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How Do I Calm a Cat Down? 8 Vet-Approved Steps

Vet approved

	Dr. Nia Perkins Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Nia Perkins

Vet, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats may not be as expressive about their emotions as dogs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel all their feelings. Your cat may become scared or agitated in a variety of situations. When this happens, it’s easy for them to become overwhelmed.

To ease your mind, it’s helpful to learn how to calm a cat down ahead of time, so you can help your feline friend relax. In this article, we’ll go over some steps you can take to soothe your cat in stressful situations, whether it’s a temporary concern like a trip to the vet or a more permanent source of anxiety, like a new baby.


Before You Begin

Cats are masters at hiding their true feelings, at least from humans. Before you try to calm your cat down, learn to recognize the signs of stress they’re displaying.

Common indicators that a cat is agitated include:
  • Tension in the body
  • Increased pupil size
  • Vocalizing and hissing
  • Puffed up tail
  • Flattened ears

Prioritize your own and your cat’s safety during times of heightened anxiety. Even a normally sweet cat might attempt to scratch or bite when they’re frightened. Keep doors and windows shut to prevent your cat from escaping the house.

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The 8 Steps To Calm a Cat Down

1. Stay Calm Yourself

An agitated cat can be a scary sight, especially when it’s your own fur baby in distress. However hard it may be, you need to remain calm as you attempt to soothe your cat. They will be able to sense your mood, which could increase their own anxiety.

Move slowly and talk quietly as you try to calm your cat.

frightened cat on window jam
Image Credit: Sami Aksu, Pexels
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2. Don’t Try To Touch Your Cat

While humans and even dogs are calmed by touch, cats are usually the exact opposite. A highly stressed cat is in a hypersensitive, hyper-aware state of mind that can take hours to go away. Petting or picking up a cat in this state can increase their tension rather than help it resolve.

Give your cat some space but remain nearby so they can take comfort from your presence.

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3. Use Pheromone Products

Pheromone products can help calm your cat for a short trip to the vet. They can also be used around the house to ease the tension of long-term stress, like a new human or animal family member.

Try spraying your cat’s carrier or blankets with pheromones for their vet visit. Use plug-ins placed strategically through your house to create a more soothing atmosphere as your cat adjusts to stressful situations.

blue eyed ragdoll cat
Image Credit: tativophotos, Shutterstock
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4. Provide a Safe Environment For Your Cat

Your cat will feel calmer if they know they have a place to hide or vertical space to escape.

For car rides or vet visits, try covering your cat’s carrier with a blanket or towel to limit stimuli that might make them more agitated. You can also provide them with something similar inside the carrier to hide underneath.

At home, give your cat both a safe space to hide away and cat trees or other locations they can get high. Some cats feel calmer if they disappear, while others just prefer to climb up and out of the way as they cope with their stress. Using a white noise machine or playing calming music can sometimes help as well.

Just make sure your cat never feels completely cornered no matter where they are, as lack of an escape route will be a sure source of stress.

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5. Take It Slow

No matter the reason your cat is agitated, pushing them too quickly to cope with their stress can make it harder for them to calm down. Allowing them to acclimate more slowly is a more effective way to relax your cat.

Obviously, this method won’t work to deal with short-term stressors like vet trips or a visiting friend. In those situations, you’re better off helping your cat feel as safe as possible and giving them their space as they calm down.

To help them adjust to a permanent change such as a new baby, take a more patient approach. Allow your cat to get used to the scent of a new person or pet first. This could mean bringing a baby blanket home for your cat to smell before the actual baby makes an appearance.

If your cat is stressed by a new pet, try letting the animals smell each other from either side of a closed door for some time. As your cat starts to feel calmer, you can proceed to further introductions.

black cat lying on bed
Image Credit: cottonbro, Pexels
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6. Keep The Essentials Handy

If your cat is stressed at home, it’s easier to calm them down if they don’t have to worry about where their food and litter box are. Keep your cat’s essentials in a location that makes sense to them, even if it’s not where you would have picked. If your cat feels safest in the basement, don’t insist on keeping their food bowl three floors up in your master bathroom.

Your cat will also be soothed by the presence of items they’ve previously scent marked, like scratching posts, beds, or toys.

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7. Build Confidence With Play

Interactive playtime can help manage chronic stress or give your cat something else to focus on during a stressful situation. Spending one-on-one time with your cat helps reassure them of their place in the family, even if there’s a shiny new family member present.

Daily playtime can boost your cat’s confidence and help them feel calmer and more in control.

One of our preferred scratchers, the Hepper Hi-Lo Modern Cat Scratcher, is a surefire way to keep your kitty out of trouble (or at least away from scratching the things they should not!). It's not only stylish, but it's functional as well. It's made of sturdy cardboard with a durable plywood and metal frame and can be set up in three different ways – high, low, or lower. The different positions encourage maximum engagement, exercise and stretching, and of course, intense scratching (they can throw their whole body into it). 

cat in living room playing with hepper hi-lo cat scratcher while in highest position

With the Hepper Hi-Lo, your cat gets to have a blast scratching like a maniac, and you don't have to worry about them causing so much chaos or scratching your stuff. There are even replacement cardboard pieces available, so you really can let your cat go to town on this, and know that it will be long lasting. Click here to learn more about this awesome scratcher.

At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest, so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

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8. Ask For Help

If your cat can’t seem to calm down in the face of a permanent household change, don’t be afraid to reach out to your veterinarian for help. They can prescribe anti-anxiety medications or refer you to a cat behavior expert for assistance. Cats who get overly stressed or even aggressive for car rides or vet visits can also benefit from medical intervention.

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Sometimes, the cause of your cat’s fear or stress will be obvious. In other cases, you may be at your wit’s end trying to determine why your cat is upset. No matter what, the most important thing is to do whatever you can to help your cat calm down. Whether this will be a relatively quick fix or an ongoing process depends on what’s causing the agitation. Luckily, these steps we’ve outlined should be effective no matter what the stressful situation is. If your cat’s agitation persists, we recommend a visit to the vet to make sure a deeper health concern isn’t behind it.

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Featured Image Credit: MULTI ILHAM ANUGRIYA, Shutterstock