Cats are generally gentle, docile creatures. They are not known for raising a ruckus even when they are not exactly happy, so it may be difficult to tell when your cat has anxiety.
But cats, like humans, do get worked up sometimes. And many factors can make your cat anxious.
But most importantly, do you know what to do if your mouser gets stressed out? Because while cats are generally happy-go-lucky pets, they can become moody and unpredictable when stressed.
So, we guess you love your cat enough to want to know how to drive away the angst, don’t you? Read on.
What gives cats anxiety?
There’s probably no better way of helping a cat with anxiety than knowing why it would get anxious in the first place. Cats are just as driven by their personalities as humans, which means some cats are more predisposed to experiencing stress, fear, and anxiety than others.
By and large, the likelihood of a cat getting stressed depends on individual circumstances and breed. For example, Tonkinese and Burmese breeds are more susceptible to stress.
Though the circumstances that cause cat anxiety may differ, they are essentially similar to the causes of anxiety in people.
For instance, relocating, getting married, starting a family, divorce or death, etc., are usually high-pressure situations that require immense coping skills.
In cats, more or less similar circumstances can cause stress. Nonetheless, the leading causes of cat anxiety can be summed under the following:
Changes in the environment
Changing environments have been known to stress cats. If you change homes and notice a sudden change in your cat’s persona, it may be the result of stress.
This is also the case with the addition of a new family member, bringing another pet, or minor changes like a new litter box.
Traumatic incidences can seriously affect your cat’s mental state and cause anxiety. These furry creatures have excellent long-term memory. So, they are quite capable of remembering incidences that happened up to 10 years back!
An incident may trigger childhood traumatic memories, so it is important to know about your cat’s history during adoption.
For example, if a cat was abandoned when young, you may need to be extra careful handling it. Remember that some life events might not seem like a big deal to you but may affect your furry friend considerably.
So keep an eye out for your cat when you’re going through potentially life-changing experiences.
Separation anxiety affects humans and animals alike. However, it is most common in cats who have changed families several times. Abused cats are also prone to having separation anxiety.
Moreover, like dogs, cats can also grow overly fond of certain family members and can feel anxious when these persons are not around.
Cats may not be as social as dogs, but this does not imply they should live in solitude. Cats are very playful and often need objects and people to play with.
When improperly socialized at a young age, cats can easily get worked up over seemingly small things. When it comes to playing, there’s nothing like a cat – show love by engaging them in games.
The key to treating cat anxiety is knowing the symptoms to watch out for. So, should you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a stressed-out cat.
- Avoiding the litter box
- Mood changes
- Change in levels of activity
- Refusing to eat
- Excessive vocalization
- Compulsive behavior
While these are possible signs of cat anxiety, they could also be markers for some underlying medical problem. It’s best to visit a veterinarian when these behaviors are exhibited excessively.
Don’t ignore these signs; they are your cat’s way of communicating that there’s a problem and need help.
What to give a cat with anxiety
Fortunately, there are many ways to handle a cat with anxiety. It may take a little trial-and-error to find a method that works because cats are different, and what works for one cat might not for another.
Cat calming collars
These are pretty popular products for dealing with cat anxiety. They are even more effective if infused with pheromones.
Animals produce pheromones to communicate with others within the same species. Mother cats often produce pheromones to soothe and calm their kittens.
However, cat behavior expert Mikel Delgado of Feline Minds cautions that cat calming collars may not work with all cats. If the cat is not introduced well to the collar, it may actually stress the cat.
A good introduction entails putting the collar where the cat can sniff and get accustomed to it. You can accompany this process with treats and your cat’s favorite toys. The cat must associate the collar with positive experiences to accept the collar.
Cat calming pheromone diffusers
If your cat doesn’t take well to having a collar, you could consider cat calming pheromone diffusers. These work pretty much the same way as fragrance diffusers used in homes.
But instead of emitting fragrance, they emit synthetic pheromones that help calm the cat.
One advantage of pheromone diffusers is that cats can get away from them if they don’t like the scent. They can walk into another room or leave the house altogether.
Calming cat food and cat treats
Another option for managing cat anxiety is anti-anxiety diets and/or cat-calming treats. Anti-anxiety diets contain sleep-inducing compounds such as tryptophan —found in turkey meat—and compounds that help reduce stomach upsets in cats.
Treats are equally effective but work slightly differently from calming diets. These contain anxiety-reducing components like alpha-casozepine, which helps minimize stress and anxiety in pets like dogs and cats.
The good thing about these treats is that they’ve been tested in veterinary settings and have been found to have a calming effect.
CBD for cats
For the more adventurous spirit, CBD is another option worth considering to manage cat anxiety.
Our new Premium CBD Pet Drops, for instance, is designed to provide relief to your furry friend so it can live its best life.
CBD—short for cannabidiol—is one of the many cannabinoid compounds in cannabis plants. It’s associated with a plethora of health benefits, notably pain relief, stress and anxiety reduction, better sleep quality, and even anti-seizure properties.
In fact, there is an FDA-approved CBD-based medication for treating a rare type of epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
CBD’s anti-stress and anti-anxiety properties are the subject of ongoing research. A growing body of research-based and anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD may help treat symptoms associated with anxiety and stress in humans and animals.
In any case, most CBD experiments are conducted on animals and have shown remarkable success in many instances.
The only worry regarding using CBD to treat pets like dogs and cats is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This psychoactive cannabis compound is toxic to cats and dogs because animals process it differently from humans.
