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Signs of a Stressed-Out Cat

2nd Mar 2022

On the surface, domestic cats can appear perfectly calm and as though they couldn’t care less about what’s happening around them, but this brilliant survival mechanism has a dark side. Being able to mask stress and pain so well can mean that a cat’s health suffers. Knowing the signs of cat anxiety and stress can help you keep them healthy.

Why Do Cats Feel Stressed?

Cats can exhibit signs of anxiety for many reasons. Your cat’s personality may differ from other cats. So, they may exhibit stressful behaviors when:

  • Their or your routine changes.
  • You move from one home to another.
  • Another cat or animal is introduced suddenly and improperly into the home.
  • They are handled in a way that is stressful to them.
  • There are other cats and dogs in the home competing for space and similar resources.
  • Unfamiliar people enter your home.
  • New food is introduced.
  • There is an underlying health problem.
  • Their eating and litter box spaces are not cleaned regularly or are located near loud noise.
  • There is a lack of cat-specific places in the home.

Stress can not only cause your cat to develop a health problem, but having health issues can also cause cats to experience chronic stress.

What Behaviors Can Stressed-Out Cats Exhibit?

The following behaviors are common in cats who are stressed or anxious. They may manifest suddenly or gradually and alone or in combination. If you notice any of the below behaviors in your cat, it’s important to investigate the root cause right away.

Not Using the Litter Box

Spraying and defecating in places other than their litter box are classic signs of stress. Cats living in multi-cat households may spray to mark their territory. The same is true if there are a lot of stray cats in your neighborhood. A cat who defecates anywhere but their litter box may do so out of fear.

However, a cat also urinates and defecates outside their litter box for other reasons. If they experience pain or discomfort when using their litter box, they will associate their pain with the litter box and attempt to do their business in places they don’t associate with pain.

If your cat is exhibiting this kind of behavior, it’s important to take them to the vet immediately, as these can be symptoms of a urinary or intestinal blockage, and both can be very serious and fatal if left untreated.


Aggressive cat behavior can be obvious, such as hissing and scratching in reaction to attack or improper handling. Aggressiveness can also manifest in scratching and damaging carpet or furniture. If a cat’s aggression seems to be intensifying, this can indicate a worsening health problem and warrants a trip to the vet ASAP.


Hiding can be normal if your cat prefers to be alone. However, if hiding occurs with a cat who’s typically affectionate, it is a sign of stress due to one of the above factors.

Not Eating

If your cat isn’t eating as much as usual or at all, it’s important to get to the bottom of this sign of stress as soon as you can. The right diet is absolutely crucial for cats' immune systems, and any dietary imbalance can quickly lead to bigger problems.

Skin Problems

Bald or red patches may mean that your cat is stressed or they have allergies or another problem. If you notice that your cat seems to engage in excessive grooming, this is a sign of stress that can lead to redness, irritation, and bald patches.

Treatment for Stressed Cats

Because so many signs of stress can be due to serious health issues, a vet visit can be the best way to relieve the stress a cat may be experiencing. Once any medical problems have either been ruled out or treatment plans developed, you can begin to concentrate on other cat calming strategies.

Observe and Address

Observation is your best tool. Watch how your cat reacts to various situations, such as a routine change, moving, or when in the presence of other cats, and do whatever you can to remove or at least minimize these stressors. A pheromone diffuser can help to diminish your feline friend’s anxious behaviors.

Understand Their Needs

There are certain resources that every cat must have in order to be physically and emotionally healthy, such as their litter box, food, fresh water, and human interaction. Having a variety of places and ways to sleep, play, and climb can also have a calming effect.

Multi-cat households should have more than one litter box and several food stations so that they don’t have to compete. Providing lots of toys and engaging in regular play with your cat will reinforce your bond, calm separation anxiety, and give them the exercise they need to stay healthy.

In order for a cat to feel confident and secure, they must be able to have their own spaces to do their thing. Feline habitats like window perches and cat trees put cats in the high spaces they love and provide multiple ways for them to scratch, stretch, play, and relax in places away from human traffic.

Top-quality Armarkat cat furniture provides the multiple textures, heights, surfaces, and toys that cats need to relieve their stress and stay healthy. With over 180 models, there’s an Armarkat product to suit every home. Look through our website to start shopping.