Think food puzzles to engage minds and bodies, vertical space for climbing and surveying their domain, scratching posts, safe outdoor access (like a catio), window perches and interactive play. “Play is an important part of relieving stress,” Delgado says. “It helps cats release those feel-good hormones.”
Most cats respond to some degree to a combination of behavior modification and treatment with cat anxiety medicine or supplements. Medications like antidepressants take several weeks to work. They change your cat's brain chemistry to reduce their stress.
Cat anxiety may be caused by pain or illness, exposure to something toxic or infectious diseases that affect the nervous system. A psychological trigger may be to blame, like a traumatic experience, lack of proper socialization or a history of abuse or neglect.
Cat anxiety symptoms include:
Hiding, pacing, crouching defensively. New aggressive or overly clingy behavior. Meowing way more than usual. Coat changes from not grooming or bald patches from over-grooming.
Given that catnip can have a calming, soothing effect, it can be used to: help reduce a cat's stress and anxiety when going to the vet, help reduce stress when traveling, help with urinary issues (note that stress is a major contributing factor to urinary obstruction in cats!).
Lavender, which has natural sedative properties, may help soothe an anxious cat. Copaiba, helichrysum, and frankincense are also considered safe for cats. Before using essential oils, even in the form of diffused scents, around your cats, check with your holistic veterinarian for recommendations.
Fortunately, there are natural and holistic solutions for alleviating your cat's anxiety, such as calming herbs. Popular options for calming herbs for cats with cat anxiety are catnip, chamomile, hops, valerian root, lemon balm, skullcap, and California poppy (don't worry: it doesn't have any opiates).
Valerian. This herb is said to mimic catnip, with one significant difference. After her initial crazy-fest, not only will she be very calm, she is also likely to sleep. This herb is also used for humans as a remedy for insomnia and has the same effect on felines.
The best calming aids contain pheromones, rosemary, chamomile, and/or tryptophan, says Satchu. She's partial to Feliway products, but there are other options that cat parents have also used with some success.
Signs of Emotional Trauma in Cats and Dogs
Trauma can also manifest as “shaking, hiding, urination and/or defecation when the trigger attempts to interact, howling, pacing, excessive vocalization, and panting,” says Pia Silvani, director of behavioral rehabilitation at the ASPCA's Behavioral Rehabilitation Center.
Anxiety is relatively common in cats. Veterinarians estimate that they treat 20-25 percent of their feline patients for symptoms of anxiety (1). Those symptoms—like spraying outside the litter box, incessant meowing, aggression, or hiding—can be as distressing for humans as they are for the suffering cat.
Cat anxiety looks different for every feline, but is often exhibited by restlessness, aggression, social withdrawal, and behavioral changes. These symptoms may be triggered by medical issues, trauma, environmental changes, and more. With training, medication, and extra care, your cat's anxiety can be quelled over time.
Keeping your cat active through interaction with you using toys and games such as those that involve removing food from a puzzle can help to heal and divert the focus from a traumatic memory or experience—think of it as creating new memories to take the place of those that caused fear.
When you put your pet back on four legs, always lower her to the floor. A jump from your arms probably won't hurt her, but it won't make her feel supported, either. Unless you need to be holding her for safety reasons, never grip her too tightly or ignore her when she squirms to be let go.
Socializing Shy Cats
Each step will need at least 3-5 sessions before progressing to the next step, and make sure the cat is 100% comfortable before moving to the next level. The entire process can take anywhere from several weeks to more than a year…but it will all be worth it in the end!
Let your cat decide when they're ready to bond. Some cats are ready to get to know you immediately while other kitties may take several weeks to initiate any kind of interaction.
You can apologize to your cat by spending time with it. This could be as simple as reading a book or listening to music next to your cat, or giving him a nice, long petting session. It could also mean that you have to set aside some time to play with your cat.
If your cat sleeps on your bed, he may choose a position that lets him see out your bedroom door more easily. If he's curled up in a ball under your bed or in a quiet corner, then he may be hiding. Cats who sleep under the covers might love being close to you, or they might be hiding to feel safer.
Fearful kittens can make wonderful companions provided you can give them the time and energy needed to teach them to trust. The adopter of a fearful kitten, will need plenty of time early on to spend with your kitten, patience not to push him past his level of comfort and realistic expectations.