5 Strategies to Relieve Cat Anxiety & Aggression

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Just like humans, cats may experience anxiety for a number of reasons. Cat anxiety can pop up any time and cause some unpleasant behaviors. Let’s explore why this happens and what to do about it.

Causes of Cat Anxiety

Cats may have experienced trauma in their life. Big life changes such as a move, a new human baby, or another animal joining the household can upset their routine. The loss of a family member or any other major relationship change can affect your cat. Any time a kitty’s expectations don’t match up with real life, there is the potential for cat anxiety to arise. Once cats start seeing threats where there are none, anxiety can begin to impact quality of life for cat and owner.

In this article we cover:

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, environment, medication, or physical activity routines. The information in this post is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

A brown tabby with cat anxiety looks like he could use some mood support.
Cat anxiety can cause unpleasant behaviors, but there are solutions!

Cat Anxiety Signs & Symptoms

Before we review different remedies, how do you know if you cat is experiencing anxiety?

Signs of anxiety in cats can include:

  • Overgrooming
  • Peeing outside the litter box
  • Lethargy & reclusivity
  • Clinginess
  • Aggressive behabior
  • Pacing & trembling
  • Overeating & weight gain
  • Undereating & weight loss

Behavioral changes like these that come on suddenly after a big life change may be attributable to anxiety. Anxious behaviors can also start mildly and worsen slowly over time.

1. Strategies For The Home

Setting up a calm but engaging home environment can go a long way toward alleviating your cat’s anxiety and anxious behaviors.

Get Back to Normal

If you’ve moved recently, put all the furniture into place and unpack boxes. The sooner things stop moving around, the more secure your cat will feel.

Safe Spaces

If there are many new people in your cat’s space, be sure that there is a safe space for kitty to retreat to, such as a back bedroom or quiet office. Also consider if there have been any changes in the electromagnetic environment of the home recently, and mitigate that if necessary.

Exercise & Play

Some anxious cats will benefit from focused exercise and play. The endorphins will help calm them, and the activity will distract them from their worries and help to reset their on-edge nervous system.

Taking your cat outside safely might be a great way for her to get exercise and new sensory experiences.

Consider getting an exercise wheel to get those good vibes flowing. There are great toys that will help get your kitty moving during playtime. You can use healthy treats to motivate lazier cats to participate, and these might act as an additional mood boost (everybody loves snacks!). If all else fails, showering your sweet kitty with regular pets and affection can only help.

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A running wheel provides opportunity for you cat to exercise, which can improve physical and mental health.

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10/19/2021 09:58 pm GMT

Perches & Nooks

In addition to safe rooms to retreat to, incorporating safe spaces throughout your home can be of benefit. Adding perches and nooks where your cat feels safe in the active living areas of the home will help to bring her into day to day life without making her feel unsafe. These areas can make an anxious cat feel protected from dogs, children, visitors, and more. Try a high cat shelf like this hammock or this shelf with a heated option for added coziness. Or, give kitty a protective cat house like this one. Just make sure your cat always has an escape route from these areas for maximal anxiety relief.

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Wall Mounted Cat Hammock with Two Steps Wall Mounted Cat Hammock with Two Steps
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This wall-mounted cat hammock is the perfect escape where your cat can feel safe and snooze, but still be present during the daily activities of the home.

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09/21/2021 03:12 am GMT

Another tool to add to your cat’s anti-anxiety arsenal is a calming bed. This cozy relaxation location acts like a weighted blanket for your cat.

2. Nutritional Support for Anxious Cats

Be sure to consult your vet before giving any remedy to your cat or changing your cats diet for any reason.

Low Quality Cat Food Can Contribute to Anxiety

It’s well known that cats can have allergies to food – but this is usually expressed through digestive problem, itching, or red and inflamed skin. However, food allergies can also result in anxiety. Everyone is grumpy when they have a stomachache – and over the long term this can result in anxious behaviors.

In addition to allergens, many conventional cat foods contain additives, fillers, and byproduct ingredients. These low-quality ingredients can irritate a cat’s digestion, resulting in anxious behaviors.

It may be worthwhile to try a higher quality species-appropriate diet tailored to your cat’s needs.

Many cat owners love to make fresh homemade cat food tailored to their feline’s specific needs. That’s a lot of work! If that’s not your thing, we recommend a fresh cat food such as NomNomNow, Darwin’s or RawPaws. The quality of the nutrients will support your cat’s health through as he navigates stress, and he will love the vibrant taste.

If you prefer to stick with a more traditional option, grain-free choices such as Blue Buffalo, Crave, and Instinct Raw Boost are great choices. These brands use higher quality ingredients, have allergy-friendly options, and avoid gut-irritating fillers.

Nutritional Supplements for Feline Anxiety

If your cat has a nutritional gap, either due to her food or simply because she’s not absorbing enough of a nutrient, this can contribute to anxious behaviors. Consider asking your vet about these nutritional supports:

This liquid multivitamin from Vetflix is designed to fill in nutritional gaps in your kitty’s diet. It contains glucosamine, vitamins A, C, and D, biotin, and more. The better Felix feels overall, the more gracefully he will be able to handle stress.