As a result, when cats and dogs consume THC, their body temperature and heart rate can be affected. In extreme cases, exposure to THC can cause seizures, tremors, and coma.
The severity of symptoms depends on the quantity of THC consumed and other factors such as the pet’s size and the presence of sweeteners like xylitol.
But over and above these, pure CBD is well tolerated by humans and animals. If you get your hands on high-quality CBD for pets (broad spectrum or CBD isolate), you shouldn’t have any problems giving it to your cat.
Be advised, however, that CBD treatment for various health conditions is still not sanctioned by regulatory agencies like the FDA and MHRA.
Many veterinarians prescribe CBD off-label, given its excellent safety profile and wide-ranging health benefits. As a result, CBD is increasingly used to manage various ailments in pets, including anxiety, pain, and inflammation.
What natural remedy can I give my cat for anxiety?
Managing anxiety in cats usually calls for a multi-modal approach to address different aspects causing the stress. So, don’t bank on a single remedy to help quiet your cat.
Other than anxiolytic medications like benzodiazepines and anti-depressants, you can opt for more natural solutions like counter conditioning and desensitization. These may require working with an animal behavior expert.
Counterconditioning means teaching your cat to alter its response to an anxiety stimulus. This is often done using positive behavior reinforcement, where anxious behaviors are replaced by desirable ones.
For example, if the cat is scared of other pets, you can readjust its response by feeding it its favorite treat when the other pet is around. Over time, it will start associating the presence of that pet with food and happiness.
Desensitization is attained by repeated but controlled exposure to the anxiety stimulus. If the anxiety trigger is created in low intensities, the cat will eventually stop responding fearfully.
Alternatively, rewarding the cat for good behavior when exposed to the anxiety stimulus is also an excellent way of managing anxiety long-term.
For example, if your cat gets alarmed by dog barks, you can record dogs barking and replay the sound at low volume when the cat is calm. Gradually increasing the volume can help the cat become accustomed to the sound. This way, it doesn’t get anxious when it hears dogs barking in real life.
The key to achieving successful desensitization is working at lower-threshold levels. This means trying not to cause undue stress or fear since this would defeat the whole point. Always watch your cat’s body language throughout the process. Ensure it remains calm as you found it.
Flowers and herbs are also excellent remedies for calming your cat’s nerves. These have the advantage of being healthy and relatively easy to obtain.
Some anti-anxiety herbs you can consider are:
This herb induces a euphoric feeling and can help calm your cat. For optimal results, administer it 15-20 minutes before the anxiety-causing event.
For example, if your cat is frightened by thunderstorms, you can issue valerian soon after it starts raining.
This is a favorite among people seeking calmer nerves, usually before bed. Chamomile has compounds that act on the nervous system and brain to reduce stress and induce relaxation.
It’s been observed that chamomile has the same calming effect on humans as on dogs.
Just like valerian, give your cat catnip a little earlier before the anxiety-inducing event. It will be much more relaxed when the event happens and will calm down faster after the event.
Most people are familiar with Bach’s stress and anxiety-relieving properties. The good news is that it’s just as effective in pets as in humans. This makes it an excellent natural remedy for anyone wanting to calm their pets fast.
One reason hops are used in making beer is their calming effect. While giving your cat some beer may not be a great idea, dried hops will make it relaxed. These flowers are also great for the liver.
Herbs are most beneficial to cats in dried form. Essential oils and tinctures are not precisely suitable for cats because they can affect liver functioning.
However, while herbs are generally effective, some cats don’t respond positively. If this happens, consult a veterinarian.
What can I give my cat for travel anxiety?
Cat sedatives can help you control your cat’s anxiety during travel. Medications like buprenorphine, gabapentin, and alprazolam are often prescribed to reduce travel anxiety in pets.
You can also make the travel experience better for your cat by doing a few things like:
- Playing relaxing cat music or sounds in the car
- Spraying pheromone in the car 10-15 minutes before departure
- Creating a comfortable environment inside the car
- Using the correct cat carrier
- Practicing proper carrier etiquette
Why is CBD good for cats?
The truth is that CBD has not been officially approved to be used in pets. In fact, some veterinary organizations like Small Door strongly caution against using CBD for cats.
They argue that cats are generally more sensitive than dogs and humans and often have difficulties processing substances that are safe for dogs and people.
Be that as it may, anecdotal reports indicate that CBD is generally safe for cats. But some pet owners have reported side effects like sleepiness of stomach upsets, particularly at high doses. However, these typically resolve when use is discontinued.
CBD may be suitable for cats due to its multiple properties. Its interaction with the endocannabinoid system has been shown to activate wide-ranging beneficial physiological processes. These include pain perception, immune response, gut activity, etcetera.
For this reason, CBD is widely gaining recognition as a viable treatment option for arthritis, epilepsy, and anxiety in cats.
How much CBD to give a cat
This is usually the elephant in the room as far as CBD use is concerned. There are no clear guidelines regarding the “correct” dosage for CBD. Most pet owners rely on the manufacturer’s dosing guidelines.
These are usually different because CBD products come in different strengths and quality.
Moreover, different conditions may require different CBD doses. For instance, in people, CBD dosage for better sleep quality is often higher than for improved focus.
Nonetheless, there are universal guidelines you can use to calculate the appropriate CBD dosage for your cat.
Veterinarians recommend 0.5mg per kilogram twice a day or 1-2mg per 10 pounds. You can up the dosage gradually until you see the desired effects.