like him to do (sit, for example) – by gently pushing him into a sitting position – then reward him with affection and treats. If you want him to pee in the litterbox, pick him up, place him in the litterbox – when he’s done, reward him with affection and/or treats. Whenever the cat is doing something you don’t want him to do, redirect him to what you do want him to do. Find much more information on how to train your cat in this article, How to Train Your Cat, or at this website.
3. Grasping His Head.
Dogs like it when people come up to them, cup their head in our hands, and ruffle their ears…know what I mean? But cats hate this. If you’ve approached a cat this way, I’m sure you’re noticed they throw it in reverse immediately and recoil. Cats are much more comfortable with gentle, long strokes from the head or neck area to the tail, or a gentle scratching around the ears or under the chin.
4. Holding Onto Him to Hug or Kiss Him.
When you try to hold your cat, he may perceive it as being restrained – which is what happens in the wild when a predator catches a cat. In order to be comfortable, your cat needs to maintain his ability to move freely and escape. Sometimes cats will get stressed out when people hold them, even when we’re being affectionate. Many a human chest (including my own!) has been torn to shreds by a cat launching off of us with claws out! The general rule is that cats like to have all of their interactions on their own terms…it’s how they control their environment like we talked about earlier. It’s just best to let the cat come to you instead of trying to catch or restrain it.
5. Not Taking Care of the Litterbox.
Most cats will happily use the litterbox and not the floor or carpet as long as you keep the litterbox clean. (If yours doesn’t, you can get help on this website). Cats are clean animals by nature. I had a female cat who refused to use the litterbox if it was the least bit dirty! The litterbox, ideally, should be scooped at least once daily (more often if you have more than one cat using it), and dumped with litter replaced at least every week. Every two weeks is acceptable, but….well…gross in my opinhion. Would you want to pee in a toilet that hadn’t been flushed in two weeks? Eeeww! There are self-cleaning litterboxes out there. If you really hate scooping cat litter, maybe you could give one of these a try.
6. Picking a Bad Location for the Litterbox.
How would you like it if your toilet was located in the middle of the living room? The same logic applies to cats. Don’t put the cat’s litterbox in an open, noisy, high-traffic area of your home. They want a private, safe spot to do their business just like us. Put the litterbox in a quiet area of your home where the cat isn’t likely to encounter people, other pets or loud appliances. If your cat is older, make sure the litterbox is in a location where it is easily accessible to your cat.
7. Getting Mad When He Attacks!
It’s tempting and fun to wiggle your toes or fingers under the blanket to watch your cat’s reaction. But it’s also really (really really) stupid of you to be surprised when he goes for it and sinks his claws and teeth into you! Don’t get mad at your cat for being a cat. If you mimick the behavior of prey, he’ll attack. Use toys instead of your fingers and toes!
8. Leaving Your Cat Alone For Days.
Some people think that because cats are independent and don’t have to be let outside to go to the bathroom, that it’s OK to leave them home alone for days on end. It’s not OK. Read that again. IT’S NOT OK.
Number one, cats really shouldn’t be eating a diet of dry food alone – they need a moist diet. So leaving a big bowl of dry food out for them to eat off of for days just isn’t a good thing. Also, many cats will gorge themselves in you leave out a large amount of food. They’ll eat the bulk it if within hours after you leave, then throw up and have nothing to eat until you return. This is stressful for your cat, not to mention downright dangerous for their health.
Another thing is the litterbox. How long do you think it will take your cat to look for someplace else to relieve himself once several days have gone by without the litterbox being scooped and it’s overflowing with poop and pee? And finally, your cat could injure himself or become ill during your absence and no one would know.
I recommend asking a neighbor, friend, relative, or professional pet sitter to stop by each day during your absence to feed and water your cat, scoop the litterbox, and spend a few minutes with him to make sure he’s OK, content and healthy. If you have even one fellow cat owner in your neighborhood, then you almost surely have an available cat-sitter. Most cat owners are happy to help take care of someone’s kitty while they’re away. And you can return the favor for them next time they go on vacation!
Cats are very sensitive to odors. They can easily become overwhelmed by smells in the air, on clothing or bedding, and even on you. Try to keep your use of chemicals of all kinds to a minimum, especially the ones that have a strong odor. Try using organic, non-toxic home cleaners instead of toxic pine-based floor cleansers, chemical wet mops, or ammonia/bleach-based cleaners. Remember your cat lives on the floor, sleeps in the bed with the blanket you used half a gallon of strong smelling fabric softener on, and they visit the litterbox often that might have a terribly strong bleach smell from cleaning. Keep in mind that everything you smell, they smell ten times stronger.
10. Bringing Home Other Cats.
Any new living thing you bring into into your home – a guest, a new pet, a new baby, will cause temporary stress for your cat. This is way worse when you bring a strange cat home, especially if they aren’t properly introduced. Introducing a new cat to the family should be done carefully. Set them up in a separate area first, letting them get used to each other gradually, at their own pace. This will help reduce the risk of their fighting and keep everyone’s stress levels down. Get more information about introducing a new cat into your home here. For more information on fighting, read this article, How To Stop Cats From Fighting, and How to Break Up a Cat Fight.
I hope this article has been helpful. Cats are such wonderful pets and the happier and more comfortable they are, the more affectionate and loving companions they will be for us!