Cats are intelligent animals who are perceptive and sensitive. They can sense when there is stress in their environment and in addition to this, they are easily stressed themselves. Being the high strung pets that they are, it’s important to keep their stress levels under control. It’s not uncommon for a cat to go through periods of anxiety and high stress, particularly if there is unrest in the home or if they are undergoing some type of training. While some are great at adapting to new circumstances, others become anxious when there are changes. It’s not healthy for your cat to walk around upset all the time, so here are the top 20 ways to calm your cat.
1. Provide support but balance it with distance
This may sound like a contradiction of terms, but what we’re talking about is providing your cat with love and emotional support, but giving him the space that he needs, when he needs it. There are times when your cat needs to have you near, to hear your voice and to be soothed by you. He needs to be cuddled, but he will also let you know when he wants to be left alone. You will be able to tell when he’s had enough attention because he will want to get off your lap and walk away. Let him go and avoid smothering him with too much attention. If he is frightened, he will need comfort, but if he’s really riled up and hisses at you or pulls back, this may be an indication that now is not the time to pick him up. In most cases, your cat will come to you when he wants to be soothed. Sometimes just knowing that you’re there and that you care is enough.
2. Make time for play
When your kitty has a case of bad nerves, you can help him to feel more relaxed by playing fun games with him on a regular basis. This is a strategy that is commonly used to relieve chronic stress in cats. Don’t start while he’s in a heightened state of arousal because he’s not likely to feel playful at that time and he may scratch or bite you out of frustration. Wait until he’s more relaxed and he will respond to the play time much better. If you do this on a regular basis, he’ll look forward to these times and is likely to at some point, begin to initiate play with you on his own. Some simple, yet fun and effective games include pull toys and things that he can chase. Of course you need to let him win so he feels victorious. Cats love to chase things and the play time will give him a distraction from his fears and worries. Coax him when he’s the most relaxed and when he’s no longer having fun, then it’s time to stop the play and let him go do his own thing.
3. Pay attention to his litter box
Believe it or not, your cat pays attention to the condition of his litter box. It is an important facility for him because it is where he takes care of his toileting business. Cats are by nature clean animals and they are also a bit particular. First, make sure that the litter box is large enough for him to comfortably use for toileting, then scratch the litter over the mess. This is a big deal to most cats. Use high quality litter that will mask the smell in between cleanings and there should be enough of the litter inside the box for him to satisfactorily work with. The litter box should be frequently cleaned and changed when it starts to smell bad. Your cat doesn’t like to go in a dirty litter box and if this important possession of his is not clean, it could add to his anxiety. It should also be set in a private area that is away from the mainstream traffic in the house.
4. Take it slow and easy
When your cat is stressed out, it’s best to avoid making any fast movements around him. If you’re exposing him to a new experience or introducing him to new people or pets, he may feel increased anxiety. Don’t force him, but rather, encourage him and when he’s had enough, let him to go his private area to settle down. When you’re expecting guests or when there is going to be a situation in the home that may be a bit too much for your cat to handle, you may want to consider placing him in a different room where he can relax and be away from the hub of traffic. It’s good to expose him to new things, but not when he’s already stressed, or if he really doesn’t want to be there. Try to avoid overloading him with too many new things at once. When you take things too fast, or force your cat to be in high stress situations that he is unprepared for, it will make his anxiety much worse. The key to working with a stressed kitty is to take new things one step at a time and do it gradually. Some things can take days or even weeks so be patient.
5. Give your cat a safe, comfortable environment
When you have a cat that is suffering from anxiety or high stress, he will need to have a place that he can go to relax and get away from stressful situations. Ideally, it will be a cozy area that isn’t very big, because some cats have a fear of open spaces. When cats are feeling upset or stressed, their natural response is to retreat to a darker area that is hidden from view and offers them a place of respite. While some cats prefer to be in a higher location so they can see what’s going on in their environment, others would rather hide underneath a desk or table. There are some amazing cat condos on the market that offer an elevated perch for those who like the height. If possible, offer your cat both types of retreats so he can choose his preferred location depending on his mood and his safety needs at the time. It’s also a good idea to make his special retreat area in a place where he has two ways out. When a stressed out cat feels cornered with no means of escape, it can raise his anxiety levels even higher. The goal is to help him to relax instead of making him feel more uncomfortable.
