5 Signs Your Cat is Stressed Out


Most cat owners would agree that cats are family. We'd do anything for them: anything. But sometimes, we can be blind to our own shortcomings as responsible pet parents. Even with the best of intentions, we can make seemingly small changes that might be catastrophic to our cats.

Okay, catastrophic might be a bit of an overstatement. Or not. You know how cats are: melodramatic

That's not to say cats are delicate, fragile flowers. But they do tend to be sensitive to certain environmental stressors their humans might not even realize exist.

Here are five ways to tell if your cat is stressed. 

1. Aggression.

If your cat begins acting more aggressive towards you other animals in the household by exhibiting uncharacteristic biting, scratching or hissing behaviors, there may be something in the house causing them distress. It's not that your cat suddenly hates you, but it's one of the few ways she has of telling you she's upset. If your cat is biting or clawing, here are some tips on how to safely and positively discourage your cat from biting. 

The key to easing your cat's anxiety and fear is pinpointing the cause of their stress, which can be obvious to the cats, but not us people. 

2. Hiding.

Most cats have an innate sense of "stranger danger" and dive under the bed for cover when friends come to visit. But if your cat begins hiding constantly, even during the times they would usually socialize with you (like during feeding time), there may be something in their environment that is causing them stress. 

3. Litter box changes. 

When a normally tidy cat begins eliminating outside of their litter box, it is usually a sign of stress. It could be something as simple as your cat hates the new litter you're trying, or you've placed the litter box in a spot they don't like. Or maybe you got a new cat or dog, which is an obvious stressor. Or maybe you're just not keeping the litter box as tidy as your cat would like. Take any changes you have made lately into consideration.  

Eliminating outside their litter box can also be a symptom of an underlying health issue and a checkup with the vet may be in order.

4. Excessive grooming.

Cats are fastidious groomers, spending hours grooming and tidying their fur. A stressed cat might start grooming more because it calms them down. Licking releases endorphins, which can help an anxious kitty self-soothe. But nervous or stressed cats can start to groom excessively, called feline psychogenic alopecia, to the point where they lick themselves bald, start pulling out patches of fur and scratch themselves raw. 

5. A decrease in appetite. 

As much as we joke about cats being always being hungry, many cat owners actually have to struggle with trying to feed a picky cat. There's an endless list of wet food my cat will stick his nose up at. The list of foods he will eat is incredibly short. So if he suddenly stopped eating the food he loves, I'd be on high alert. A decrease in appetite can be a sign that your cat is majorly stressed - or even depressed. Decreased appetite can also be a warning sign of illness, again, a checkup may be necessary. 

Causes of Stress in Cats:

  • Environmental changes, such as the introduction of a new household member or change in the physical environment (construction, etc)
  • A sudden change in daily routine
  • A "boring" household environment that doesn't allow for normal cat behaviors like hunting, scratching and territory "marking"
  • Conflicts between cats or other animals caused by the introduction of a new pet into the household
  • The loss of another companion pet or owner. 

 Cats are fairly skilled at keeping their discomfort hidden, so it can be difficult to tell if your cat is suffering from chronic stress. But your cat is a member of your household, and you probably know them better than you think. So if something seems out of the ordinary, don't be afraid to ask your vet.


  • H.C

    Sasha, just need to make a comment regarding two of your cats with kidney probs. I am NOT a vet but from experience from feeding RAW food since 03, I know the damage kibble does to our precious pets…..I absolutely love dogs, cats, etc and beleive all pets should be fed food that builds health , not destroy it. THEY are FORCED TO EAT the FOOD OF OUR CHOICE…AND..IT IS LIKE MCDONALD’S for them.. there’s is absolutely no hard, dried up, enzyme depleted food in Nature where our pets came from, the wild. Their bodies are designed for RAW, UNCOOKED food. While there are certain risks involved using raw, I beleive the risks from processed food are GREATER. Remember, animals have been eating raw for almost their entire existence . THEY HAVE DEFENSES AGAINST GERMS, PARASITES!!! They don’t against cooked food and unnatural ingredients. DRY cat food makes their kidneys work harder .AND, even if you provide water, it is not the same .My cats NEVER drink water.. CATS are sevannah animals and get their water intake from the prey they eat. .Lots of good info about RAW food on Internet. Your vet will boohoo raw. They don’t get it and don’t want to. They want to sell their dry food and RX canned crap….

  • Pamela Scott

    My daughter and two cats moved in with us before finally finding a new home. I had my own two elderly cats and the introduction was a disaster. We were only able to have peace be keeping them separated. She left her cats behind because her husband developed an allergy to them. It has been nearly 5 years. Multiple tries at reintroduction have not succeeded. One of my cats recently died and left his sister very much alone. I’m afraid to try to get the group together again as,my daughters neutered male is very aggressive and my girl is elderly. Any suggestions?

  • Cheri Alexander

    Our home burned down in 2015. We lost two furbabies to smoke inhalation despite my late husband’s attempt at artificial respiration. 2 months later, I was in a local pet store buying a new litterbox and toys for my sole survivor who was outside for 2 days after the fire. There was a tortie tabby from a local shelter in a crate who look absolutely adorable, She had been returned from her first home. I went over to stroke her. She had the softest fur, she licked my hand. I told the clerk that I’d be back tomorrow to adopt her. Tomorrow arrived, Cici (her new first name) is my love bug, always comes to me when I call her and jumps onto the bed to say good night and again to say good morning. Now the sole survivor is less anxious. It’s taken 2 yrs. but with lots of love and attention my sole survivor Cali is not back to her own sweet self.

    Your remaining cat may need a friend of the same gender, hopefully also spayedneutered

  • Sarah D.

    So sorry about your cats! That’s so heart breaking :(
    Vicki, I have an answer for you. Go on amazon and get feliway multicat diffuser, my boyfriends cat tried to kill mine when they first moved in. After getting that, they got along really well. Also try play therapy once the diffuser is going. Have a toy that interests both of them and get them playing side by side with supervision.

  • Holly

    Cat Tavani M.D., What are you doing for Coco? We lost one baby in April to cancer and since then our Misty has been very depressed. She walks around looking for her sister and meowing, so sadly. We spoke with our vet, but did not really get any useful advice. She is breaking our hearts. We spend much more time with her, but we can not be home all the time. It is so heart-wrenching.

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