10 signs that your cat is stressed!

When asked to characterize a cat, people talk about its independence first. Yet another important characteristic of this fascinating animal is its routine.

Adept at the little rituals that punctuate his days, he sets up habits that reassure him and find it hard to have his environment turned upside down. So much so that when this happens and especially when it happens suddenly, the cat develops stress and anxiety.

While it is most often transient, stress should be taken seriously, because when it becomes chronic, your cat’s well-being and health can suffer. This is why it is important to know how to identify the main indicators in order to be able to remedy them.

Here are 10 signs your cat is stressed.

1 – The lack of cleanliness

Cleanliness is not an innate behavior in cats. He learns with his mother, during the first 3 weeks of his existence, to separate his place of life (the place where he sleeps, the one where he eats or hunts) from the place where he defecates.

He therefore integrates this behavior very early on and, barring a temporary incident, once he has gotten into the habit of going outside or adopted the litter box, provided that the latter is kept clean, he will not go elsewhere.

The fact that he starts to do your business next to your litter box, in the house, on a bed or on your clothes, is part of the list of indicative behaviors.

2 – excessive grooming

Your little companion spends an average of 2 hours a day grooming and it’s not just to clean himself. A scientific study, conducted in 2018 by researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, was interested in the structure and composition of the cat’s tongue and allows us to know a little more.

His tongue is rough because it is made up of small, hollow and rigid conical spines made up of keratin. They are curved towards the inside of his mouth and perform several functions.

First of all, they act as a brush and allow the cat to untangle its hair and eliminate impurities and parasites. Thanks to this particular structure, they also allow it to regulate its temperature. Indeed, the hollow thorns act like straws that suck up the saliva that will be released during licking to refresh the skin. They are also a great help when he eats and drinks.

The cat’s toilet is also a long repetitive ritual that soothes it, there is no need to worry about it.

But if you notice that he grooms a lot more than usual, paying particular attention to areas that end up being irritated, that he has scabs that he licks constantly, that he harms himself, it is that he is probably in a situation of significant stress.

3 – Change in appetite

The cat’s appetite is a mechanism that nothing is able to stop. Except in special cases (obesity, bulimia, illness, etc.), the cat regulates itself and feeds itself throughout the day, in very small intakes, up to 20 times a day. Its highly developed sense of smell plays an essential role when it is nourished, much more than the taste, which is at home, less developed.

Contrary to popular belief that a cat will never let itself die of hunger, food deprivation is very dangerous for him. If he stops eating for more than 24 hours, he may develop hepatic lipidosis – his liver becomes full of fat – which can be fatal.

Likewise, the sudden and lasting increase in appetite and the resulting weight gain can lead to serious pathologies.

Stress very often causes visible changes in your cat’s eating rhythm. Starting to devour your bowl, continually asking for food, showing less appetite over time or stopping eating are worrying signals that require a quick consultation with a veterinarian.

4 – Aggression

Like cleanliness, a cat’s socialization and ability to cope with stress is formed when it is very small, between the second and eighth week. Thus, a well socialized and serene cat, apart from particular situations (trauma, danger, defense of its territory, severe pain, etc.), does not naturally behave aggressively.

In a state of stress, your cat can become so. He starts biting you, spitting, scratching, his hair bristling and staring, he refuses all contact, he attacks other animals in his entourage, while nothing seems to justify this behavior.

5 – Urinary marking

Used to mark its territory, to indicate its gender and sexual availability, urine marking – with its tail erect, trembling, it sends a jet of urine, often horizontally, over an area it wishes to mark – disappears in the castrated cat or the operated cat.

The change of place of life (moving) or more modestly, the modifications of its territory (moved furniture, development work, arrival of other animals…), can bring back this behavior.

Repeated urine marking around the house is usually a sign of discomfort which indicates that your cat is stressed.

6 – Increased sound and frequency of meows

Your cat is a sociable animal that communicates with you through its meows. He modulates them according to the situation, to make you understand his different requests and his state of mind. The variety of meows he uses is highly developed and grows throughout the relationship.

However, with a few exceptions (mating, hunting, fighting, kitten / mother relationship…), cats hardly ever use meows to express themselves among themselves. It is a particular behavior that they adopted at our destination.

More frequent meows, with increased loudness, a dull and prolonged sound are also an indicator of stress.

7 – The withdrawal into itself

Although by nature relatively independent, the cat seeks contact with you at specific times. Games, relaxation, meals, sequences of purring, rubbing and cuddling, it is also in this way that he communicates and manages to express himself.

A prostrate cat, folded in on itself, which hides, no longer comes out as it used to, which sleeps a lot more, no longer interacts or outright refuses contact, is not in its normal state. One or more of these signs are often signs of stress.

8 – Hair loss

The cat’s coat is renewed twice a year during the moult. In the spring, the winter coat gradually falls off to be replaced by a less dense, lighter coat, and in the fall the reverse occurs to prepare for colder temperatures. And this is an excellent indicator of his state of health.

During an episode of stress which is prolonged, it is quite common for the cat to lose hair in patches, often on the stomach, at the base of the tail, because it licks itself repeatedly. We call this alopecia areata.

9 – Compulsive behaviors (OCD)

The cat is a customary animal, the actions or activities that he repeats day after day all have a precise meaning. He likes to take a nap on one armchair in particular, he grooms himself more particularly on another. He plays in a specific room, always goes out after his meal… The cat organizes his space and his time according to rules that are specific to him. These behaviors are little routines that are part of his lifestyle.

On the other hand, when he begins to repeat a behavior at an abnormal frequency, without being able to detach himself from it and for no apparent reason (licking, meowing, scratching, repetitive movements …), we speak of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

A cat stressed for a long time may develop one or more TOCs.

10 – excessive scratching

The cat is equipped with claws, real little precision tools that are essential to it. Its front legs each have 5 retractable claws and its rear legs each have 4. In its environment, it uses them to climb, hunt, defend itself and mark its territory, but also to stretch.

To maintain them and because they grow continuously, the cat “scratches its claws”, most often in a particular place that it marks in this way to indicate to others that it is its territory.

Repeated and more intense scratches in many unusual places (furniture, walls, sofa, etc.) are also an indicator of stress.

My cat is stressed, what should I do?

For the balance and well-being of your little companion, it is important not to let the stress last and never to yell, get angry or punish your cat. It would only make the situation worse.

Observing, understanding and eliminating the causes of stress allow, in the majority of cases, to solve the problem. But if this is not the case, a veterinary consultation can help you and homeopathy and herbal medicine are invaluable aids.