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10 Signs Your Cat Might Be Stressed

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Is Your Cat Freaking Out?

Stress can make anyone a little crazy, even our cats. The tricky part is while the anxiety and fear associated with stress affects our cats in much the same way it does us, most cats tend to hide and mask their inner turmoil. Even worse, stress can be an indication that your cat has a health issue. According to Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist, chronic stress can even "suppress the immune response, causing a broad range of illnesses." Here are some signs of stress you'll want to watch out for in your cat, especially if they occur suddenly.

1. Urinating Outside Litter Box

It's annoying, smelly and a pain to clean up, but pay attention. Cats that urinate outside the litter box are trying to tell us something. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist to find out what it is.

2. Diarrhea, Constipation or other Digestive Issue

This is another rather stinky situation and one that could be indicative of several things. Best not let it go and speak with your vet.

3. Excessive Grooming

Cats are known for their fastidious grooming, but licking themselves raw or bald is a clear sign of distress. Skip the groomer and go straight for the vet's office.

4. Excessive Scratching

Like compulsive licking, excessive scratching can be indicative of several health and behavioral issues. Make an appointment with your veterinarian before the problem gets out of hand.

5. Isolation

Aloofness is second nature to cats. However, a cat should not be actively and constantly hiding from you and everyone else in the house. Once you've managed to wrangle him or her into a cat carrier, go to the vet.

6. Excessive Vocalization

Many find the tone of a cat "talking" quite soothing, but be wary of unusually long or recurring bouts of panicked meows — especially if your cat is not the typical "talker." If it does happen, take your cat to the veterinarian rather than try to crack the kitty language code.

7. Decrease in Appetite

Cats don't go on fasts or diets like we do so it's important to consult a veterinarian if your cat suddenly loses interest in food or stops eating altogether.

8. Increased Sleeping

Just because cats can sleep up to 20 hours a day doesn't necessarily mean your cat will. By now you will have become accustomed to his or her sleeping schedule. Speak with your veterinarian if you're cat is sleeping more than usual or seems overly lethargic.

9. Aggression Towards Other Animals

Fights or aggressive actions towards household pets or other animals can be a sign of a stressed or sick cat. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist before the problems gets worse.

10. Aggression Towards People

A stressed or sick cat may also display aggression towards people, even you. Again, it's best to consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist immediately.

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  • Indoor cats and stress
    09/10/2014 02:04am

    Our cat has always been rather stressed. We've found it helpful to keep him as an inside-only cat since he's gotten older, but we compromised and got him a cat window patio that seems to have helped calm him down considerably. He spends hours in it everyday, even in the winter months. It fits in the window like an air conditioner, has screened in sides, and lets him experience all the sights, smells, and breezes of the outdoors without having to let him outside. I thought I would share this idea with other cat owners who have cats with stress issues. You can find the folks that sell them online by searching for "kitty peeper." Hope this helps a few others!

  • 12/26/2014 06:52pm

    My windows open to the side so its not much i can do. I love having windows open in spring time and some in fall, but not now. One day i woke up and thought i was dreaming. I looked to see my cat in the window looking like he was sitting in between the glass and the screen. I yelled for him to move, but he would not. I jumped out of bed to find him sitting on the ledge outside the bedroom window. I panicked and softly said the only thing that gets him moving. 'Do you want some food?" Well, i noticed he had broke the screen away from its foundation and had walked right on outside. Now, no more soothing breezes or nice cool nights for me. Windows will never be open again now. I noticed that he had ruined the bedroom window screen and the kitchen screen. So, i am at a loss now. Glad you found the kitty peeper. Sounds nice.

  • 12/26/2014 08:44pm

    Hi Jaymetal:

    They have them for sliding windows as well! (I just checked their website. Look them up (google "Kitty Peeper" and on their website directiory, look for "information for sliding window model"

    Hope this helps!

  • 10 signs cat stressed
    12/24/2014 04:08am

    really was looking forward to learning from this article but could not get it to work

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    12/24/2014 05:28am

    I could not access this article :(

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    The article would not open for me... So, i am in the dark! Bad PETMD! BAD!

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    Article would not turn pages. Someone needs to actually read the comments there and get it fixed. Bad, PetMD, Very Bad!!!

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    To everyone who has been having problems with the pages opening, we have been looking into the issue, but we have had to look at it from a few different viewpoints. We have had it checked by our site management team as well as other teams and we have not yet been able to find a problem. On our own computers and browsers - in office and at home - everything is opening without trouble.

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  • Slideshow won't work
    03/30/2015 08:29pm

    It would be nice to see this but the slideshow won't work. I've tried reloading the page three times. Also had trouble signing in. And yes, I've cleared my cache. If you can't put up a working slideshow, why not just put up an article with good old-fashioned WRITTEN WORDS so we can read it?

  • 04/03/2015 06:34pm

    That is one of the proposed solutions we are considering, SL, but we are going to continue tackling the slideshow issue side-by-side with alternative viewing for community members.

    Thanks so much for stopping to comment on this, and thanks for staying!

  • Need Some Advice
    10/27/2015 04:48pm

    So about a 3 quarters of a year ago I brought 2 birds into my house. One of my cats became very obsessed with the birds and basically stalks the cage every day. We noticed a couple months back that he was losing some hair on his back so we took him to the vet. He's received strong antibiotic shots which grew the hair back but then a month or 2 after it happened again. this time the vet prescribed a topical gel which did basically nothing because the cat would lick it off and make the situation worse. So we took him back a third time and the vet thinks that the cat might stressed out like crazy from the birds and that's why he's losing hair on this one part of his body. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.