Stress in cats

Worried about your cat's unusual behaviour? Take a look at our guide on spotting signs of stress in your cat.

Stress in cats

It can often be difficult to tell if your cat is stressed. Their behaviour might change subtly, or they might begin to do things that you might perceive as 'being naughty.'

There are many reasons stress can occur - it is an immediate response to a threat that enables the cat's 'flight or fight' response. Moving house, changes in the environment, unfamiliar people visiting the house or the arrival of a new baby or pet can all trigger a response. However, ongoing stress can be harmful to your cat's health so it's important to keep an eye on their behaviour.

Spotting signs of stress

Many of the signs of stress are similar to those when your cat is in pain.

Cat stress infographicWith any unusual behaviour change, it is important to get your cat checked out by the vet. Signs of stress can include:

  • becoming more withdrawn or hiding more than usual
  • becoming less tolerant of people
  • hesitating or becoming reluctant of using the litter tray, going through the cat flap, sitting on your lap
  • eating or drinking less
  • overeating
  • increased anxiety or fear
  • sleep disturbance
  • pacing, circling or restlessness
  • a scruffy or matted coat
  • house soiling
  • over-grooming

Help is at hand

Each individual cat is different and what might cause one cat stress will be of no importance to another. The cause of your cat's behavioural problem can often be difficult to identify, particularly if there are a number of contributing factors.

If you're concerned about your cat's behaviour, you should always go and see your vet. They can refer you to a suitably qualified behaviourist, such as a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (, or a Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB).

Seek help sooner rather than later - it can be difficult to get to the bottom of long-standing issues.

Related topics

Managing cat behaviour - Topic

Recognising stress in your cat's face - Meow! Blog

Photo credit

Banner image - Sue Dobbs - Bridgend CP