6. Make transport less stressful
Cats who don’t have anxiety issues generally do well when transporting back and forth to the vet in a carrier. Those who are more high strung may experience terror if the experience isn’t pleasant for them. There are a few things that you can do to make the trip less traumatic for kitty though. Choose a pet carrier that is safe, and just large enough for comfort, but not too spacious. You can make this space cozy, just like his spot at home. Use something soft and comfortable to line the bottom of the carrier. Put his favorite toy inside so he’ll have something to distract him. Make sure that the carrier is tightly secured in the vehicle so he won’t be thrown around when your transporting him. Talk to him in a soothing voice to calm him down. When you lift the carrier out of the vehicle, take care not to jostle him around. The smoother, the better. Reassure him with your voice throughout the entire trip. The familiarity of your voice will provide him with comfort and let him know that you’re right there, and that he’s not alone. It’s best to cover the carrier so it is dark inside and he can’t see out. Make sure that there is proper airflow for your cat though. Use a cover made of a breathable fabric.
7. Make all of your cat essentials accessible to him
One way to help relieve your cat’s stress is to make sure that all of the essentials that he needs are located in a central place. This will make it easier for him to find what he needs as he is becoming acclimated to your home. The litter box should be placed in an area that is semi-private, yet easy to get to. For example, it’s not a good idea to put the litter box in a hard to reach area such as an upstairs room or the basement if this isn’t where your cat regularly hangs out. Make things easier for him and it will cut down on his stress. Place his bed, food, water and toys in an area that is cozy and comfortable, and make sure that they are not located in a obscure place that will be difficult for him to reach. Having his essentials readily available will make your cat feel more secure and it will cut down on the amount of space that he has to cover to get from one to another when he’s feeling anxious.
8. Allow him to roll around and spread his scent
Cats are self-soothing animals in general and one of the things that they do to comfort themselves is to roll around on the carpet, floor or furniture. This is to spread their scent, so the area will feel more familiar to them. It’s also a cleaner way for them to mark their territory so other animals know that this is their domain. You may see your cat rubbing his face and paws in various places in the home. He’s just staking out his territory and this is far better than “spraying.” When a cat leaves his scent in a place, it means that the area is very special to him. You’ll soon learn which rooms are his favorites because they will be the ones that he most frequently hangs out in. These are the areas that he is most likely to retreat to when he finds himself in a stressful situation that he needs to escape from.
9. Aromatherapy can calm your cat
Another strategy for helping to calm your stressed out cat is to use special essential oils that have calming properties. While his own must has the best effect for relaxation, there are other scents that come from natural sources which are healthy and promote calmness and relaxation. These are the same scents that work for humans, so you could reap the benefits right along with your cat. Veterinarians recommend lavender and honeysuckle as the most effective scents. All you really need to do is just infuse the scent into the air. There is no need to bathe your cat in the scents. Put a few drops into an infuser or other device that disperses the scent. Keep the oils tightly sealed in a container and out of reach of your cat. Somoe essential oils can be dangerous to cats if they ingest them or get any on their skin.
10. Put on some relaxing music
We’ve all heard the saying that “music soothes the savage beast,” and it’s true. It also works to calm stressed out kitties. You can either use white noise or soft music to help soothe your kitty. It’s especially helpful when there are loud noises in the environment that are out of your control. It works well when there are babies crying or if there is construction taking place nearby. An alternative sound can take your cats attention off of the noise and give him a lovely distraction that is far less obnoxious. Soft, classical music is the most highly recommended because it creates a buffer between noises that may be frightening to your cat. It’s even more effective when the music is turned on in your kitty’s special place where he goes to relax and get away from it all. The University of Wisconsin conducted studies about what works best to soothe anxious cats and they developed “cat specific” music, which may be worth giving a try.
11. Cat supplements for anxiety
You can speak to your vet about the most appropriate supplements to help relax your cat. There are some effective anti-anxiety treats available which contain natural herbal supplements that work well to de-stress cats. One of the most effective ingredients for calming cats is L-theanine. This is also found in green ta and is used for humans for anxiety relief as well. In addition to this, your veterinary may be able to offer pharmaceutical remedies for short term use, until your kitty settles down and gets a grip on his anxiety.