This calming chew contains vitamins specifically associated with calming anxiety and is a great choice for those who prefer treat-style supplements vs liquid.

Pet Naturals of Vermont Calming Soft Chews Pet Naturals of Vermont Calming Soft Chews
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These calming treats contain nutritional support in the form of thiamine (vitamin B1), L-Theanine, and a Colostrum Calming Complex.

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09/21/2021 03:13 am GMT

Probiotics

The right balance of good bacteria that live in a cat’s intestines are crucial for their well-being. Certain probiotic supplements have been shown to support this careful balance. And think about it -anyone might be in a bad mood when they have a stomachache. Your cat is no exception. If her gut is feeling off, anxiety or aggressive behaviors could increase as a result. Feline probiotics are one way to help balance the gut. 

Fortiflora restores a cat’s intestinal balance, helps to mitigate diarrhea and other digestive complaints, and has antioxidants to support immune health.

Mary Ruth’s highly acclaimed line of supplements includes a liquid probiotic specifically formulated for cats. This four-strain probiotic is easily added to food or water, and can also be given directly. It is formulated with a complement of extract from organic grasses.

An orange tabby cat buries his head in his paws as if he is feeling anxious.
There are lots of options for helping your anxious cat relax and enjoy himself again.

3. Calming Herbs for Cats with Anxiety

Herbal remedies are one of the oldest forms of treatment for all kinds of ailments. Even though cats are carnivores, certain extracts from plants can be soothing to their nervous system.

Please note that some plants can be toxic to cats, and even safe plants can be harmful in large amounts. Consult with your cat’s vet before administering any herbal remedies for any reason.

Chamomile for Cat Anxiety

Chamomile is a flower whose extracts are known for being calming and soothing to the digestive tract. A half teaspoon of chamomile tea is an appropriate dose for the average sized cat. Chamomile hydrosol spritzed in the air can be an effective aromatherapy for your cat. Please note that while hydrosol are safe to use around cats, essential oils are not recommended.

This herb-infused treat contains chamomile as well as valerian root. skullcap and other calming herbs to help your kitty regulate himself during stressful situations.

CBD for Feline Anxiety

CBD, or cannabidiol, is an extract from the hemp family of plants. It is widely used in humans for anxiety and other ailments since a law changed in 2014. It typically comes in an oil format, although treats are available too. Simply put a few drops of oil on your cat’s food to try this remedy. For more information on CBD and cats, check out our in-depth article here.

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09/21/2021 03:13 am GMT

4. Homeopathic Remedies for Cats with Anxiety

Homeopathy is a centuries-old modality of medicine that originated in Germany in the 1700s. It is used in both humans and animals. Homeopathy is not well understood by the western scientific community, and many people prefer to stick to remedies that have more western research behind them. However, many people around the world rely on this form of medicine and report great success from using it.

Single homeopathic remedies that have been reported to help cats with anxiety include Ars. Album and Passiflora.

Rescue Remedy for Pets

Rescue remedy is a homeopathic preparation of flower essences that you can spray on your pet’s food or water. The reviews on this product reflect the incredible value it offers for alleviating anxiety.

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These sedative-free calming drops are remarkably effective at relieving symptoms of stress and anxiety in cats and dogs.

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09/21/2021 03:12 am GMT

5. Pheramones & Medication for Cat Anxiety

Pheromones

Cat pheromones are chemical signals that cats use to communicate. Humans can’t see, feel, or smell them, so they may seem mysterious. Pheromone products come in diffuser, spray, and collar formats.

Medication for Cat Anxiety

If your cat’s condition isn’t mild, your vet will provide options to support the anxiety with medication. Please note that it is not safe to administer human medications to your cat.

Short term feline anxiety medication

Some medications will last only a few hours. These may be useful for acutely stressful situations and don’t typically require your cat to be weaned off if used occasionally.

Long term feline anxiety medication

Certain cat anxiety medications take 4-6 weeks of daily use to take effect. Your cat will likely need to stay on the drug for at least 2-3 months, though 1 year or longer is more common. Side effects are more likely with long term feline anxiety medication due to the increased frequency of use and time on the drug. Cats on long term medications should be seen regularly by your vet to for bloodwork and a general health and behavior evaluation. When your cat is ready to come off a long-term anxiety medication, the process is usually a gradual weaning.

Side effects of common long-term anti-anxiety medications for your cat can include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite, and agitation.

Cat Anxiety has Many Possible Symptoms & Solutions

There can be unexpected causes of cat anxiety, but importantly there are many strategies to bring about relief from anxious behaviors. If your feline friend is experiencing symptoms of cat anxiety, you should now have many ideas to try with her to improve her quality of life.

Cat anxiety symptoms and solutions