Vet Patrick von Heimendahl shares advice on dealing with an anxious cat

May 7, 2023

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Pet Anxiety Week is held each year in May, so we thought it would be a good time to highlight this issue and offer some advice to cat owners.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a sense of unease because of worry or fear – a feeling we have all felt throughout our lives. Anxiety can be mild or severe and can manifest in most animals too, including our feline friends. In our article, Vet Patrick von Heimendahl shares their advice on dealing with an anxious cat and understanding what might be causing it.

If, after reading our article you would like some further advice for your cat, please do contact our 28 Clarendon Street team.

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What causes anxiety in cats?

While some cats are pretty bombproof, others are more sensitive, and many different factors including pain, illness, neglect, lack of socialisation, contact with new people, animals or situations, and trauma may cause anxiety in these cats. The behaviour may have a sudden onset or may build up over time, and while short term anxiety may help an animal cope in stressful circumstances, ongoing anxiety can be detrimental to both physical and mental health.

Anxiety can manifest in a variety of symptoms which Patrick advises you can look out for at home. It is important to be able to spot signs of anxiety in your cat so you can protect them from any circumstances that cause ongoing, high-level stress.

What are the signs of cat anxiety?

Any threats cats encounter can cause anxiety. These threats may not be apparent to us, but if the cat feels as if they are in danger they may use certain strategies to protect themselves. These strategies may include:

  1. Hiding
  2. Aggression
  3. Restlessness
  4. An increase in displacement activities such as grooming
  5. Decreased appetite, affection and willingness to socialise
  6. Salivation, dilated pupils and flat ears
  7. Increased respiratory rate
  8. Holding their tail against their body

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How can cat anxiety be treated?

If you see signs of anxiety, try Patrick’s tips below to help your cat:

  1. Try comforting them but remember not to reward fearful behaviour.
  2. Never punish your cat as this will only increase the anxiety and potentially cause aggressive behaviour.
  3. Do not cage or confine them.
  4. Provide a safe, protective environment for them i.e., less stresses, limit to familiar people.
  5. A vet may prescribe medication or treatment if there are underlying causes of pain.
  6. You may need professional advice on behaviour modification – including desensitisation and counterconditioning – talk to our team about this.

The best course of action is to try to prevent the anxiety to begin with. If you are adopting a kitten, allow them to be social and experience different environments so their confidence grows, and they can better deal with overwhelming situations. Any anxiety that is ongoing merits a trip to the vet, to try and find and resolve the underlying causes and help your cat feel more comfortable.

If you require any advice regarding your cat’s anxiety and behaviour, do contact our team and we will do our very best to help.

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