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Is Your Cat Stressed Out by the COVID-19 Virus?

Posted by Andrea on 29th Mar 2020

Just like us, cats experience stress when their routines and habits are disturbed. One effect of the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions is a sometimes-drastic change in lifestyle, which impacts all members of your family, including your feline companions. If you have asked yourself recently “Why is my cat so stressed out?” then it might be time to focus in on the causes and take some simple steps to help restore your cat’s sense of safety and normalcy.

The Telltale Signs of a Stressed-Out Cat

Viral videos abound showing the strange and varied reactions of the stressed-out cat. Some of these are funny and heartwarming, while also giving us a deeper understanding of how our companions react when they feel stress.

Is my cat feeling stressed? If you are seeing symptoms like these, the answer is probably yes:1

  • Excessive grooming. Cats find comfort in grooming and may become obsessive about it when feeling insecure.
  • Not using the litter box. Cats who are normally fastidious about their bathroom functions may suddenly stop using the litterbox. A new litterbox in a quieter location, possibly with a change in litter texture can sometimes help.
  • Unusual behavior. One of the most visible signs of a stressed-out cat is a sudden change in behavior. If your cat has become aggressive, withdrawn, or develops odd habits, their stress level may be high.
  • Changing eating patterns. Often, cats under stress will stop eating, although some cats will eat more often and loudly demand refills. While any cat might disdain food for a day or two, if your cat’s weight is changing, a trend is developing.

What Is Causing This Stress for Our Feline Companions?

In a nutshell, our own stress and disrupted daily life are stressful for the cats that live with us. Imagine your cat’s routine before the novel coronavirus, with family leaving the house at regular times, long stretches of relaxing on the back of the couch or your office chair, meals at regular times, and play time when you return.

Cats enjoy routine and personal space, and suddenly we are working and schooling at home, sitting in the very spot where, unknown to us, kitty takes an afternoon snooze or watches birds out the window. Even something as small as investigating backpacks and shoes that have been out in the world might be something your cat is missing.

How Can I Help My Cat Relax?

There are things you can do once you recognize that your cat is showing signs of stress. Firstly, you should talk to your veterinarian if any of the symptoms of stress appear.

Once kitty has the doctor’s all clear, you can make stress reduction a priority for you and your cat. Some ways to get started include:

  • Recognize what may have changed in your daily routine and restore what you can to the “normal” your cat is used to. Return mealtimes to their former cadence, for example, and greet your pet when you return home as you used to do.
  • Improve the environment with comfortable resting places, cubbies, new toys, and Armarkat cat trees to replace the furniture you are now using all day. Having their own places available to play or hide will make them feel safe and secure again.
  • Offer play and petting on a regular basis, but if your cat is not interested, let them take that catnap. Cats spend much of the day snoozing, and the level of activity at home may be much higher than they are used to.
  • Relieve your own stress—nothing is more relaxing than a friendly feline. Comforting each other is part of your relationship. However, if your own stress levels are too high, your empathetic feline companion feels this. When you ask yourself “Is my cat stressed out?” it might be wise to ask the same question of yourself. Take time for the activities that you know will relieve your own stress, and your cat may chill right out again.