Mental problems

Anxiety in Cats

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: February 22, 2018
Anxiety in Cats

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Cats have unique and special temperaments. They are usually extremely territorial animals, but they also tend to socialize well with other members of its species. Apart from recognizing natural behavioral tendencies, to understand when a cat's behavior is being pathological we must first understand what is anxiety.

It is very easy to misidentify particular behaviors as anxiety when in fact they are symptoms of something else. Anxiety is a serious medical problem that can be worrying for owners and dangerous for the animals themselves, and it is not to be dismissed. In order to help you recognize it, in this AnimalWised article we will explain what are the symptoms of anxiety in cats and what you can do to help.

If you think your cat is experiencing the first symptoms of anxiety, do not hesitate to visit a vet who can guide you to discover its causes.

You may also be interested in: Separation Anxiety in Dogs
  1. What is anxiety?
  2. What are the symptoms of anxiety in cats?
  3. How to help a cat with anxiety

What is anxiety?

There are two very important concepts when defining what is anxiety:

  • Anxiety is related to adaptation: it is a pathological aggravation of alertness, necessary when adapting to a new environment.
  • Anxiety manages to disorganize and distort self-control.

That said, we can define anxiety as a state of distress without a precise cause, unlike fear or dread, which are directed towards a particular object or person. For instance, being afraid of thunder and lightning is not the same as suffering anxiety before a storm.

According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, the medical definition of anxiety is the following:

"An abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it."

Veterinary experts relate anxiety in animals to changes in the internal or external environment, which results in a lessened ability to adapt and disordered self-control. Therefore, cats can suffer anxiety because of circumstances of their habitat but also because of their relationships with other living beings, regardless of their species.

What are the symptoms of anxiety in cats?

To detect the symptoms of anxiety in cats, it's easier to divide them into two large groups:

  • Organic or physical symptoms
  • Mental symptoms

Among the physical symptoms of anxiety we can find tachycardia (increased heart rate) or tachypnea (increased breathing) with wheezing. This often occurs during veterinary practice, but is rare in cats and is seen more frequently in dogs. In addition, we can see loose stools or diarrhea, dilated pupils and sweat on the paw pads.

When we talk about mental symptoms of anxiety we may easily confuse them with behaviors that we think are normal in our cat. Low food intake is common in chronic anxiety, and it is common when there is an overpopulation of animals in confined spaces, as well as the lack of proper hygiene.

Some symptoms of anxiety are more common in dogs than in cats, but they can still happen. These include excessive licking of the paws when there isn't a parasite infestation or a skin problem, sleep disturbances or hyper vigilance, marking and aggressive behaviors becoming common.

Anxiety in Cats - What are the symptoms of anxiety in cats?

How to help a cat with anxiety

As always, here at AnimalWised we advise you to call the vet when you notice symptoms of anxiety in your cat. They will be able to make a differential diagnosis and confirm whether they are a manifestation of anxiety.

It is highly recommended to use intelligence toys, especially those that give out treats, so that your cat can channel its anxiety with activities that foster its intelligence and make it feel useful. Massages and caresses are also a great way to help relieve tension in its body.

Some people recommend natural therapies such as Bach flowers or homeopathy for anxious animals. Playing, physical contact and exercise are the most useful treatments for cats with anxiety, especially in homes or shelters where there are many animals.

Don't miss the following articles on cat health and behavior:

Anxiety in Cats - How to help a cat with anxiety

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Anxiety in Cats, we recommend you visit our Mental problems category.

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Anxiety in Cats