Just like humans, cats can suffer from anxiety, but the symptoms aren’t always easy to notice. Correctly interpreting your cat’s behaviour is the first step in learning how to calm an anxious cat.

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What causes stress and anxiety in cats?

Your cat may come across as independent and aloof, but this cool exterior often hides an inner scaredy cat.

Many cats feel stress due to reasons that often surprise their owners. As a creature of habit, situations that may cause anxiety in your cat include:

  • Moving house
  • Rearranging furniture
  • Visits to the vet
  • Noisy events like storms or fireworks
  • Separation from their pet parent
  • A change in daily routine
  • New additions to the home (both human and animal additions)
  • Visitors

Some other common, but less obvious, causes of stress and anxiety in cats include:

Lack of space, especially in multi-cat households

Cats aren’t made to live in confined spaces or share their territory with cats from other social groups. Multi-cat households can be a very common cause of feline stress.

No control over their environment

Cats have no control over their food, water, bed and litter tray placement and this is quite unnatural for them. They also prefer to have their own resources, rather than share.

Inability to escape a stressful situation

Cats cope with challenging situations by running away or escaping to a high point. They love vertical space where they can overlook their environment. If they don’t have access to spaces like this, it’s likely to cause them some stress.

Lack of privacy

Cats are solitary animals that prefer brief, but frequent, interactions with members of their social group. Eating, sleeping and toileting are private actions, and cats can easily become stressed when they have to complete these actions with others around.

Brown tabby kitten with white chin looking up. The kitten is laying on a white blanket.

How can you tell if your cat is stressed or anxious?

Stress isn’t always easy to notice in cats. When our cats display certain signs of anxiety, we often misinterpret these symptoms as naughty or spiteful instead of a cry for help.

If your cat is expressing the below behaviours, it’s important to know that your furry friend is simply trying to cope with a stressful situation:

  • Change in grooming habits, either becoming excessive or lacking
  • Ears flattening
  • Hair on their back and tail standing up
  • Arched back
  • Lowered, concave or tucked tail
  • Withdrawal (e.g. hiding, freezing and shutting down)
  • Urine spraying
  • Urinating outside the litter tray or changes in urination behaviour
  • Vocalising
  • Hissing
  • Trembling
  • Hiding
  • Biting and chasing people
  • Swatting
  • Excessive scratching
  • Fighting with other cats
  • Chewing

How you can help reduce your cat’s anxiety

There are a number of things you can try to help your cat feel more comfortable at home.

Use a synthetic calming pheromone

Have you ever noticed your cat happily rubbing their cheeks on objects around your home or maybe even on you?

This is both an affectionate behaviour and a way for your cat to mark their territory by releasing pheromones from the scent glands in their cheek. This scent creates a familiar environment for your cat where they feel safe and secure.

Feliway is a synthetic copy of this natural pheromone and is highly effective in calming anxious cats. Especially useful in households with multiple cats, it has been proven to reduce unwanted behaviours such as urine spraying and scratching.

Feliway is available as both a diffuser and spray. They even have a slightly different synthetic pheromone, Feliway Friends, which helps reduce conflict in multi-cat households.

Improve your cat’s home environment to better suit their needs

To help your cat stay calm, it’s also helpful to adjust your home environment to meet their needs.

Every cat needs:

In multi-cat households, make sure you have:

  • Separate eating and drinking stations for each cat
  • Enough litter trays (1 tray per cat plus 1 extra at a minimum), each in a different location
  • Multiple options for high spaces and hidey holes for each cat around the house
  • Separate beds for each cat in a variety of locations

In their natural environment, cats need to hunt and eat 10 times or more per day. Therefore, brief and frequent interactions where you play with them, followed by a small meal multiple times a day is ideal. This will help to reduce aggressive behaviour.

Two young brown and white tabby cats asleep next to each other on a red blanket.

Prepare them for upcoming changes in routine

If you know a stressful event or change is coming, take the time to mentally prepare your cat. You can socialise and desensitise your cat to these events and help them learn that they’re not a big deal.

Calming treats and supplements might also help your cat deal with these anxiety-inducing situations. In the days or hours leading up to a stressful event, give your cat calming treats or add a calming supplement like Zylkene to their food. Make sure to follow the instructions on the label as some of these treats and supplements need to be given for a few days to be effective.

Provide environmental enrichment opportunities

It’s important to keep your cat mentally and physically stimulated. Try filling up a toy with dry kibble or treats and letting your cat manipulate the toy to dispense food, or hiding small amounts of food around your house so your cat has to forage for it

Some ways you can enrich your cat’s life without using food include:

  • Cat trees and climbing opportunities
  • Access to a window so they can watch outside
  • Catnip and other cat-friendly plants with interesting smells
  • A range of toys that encourage natural hunting instincts
  • Training tricks and games
  • Walks on a harness in the backyard
  • Grooming and (brief but frequent) cuddle time

Ask your vet for help

Some cats may need medication to help their anxiety and stress. If you’re worried about your cat’s anxiety levels, book them in for a behavioural assessment with your veterinarian.


If you suspect your cat may be suffering from anxiety, always seek the advice of your local Greencross Vets. For stress and anxiety relieving aids, take a look at our range of cat stress and anxiety treatments online or instore for products that will have your cat back to their purr-fect, purring best in no time.