Some cats are easily stressed, which can lead to serious health complications and behavioral issues. Signs that may indicate your cat is stressed include urinating outside the litter box, hiding more than usual, excessive grooming, decreased appetite, digestive issues (i.e.,  diarrhea or constipation), destructive behavior, and aggression toward other pets or people. Our Kauai Veterinary Clinic team knows that dealing with a stressed cat can be extremely difficult, and we explain situations that may upset your cat and provide tips to help them remain stress-free.

Stressed cat case #1: The disappearing act

Crafty’s owner knew that something wasn’t right. He was usually an affectionate cat, looking for attention and pets, but lately he wanted only to stay under the bed and he came out briefly for meals and litter box breaks. When the behavior continued for several days, she sought veterinary care.

KVC: Anytime a cat exhibits stress signs, we must first rule out a medical condition. The first step in Crafty’s case was running blood work, which showed that his kidney levels were elevated. Kidney disease is common in cats, especially senior cats, but can be managed to help improve the cat’s quality and quantity of life if caught early. We developed an effective treatment plan, and Crafty is back to his playful, attention-seeking self. 

Stressed cat case #2: The pernicious pee pee wars

For about a month, Zelda refused to urinate in her litter box, and her owner was infuriatedobviously, this was all out of spite. She had always used her litter box before, and her owner couldn’t understand the sudden change. After weeks of cleaning her carpets, Zelda’s owner decided she needed help. 

KVC: Cats don’t exhibit inappropriate behavior out of spite, although sometimes owners like to think that. Zelda’s physical examination and blood work were completely normal, so we asked Zelda’s owner if anything had recently changed at home. She pondered, and then revealed that she had recently started a new job, and was spending less time with her cat. She also had started cleaning the litter box only once a day, because she was so tired when she got home in the evening. Zelda was obviously not happy with the new situation.

We recommended to the owner that she scoop Zelda’s box at least twice a day, refresh the litter once a week, and schedule 10 to 15 minutes of play with her cat once or twice a day. After these changes were made, Zelda happily returned to using her litter box.

Stressed cat case #3: Slicing and dicing

Geoffrey recently started shredding his owner’s microfiber couch and silk chaise and clawing the new living room linen curtains. Geoffrey’s owner loves him, but not his destructive behavior. The owner recently got a new kitten, which he knows triggered the issue, but he doesn’t know how to correct the problem. He decided to ask our veterinary team for help before he would consult a pet psychic.

KVC: Cats don’t deal well with change, and they don’t like sharing. We first ensured Geoffrey was in good health, and then asked about the resources the cats were provided. Geoffrey’s owner said that each cat had a litter box, water bowl and feeding dish, a scratching post, and numerous toys. We recommended that he add an extra litter box and several more scratching posts, and to ensure each cat had access to vertical space and hiding places away from the other cat. A week after making these changes, Geoffrey’s destructive behavior stopped. 

Stressed cat case #4: The zealous groomer

Spiffy’s owner had noticed recently that Spiffy had a bald, raw area on her right forearm that she licked excessively. Her owner can’t get her to stop and worries that the area will get infected.

KVC: Stressed cats commonly over-groom. Once we determined Spiffy was healthy, we asked about her home situation. We learned that the owners were renovating, and workers were creating a lot of loud noise and were in and out of the home all day. Fortunately, the work was finished shortly after Spiffy’s visit, and she stopped overgrooming her leg.

Tips to reduce your cat’s stress

Use these tips to help keep your cat stress-free:

  • Schedule regular wellness exams to catch medical conditions before they cause your cat stress.
  • Keep the litter box clean and in a quiet, traffic-free area.
  • Play with your cat at least 10 to 15 minutes twice a day.
  • Ensure you have at least one litter box for each cat in your home, plus one extra.
  • Provide plenty of vertical space and hiding spots for each cat.
  • Introduce new pets to your home properly.
  • Rotate your cat’s toys every few weeks to keep them entertained.
  • Feed your cat using a food puzzle toy to make meal times fun. 

If your cat seems stressed, or they are exhibiting inappropriate behavior, contact our Kauai Veterinary Clinic team. We will ensure that a medical condition isn’t contributing to the issue and determine the best way to address the problem.