12. Determine the problem
One of the best ways to help your cat calm down is to find out what is stressing him out. This is far superior to giving him supplements or medications. If you know what it is that’s bothering him so badly, then hopefully, it’s something that you can eliminate or change. Once the problem is removed, his stress should abate as well. For example, if he’s stressed out by loud voices, you could ask all members of the family to show a little courtesy to the cat and lower their voices when they are in the room. Treating the symptoms doesn’t get rid of the problem. It’s best to go to the heart of the matter if at all possible, so you can find a solution that ends the problem. If you can’t determine the problem on your own, you could consult with a cat behavior specialist for an assessment of the situation.
13. Use cat acupressure
Acupressure is used for cats the same way that it is used for humans. It’s similar to acupuncture, with the exception that no needles are used. Instead, the fingers are used to apply pressure to specific points on the body. To calm your cat with acupressure, it is located on what is referred to as the sagittal crest on his head. It’s the ridge that runs through the middle and is located in the spot that is directly between his ears. You’ll find a depression in the ridge bone and this is the spot. You can do this by holding a finger on the spot, but not too firmly, or by gently rubbing the area a few times. This can be repeated 3 or 4 times daily if your cat will allow.
14. Give your cat massages
If your cat enjoys attention then he will enjoy a nice cuddling session with a body massage. He’ll let you know which spots to stay away from and where he really likes to be rubbed and petted. You may notice that he begins to purr and to stretch his toes out in relaxation. When this happens, you’ll know that it’s working. The major drawback to using this strategy to relax your cat is that he will probably seek you out for another great massage. While your cat might pester you throughout the day for more of the same, it’s a good trade-off if it lowers his stress and anxiety. It will give him something to look forward to, and in addition, studies show that cuddling with cats is an excellent stress-relief therapy for people too.
15. Distract him with new toys
If there is a certain kind of toy that your cat dearly loves, you could help to distract him from his worries by giving him a new one. Find something that he will enjoy playing with and will intrigue him. If he’s busy trying to figure out how to make it squeak, or perform some other action, he won’t be thinking about his fears or anxiety. Make sure that it’s not too difficult for him to play with or he may become frustrated and even more anxious. Something simple and amusing should do nicely.
16. Use positive reinforcement for training
One of the worst things that can happen to a cat who already has anxiety issues is to be yelled at for making a mistake, or having an accident on the floor. This could make the cat fear you and raise his anxiety level even higher than previously. You can be firm while being kind. Of course, training needs to move forward if you want to have a well-behaved and well-rounded house pet, but you must use a firm, yet gentle approach to dealing with him. Nix punishment, hitting and using a loud voice.
17. Protect him from small children
One of the biggest stressers that a cat can encounter is a small child. Kids should never be allowed to play with a cat unsupervised. In addition to this, they shouldn’t be allowed to do anything to the cat that could cause stress, pain or be harmful. Watch to see how well your cat tolerates children. If he likes the kids and seeks them out, then there isn’t a problem, but if he runs and tries to avoid them, then it’s up to you to make sure that he is protected from the unwanted intrusion of a small child when he’s feeling stressed.
18. Watch for bullying from other pets
Sometimes a cat becomes very stressed because of a fellow house pet. Animals bully one another in much the same way that people do. If you have another dog or cat that is making your kitty’s life rougher than it should be, either keep hem separated, or address the bad behaviors with positive reinforcement and let the other pet know that this behavior will not be tolerated.
19. Sing to your cat
There are many pet owners who sing silly little songs to their cats and dogs. When the tone of your voice is soft and happy, it can soothe both children and house pets. Your cat will be able to tell that you are happy and in a good mood. Moods are contagious and if you’re calm and happy, then there is less for your cat to be stressed out about. Remember that cats feel our energy whether is it positive or negative and it does affect them.
20. Be patient with your cat
If your cat is fearful or stressed out, it can be frustrating. Even though you are doing all the right things to help calm him down, he may run and hide, even when there is no threat around that you can see. Do your very best to be patient with him. Overcoming fears doesn’t happen overnight. It can take days, weeks, or even months. By being patient and waiting for your cat to come around, you are helping to move his situation forward in a positive manner, instead of getting frustrated, angry and causing a delay in the healing process.