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Is My Cat Stressed?

Have you ever wondered why cats have earned a reputation for being enigmatic or even ‘stand-offish?

The reason for this is that they are solitary survivalists and as such showing emotion may make them vulnerable when it comes to encounters with other cats.  In fact as an essentially non-social species the cat is physically designed not to show emotion, with far fewer facial muscles than dogs, who as a social species wear their hearts on their paws.

Although this may be a good survival strategy it makes it harder for us owners to interpret our cats’ emotions, and importantly to understand when they are going through periods of stress.

So if their faces give nothing away, what do we look for? The answer lies in analysing their patterns of behaviour so that we can identify what’s normal for our cat and what’s not. Here are some signs to look out for which could indicate that your cat is stressed:

  • Spending significantly more time indoors, irrespective of normal seasonal changes

  • Inhibition of feeding, grooming, urination and defecation or over-eating (dependent on personality type)

  • Increased resting and feigned sleep

  • Hiding

  • Extreme vigilance and heightened startle response

  • Lack of play activity

  • Increased dependency or social withdrawal (dependent on personality type)

  • Defensive aggression towards people eg hissing

  • Defensive aggression towards other cats in the household

  • Inappropriate urination or defecation

  • Urine spraying

If you notice your cat suddenly displaying any of these behaviours you might want to take your cat to the vet to establish whether there is a physical cause for the change in behaviour and if not, seek advice from a cat behaviourist.