Cat Anxiety is Real. Here’s What the Experts Say You Can Do to Help Your Kitty Cope

Scared tabby cat sitting next to its owner

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Some kittens are notoriously stoic when it comes to their physical well-being. So imagine how difficult it is to determine the state of your mental and emotional health. For example, is biting an indication of cat fear or just a request to refrain from doing anything that she does not like?

And if your cat is scared, is it because of a change in the environment, problems with being away from work all day (or not enough away in some cases), a trip to the v – e – t or what? ? We reached out to experts for help in understanding this complicated emotion.

What is fear

Haylee Bergeland, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, is the founder and CEO of Animal Assistant Professionals and a member of the Daily Paws Advisory Board. She says one factor that is often misunderstood in animals (including humans) is what it actually is. “Fear is the concern or anticipation of a perceived threat / associated with a perceived threat. It’s the worry, the concern – all the feelings about what might happen. “

For example, Bergeland says that kittens who are fearful of separation experience negative emotions when they perceive signals that suggest their human parents are leaving. (Some dogs have a similar fearful response). Or, your favorite cat might feel anxious to see its porter pull out of the closet: the porter is a perceived threat. “It could mean they get put there, or they go to the vet, the groomer, or whatever. But they don’t know what it is, when or how,” she says. So worry becomes fear. Poor kitten!

What Causes Fear in Cats?

Tarina L. Anthony, DVM, is a longtime practitioner of feline medicine and the owner and medical director of the Aurora Cat Hospital and Hotel in Aurora, Colorado. She says cats can develop anxiety anytime they change their routine. “Travel, new people around the house, new pets, and so on. Fireworks and other loud noises can also create fear and anxiety in cats.”

The story goes on

Other possible reasons for cat anxiety include:

“Most likely it’s a combination of things like genetics plus trauma and lack of socialization,” says Bergeland.

Some theories suggest that cats who become more attached to their humans may experience more severe cases of separation anxiety. While it’s difficult to determine this specifically by breed (due to the possible causes listed above), DVM 360 suggests the following cat breeds as really super cute to you: Burmese, House Shorthair and Longhair, Maine Coon, Ragdoll, and Siamese.

Additionally, VCA Hospitals notes that “The effects of aging can lead to an increase in anxiety or anxiety in situations where there has been little or no problem before. These changes can change the way a pet perceives a stimulus or reacts to it. ” Therefore, older cats may need extra love and attention to ease aspects of transition in their environment, along with a double dose of patience in dealing with advanced health conditions.

TIED TOGETHER: Is my dog ​​scared?

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in Cats

Symptoms of cat anxiety vary, but Anthony says these are some of the most common:

  • Hide more than usual

  • Trembling or crouching

  • Defensive hitting or biting

  • Elevated blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate

  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as decreased appetite and vomiting

“Also, cats, who are often anxious, can be predisposed to other conditions such as upper respiratory diseases or cystitis (cystitis),” says Anthony.

It is important to understand the range of your kitten’s emotions by learning to decipher their unique language and habits. “I find that a lot of people lump together fear, anxiety and nervousness about an animal – even though they are very different things,” adds Bergeland. “Yes, fear and anxiety are very similar in terms of an animal’s body language when they experience one or the other, but it becomes a problem when treated the same way.”

How to help a cat with fear

Anthony recommends speaking to your veterinarian first. “Be prepared for an extended visit and answer all questions thoroughly so that an accurate assessment can be made,” she says. “Treating cat anxiety is challenging because it can be very difficult to pinpoint the triggers.”

First treatment: behavior change

Depending on the diagnosis, initial treatment for cat anxiety may introduce better coping strategies. Bergeland recommends building a partnership between your veterinarian and a behavioral counselor or veterinary behavioral scientist. Together they develop a plan.

For example, Anthony says exposure therapy can help cats who are afraid to see the vet. This involves incremental, small steps to develop a positive reward reconditioning response.

“So get the cat used to its pet carrier by putting treats in it, then taking it to the car until it’s less scary, then short car trips, and so on,” says Anthony. “The goal of exposure therapy is to make the scary stimulus (in this case the vet) less scary. Exposure therapy can lead to a cure for this specific fear trigger. “

Second treatment: medication

In more severe cases of cat anxiety, the treatment plan can be extended to medication, especially if a kitten:

“In these cases, Prozac, Gabapentin, Xanax, Trazodone, and other drugs may be warranted,” says Anthony. In addition, it could include dietary supplements such as milk proteins and certain amino acids, as well as pheromone therapy to reduce anxiety in cats.

“We are only just beginning to fully understand the health effects of chronic anxiety in our pets. So there is no blanket treatment, ”says Anthony. “Helping your cat be less anxious takes trial and error and a lot of patience. Be consistent and follow the plan.”