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Anxiety in cats

This month is Pet Anxiety Month. In this article we take a look at anxiety in pet cats.

Anxiety/stress in cats is common and can result in a number of possible behaviours including:

  • Urine spraying
  • Scratching furniture/carpets
  • Hiding
  • Fighting with other cats
  • Inappetence and over-grooming

Living with humans and/or with other animals can be stressful for cats, but there are a number of ways you can help reduce stress and anxiety for your feline friend:

Make sure each cat has access to essential resources:

  • Cats need safe access to their food. Make sure each cat can safely access their food without fear of another cat stealing it (this includes other cats from outside – make use of microchip sensing cat flaps and/or position food bowls away from the cat flap).
  • Cats need safe access to their water. They prefer for their water to be situated away from their food, and like the dish to be full so they can lap without putting their heads down.
  • Cats need places to hide and many prefer to hide in high up places. If your cat is older they may suffer with arthritis making jumping more difficult, so make sure they can still access their preferred hiding spots. Many cats like a warm spot for sleeping.
  • Litter trays are recommended even if your cat is free to roam outside. They need to be situated in a discrete area where the cat feels safe e.g. away from cat flaps and busy through-fares. Ideally you should have a litter tray for each cat and one extra – they won’t always use the same one, but it means they have plenty of choice and freedom. 
  • Cats need a scratching post/area.

You can read more about creating the ideal home for you cat(s) here.

Make sure you cat has access to enrichment, especially if they do not have free access outdoors

  • Cats in the wild hunt for several small meals a day. Puzzle feeders are a great way to make feeding more interesting for your cat!
  • Cats like to perform ‘predatory play’ if they are not able to actually hunt prey. Read more about playing with your cat here.

Consider use of pheromones

There are two pheromone products available for cats, and we stock them at both our Torquay and Paignton vets surgeries, as well as making use of the classic product ourselves in the clinic.

  • FELIWAY CLASSIC  helps support cats during stressful situations e.g. moving house and helps solve those unwanted behaviours like spraying or scratching.
  • FELIWAY FRIENDS  helps reduce the signs of tension and conflict between cats in multi-cat households.  Signs of conflict include fighting, chasing, blocking and staring.

If you are worried about your cat’s behaviour, a vet appointment is usually advised first to check for any underlying health problems. For example, a cat which is hiding a lot may be in pain rather than anxious. If no physical cause for the symptoms can be found we have an excellent resource in our Cat Advocate and Veterinary Nurse, Claire, who will be happy to advise you. We can also refer you to a behaviourist if required.

We are well aware that coming to the vets can be stressful for many cats, which is why we work hard to be an accredited Cat Friendly Clinic. We are happy to advise on the least stressful ways of bringing your cat into the vets.

For advice or to make an appointment give us a call on 01803 606059 (Torquay) or 843836 (Paignton).

There are also some excellent further resources on the International Cat Care website if you want to learn more:



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