How to Calm a Cat Down
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Cats often develop certain behaviors when they perceive situations that cause fear or stress. When they find themselves in such a situation, they tend to defend themselves and in some cases even become aggressive. It is important that you learn to recognize these signals so that you can properly address the situation before it gets out of hand.
The following AnimalWised article explains how to tell if your cat is stressed and how to relax your cat.
Why do cats become stressed?
Cats are creatures of habit, generally very sensitive to changes in their environment, even those that are imperceptible to us. If your cat's stress condition becomes chronic, it can have serious consequences for its health.
The reasons for this type of behavior are varied and are usually related to unforeseen changes in the cat's immediate environment. Here are the most common reasons why your cat may feel anxious or stressed:
- Changes in their home: have you recently moved into a new house? Do you frequently move furniture around your home? Is your home undergoing remodeling? Cats are very sensitive to everything that happens in their environment. Noise, movement, and constant changes in the home make them feel out of control and can trigger a stress response. Cats need a quiet place where they feel protected. That's why they often look for small, warm, solitary places to relax.
- Changes in their social environment: A new pet, the birth of a baby, guests in the house, the loss of a family member, and even a new partner can be stressful situations for your cat. Changing social environments and meeting new people, as well as being away from acquaintances with whom they have already established a relationship, can have a big impact on your cat. Cats do not like change and therefore find these situations extremely confusing and unsettling.
- Seasonal and temperature variations: Seasonal and temperature variations can greatly affect your cat's stress level. The change to daylight saving time, for example, can throw your cat's internal clock out of whack, causing them to become stressed.
We have mentioned some of the most common reasons why cats might become stressed. However, every cat is different and does not react in the same way or with the same intensity to certain situations. Read on in this other article if you want to know more about the most common reasons for stress in cats.
Symptoms of stress in cats
It is important that you try to treat the symptoms of stress as soon as possible to avoid complications. Therefore, watch for changes in your cat's behavior or physical appearance. If stress in cats continues for a long period of time, it can lead to physical consequences or changes such as respiratory disease.
Although the symptoms of stress in cats can vary depending on the animal, the most common signs are:
- Aggression toward people or other animals
- Not relieving themselves in the sandbox
- Not eating
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive grooming
- Marking with urine or fingernails
As mentioned earlier, each cat has its own personality and therefore may react differently to stress. Continue reading this other article if you want to know more about the most common signs of stress in cats.
How to give a cat a relaxing massage?
Giving your cat a massage can help your cat relax, calm down after a stressful event, and simply feel loved and cared for. In fact, a massage can strengthen the bond between the two of you. Of course, we should do this if the cat is receptive to it. Forcing it would be completely counterproductive. If your cat is in a bad mood, anxious or jumpy, they may not be in the mood to be touched.
Wait until your cat approaches you by gently poking their head a few times to signal that she wants to be petted, and then proceed with the massage.
Relaxing massages for cats must involve the areas where the cat itself seeks our contact. You can tell where your cat likes to be touched by paying attention to when they start purring. Normally, cats enjoy being touched in the following areas:
- The head
- The cheeks
- The neck
- The loin
- The tail
For the massage, we can use the outstretched fingers and apply a gentle pressure with the fingertips, always with delicate movements that can be circular. It is very important that you start slowly, because if you start too quickly, it can overwhelm your cat and make them anxious.
We should know that cats release soothing pheromones from the cheek area, which stimulate the sense of smell in addition to the sense of touch. Besides the cheeks, there are two other sensitive points on the head, behind the ears and on the chin.
We can run an outstretched hand over the neck, back and tail in several passes. With both hands, the same movement can be repeated on the sides without going down to the belly, as this is an area where many cats do not allow contact. The duration of the massage should not exceed 5-10 minutes, although the cat can interrupt it if it wishes.
If you want to know more about how to properly massage a cat, do not miss the following article, where we explain in more detail how to give your cat a relaxing massage and strengthen your bond.
Pheromones for cats
As mentioned earlier, your cat's face is a pheromone messenger center. Rubbing the face is a common behavior in cats because they have glands on the forehead, chin, cheeks, around the mouth and at the base of the ears.
If you live with a cat, you have probably seen them rub their face on household objects, doors, and even people to mark them as "safe". This is a positive sign that your cat is happy, relaxed and content in her environment and territory. Over time, this security will increase. Your cat will continue to mark her favorite and important places with updated pheromones. If an environment does not contain these "safe" or "happy" messages, your cat may feel uncomfortable or anxious.
These pheromones are also used in various products designed to calm cats. They are marketed as both sprays and plug-ins and have become a common option when we think about how to calm our cat, although they are not equally effective for all cats.
A particularly pleasant smell for cats is that of catnip, which you can buy at a specialized pet store or even grow at home. Catnip is also included in various types of toys or prizes to which it is added.
What scent NOT to use with cats?
Bleach smells very similar to chlorine. Its characteristic odor is like that of animal piss. When the cat perceives this smell, it feels threatened and feels the need to mark its territory. This is the case with all substances that contain sodium hypochlorite.
Continue reading this other article if you want to learn more about pheromones for cats, their effectiveness and their various uses.
Relaxing music for cats
Cats can easily become fearful of loud noises and even develop a negative association. In addition to fireworks, cats may also be afraid of loud bangs, thunder, and household noises such as lawn mowers. If cats are not exposed to the everyday sounds of people and other animals at an early age, they are much more likely to become fearful of noise. A kitten raised in a relatively noisy, busy home will be less stressed when it hears loud noises. Cats can also become sensitive to noise later in life, especially if they lose their sight or develop dementia.
If we notice that our cat is stressed by noise, we must provide it with the most soundproof shelter possible. For example, a cat carrier covered with blankets in an interior room with the blinds down and the windows closed.
However, we can also resort to relaxing music for cats. Classical music is usually a hit, as long as it does not contain too many scratchy or loud sounds that can be annoying to cats' ears. In fact, researchers have found that cats stay calmer when listening to classical music, as opposed to pop and heavy metal.
There is also special relaxation music for cats based on the purring and sucking sounds that are common during a cat's developmental stage. These sounds are combined with tempos and frequencies used in vocalizing cats to create music suitable for cats. We leave you with a video below where we share 2 hours of cat-friendly music.
Environmental enrichment for cats
Cats kept indoors tend to live longer and have a lower risk of contracting infectious diseases or suffering injuries. However, they are at higher risk for a number of behavioral problems, such as chronic stress.
The right environment can increase activity, reduce mental stagnation and prevent many of these behavioral issues. An enriched environment gives cats the opportunity to have their own positive experiences in an enclosed space. To create the perfect, enriched environment for your indoor cat, provide them with some of the following:
- Scratching posts: scratching comes naturally to your cat. Make sure you provide your cat with acceptable scratching materials, such as a carpeted scratching post or a board made of cardboard.
- Vertical space: cats love to explore, preferably from above. Therefore, it is a good idea to offer them a high place from which they can observe both the street and the interior of the home. Provide your cat with a carpeted tree or apartment, preferably with hiding places, perches, and shelves.
- Toys: Mental stimulation is crucial when it comes to relaxing a cat. Use food puzzles, interactive toys or food balls. You can buy these items at any pet store or make them yourself.
If you want to learn more about how to stimulate your cat, do not miss the following article, where we will present you some inexpensive, simple and fun games to stimulate your cat mentally.
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- Fatjo, Garcia, Darder, and Bowen. (2020). Dogs and cats in confinement. Behavior problems and how to get back on track . Vets and Clinics.