We’ve all been there. The second something seems off with your cat, you imagine the worst. Your heart races, eyes swell with tears, and you ask the dreaded “what ifs,” wishing your cat could tell you what’s wrong so you can fix the problem quickly.
Sound familiar? Well, here’s the short answer to your question: cats can die from stress in serious situations. They can become gravely ill from stress-related medical issues if these problems aren’t handled quickly.
That’s why it’s essential to pay attention to common signs of stress in cats and figure out a solution as soon as possible. If you don’t, you could face a life-threatening health problem later.
Acute Stress vs. Chronic Stress
To better understand your cat, we must understand the difference between acute and chronic stress.
Acute stress is temporary, like a car ride or an unwanted visitor in the home. This type of stress comes and goes, so it’s unlikely your cat would experience serious health problems with acute stress.
Chronic stress is recurring, usually caused by something that can’t be easily removed, like a new baby or a recent surgery.
Both types of stress signal the fight or flight senses in the body. Although stress has a negative connotation, a little stress can be good for the body. Stress is an alarm in our heads that tells us we need to make adjustments. It helps humans and animals survive in the wild.
However, chronic stress can be harmful. Chronic stress elevates the fight or flight senses, which can sabotage the body over time.
We certainly don’t want anything bad to happen to our kitties, so here are the signs of stress and what you can do to keep your cat as cool as a cucumber.
The 6 Signs Your Cat is Stressed
1. Not eating or drinking
Refusing food or water is expected with sick or stressed cats. Sadly, it can become serious if your cat refuses food and water for more than 48 hours.
We all know what will happen if your cat refuses water. However, a cat can develop hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver without food. This is when the liver doesn’t process fats efficiently.
What to Do:
Your cat doesn’t need to eat a lot, but a few nibbles of food will go a long way. Try offering something enticing, like wet food or baby food. This can also keep your cat hydrated.
Water fountains are excellent for encouraging cats to drink more water. The trickling sound of water entices cats more than stagnant pools of water in standard water bowls.
Your veterinarian can try appetite stimulants, fluid therapy, and antibiotics in more severe situations.
2. Litter Box issues
It’s only a matter of time before a cat owner deals with a pesky litter box problem. When a cat refuses to use a litter box, clearly something is wrong. The problem is that finding the solution requires some investigating on your part.
What to Do:
The first signs of stress in cats usually involve a urinary tract infection (UTI). Typical signs of a UTI include:
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Red or orange tint in urine (usually a sign of blood)
- Howling when urinating
- Crystals in urine
A cat with a UTI should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Initially, a UTI isn’t life-threatening, but it can become a serious problem if left untreated. Male cats, especially, can become ill from ureter blockage.
If the problem is strictly behavioral, adding more litter boxes is a good place to start. Try a new cat litter, move the litter box to a different area, and remove anything your cat uses as a toilet.
Of course, ensure your cat’s litter box is clean and has fresh litter as well.
Cats hide in all kinds of nooks and crannies when they’re stressed. Some cats may even hide for days before showing their faces.
What to Do:
Let your cat hide as long as it has access to food, water, and a litter box. You also want to check that your cat is eating and drinking regularly.
You’ll find many cats like to hide in their litter boxes when they’re petrified. This is a red flag. It’s okay for a cat to feel uneasy, but we don’t want our cats hiding in their own stink. Try coaxing your cat out and redirecting it to a better hiding spot.
Have you ever heard your cat howl or meow as if it’s crying? Cats normally meow at humans as a way to get what they want. Other times, it’s a way to inform us of their dissatisfaction.
What to Do:
Try distracting your cat with some affection or an activity. Grab your cat’s favorite toy, open a window, or try snuggling.
Stress-related aggression is usually redirected aggression, meaning your cat has built up tension, and it’s releasing that power onto something or someone unrelated.
What to Do:
The first step would be to redirect the aggression toward something healthy. Try playing with your cat or taking it on a walk. Find ways for your cat to use the energy on something appropriate rather than on someone or another pet.
6. Excessive Grooming or Scratching
Grooming and scratching are stress-related quirks similar to biting nails. It’s something cats do to calm their nerves when the stress is too much. Cats are naturally hygienic, but too much grooming can cause skin irritation.
What to Do:
There are several ways to calm your cat at home and with the help of a veterinarian. The first step is to put a cone on your cat. Yes, your cat will hate it, but it’s better than watching it groom itself raw.
Once the cone is on, you can try at-home remedies like Feliway, CBD, and a few other tips mentioned earlier to distract your kitty.
If your cat is still scratching, it’s best to schedule an appointment with a veterinarian.
Wrapping It Up
Cats are hard to read, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t notice the signs of stress immediately. Every cat owner has experienced the frustrations of a stressed-out kitty.
Your cat may seem foolish for acting this way, but they have their reasons. Understanding cats takes time, and each cat is unique in expressing stress and frustration. As you get to know your cat, you’ll learn how to handle stress better.
Featured Image Credit: Mantikorra, Shutterstock