How do I know, and what to do, if my cat has anxiety?


Have you ever wondered why your cat suddenly hides in the closet, hisses at invisible threats, or excessively grooms itself? These puzzling behaviors can be signs of a deeper issue – anxiety. As a cat owner, it’s essential to understand the subtleties of feline behavior, especially when they’re anxious.

Cover Image of Nat Geo Wild and a Sand Dune Cat | Cat Behaviorist | Mieshelle Nagelschneider

Cats are known for their enigmatic behavior, but anxiety can turn their charming quirks into worrisome actions. This blog post aims to shed light on cat anxiety, exploring the causes, symptoms, and how you can help your furry friend.

I’m a dedicated cat enthusiast and proven Certified Cat Behaviorist™ with more than two decades of experience, and I’ll guide you through this fascinating journey into the minds of our feline companions. We will delve into the world of cat anxiety, unraveling the mysteries behind cat behaviors, and providing you with practical tips to create a stress-free environment for your beloved pet.

Section 1: Understanding Cat Anxiety

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s understand what cat anxiety is and why it’s crucial to be aware of it. Anxiety in cats is more common than you might think, and recognizing the signs is the first step toward helping your pet.

Cats can experience anxiety for various reasons, including changes in their environment, medical issues, or past traumas. We’ll explore these causes in detail, shedding light on the triggers that can lead to anxious behavior. Moreover, we’ll discuss the subtle signs of anxiety in cats, such as excessive grooming, changes in appetite, and litter box issues. By recognizing these signs, you can intervene early.

Understanding cat anxiety is the foundation for addressing the issue effectively. In the next section, we’ll explore the different types of cat anxiety and their specific characteristics.

Section 2: Types of Cat Anxiety

Cat anxiety isn’t a one-size-fits-all problem. It comes in various forms, each with its unique traits and triggers. In this section, we’ll categorize and delve into different types of cat anxiety, such as separation anxiety, environmental anxiety, and social anxiety.

We will discuss the signs and symptoms of each type of anxiety, helping you distinguish one from another. You’ll learn how separation anxiety can manifest when you leave your cat alone or how environmental anxiety may be triggered by changes in your home. By identifying the specific anxiety type, you can tailor your approach to alleviate your cat’s distress.

  • Separation anxiety: Felines are often known for their independence, but they can become quite attached to their human caregivers. When you leave for work or vacation, your cat might feel anxious or stressed. Signs of separation anxiety in cats can include excessive meowing, destructive behavior, or inappropriate urination.

To help your cat cope, establish a routine to create a sense of security. Leave engaging toys or puzzles, consider a pet companion, and provide a comfortable space with their favorite items. Gradual departures and arrivals can also lessen the anxiety. If the problem persists, consult a veterinarian or professional cat behaviorist, such as myself, for guidance. Remember, with patience and understanding, you can help your feline friend feel more at ease when you’re not around.

  • Environmental anxiety: Environmental anxiety in cats is a growing concern among pet owners. Feline companions are highly attuned to their surroundings, and changes in their environment can trigger stress and anxiety. Common stressors include moving to a new home, household renovations, or the addition of new pets. Symptoms may manifest as excessive grooming, hiding, or even aggressive behavior. To alleviate this anxiety, create a consistent routine and offer a safe space for your cat to retreat to. Calming treats and diffusers can also help. Recognizing and addressing environmental anxiety in cats is crucial for their well-being.
  • Social anxiety: Social anxiety isn’t just a human issue; it can affect our feline friends too. Cats are known for their independent nature, but some are more sensitive than others. Social anxiety in cats can manifest in various ways, including hiding, excessive grooming, or aggression. It often stems from early trauma, lack of socialization, or changes in their environment. To help your cat, create a safe, quiet space, provide consistent routines, and use positive reinforcement. Gradual exposure to new experiences and people can also boost their confidence. Understanding and addressing social anxiety in cats can lead to happier, more well-adjusted feline companions, enhancing the bond between you and your pet.

Armed with knowledge about the different types of cat anxiety, you’re now ready to take steps to ease your feline friend’s troubles. In the following section, we’ll explore practical strategies and tips to manage cat anxiety effectively.

Section 3: Managing Cat Anxiety

Now that you understand the nuances of cat anxiety, it’s time to explore actionable strategies to help your pet. From creating a cat-friendly environment to using calming techniques, there are many ways to alleviate anxiety and improve your cat’s quality of life.

Creating a cat-friendly home, which includes setting up safe spaces, using interactive toys, and providing a stable routine, will help your cat feel more at ease. Additionally, we’ll discuss various calming techniques, such as pheromone diffusers, herbal remedies, and behavioral training. By implementing these approaches, you can help your cat feel more secure and at ease.

Cropped Image of Two Siamese Cats | Cat Behaviorist | Mieshelle Nagelschneider
  • Pheromone diffusers – Cats are known for their independent nature, but they can suffer from anxiety, causing behavioral problems and stress for both the cat and its owner. In such cases, a pheromone diffuser can be a game-changer. These devices release synthetic feline facial pheromones, mimicking the natural scent cats use to mark their territory. This signals safety and comfort, effectively calming anxious cats. Plugging in a pheromone diffuser in your home can reduce stress-related issues like scratching, urinating outside the litter box, and excessive meowing. It’s a simple, drug-free solution that promotes a harmonious environment for both you and your feline friend.
  • Herbal remedies – Instead of resorting to pharmaceuticals, consider the soothing power of herbal remedies to help your feline friend find calm and relaxation. Before starting any herbal treatment, it’s wise to consult your veterinarian to ensure your cat’s safety and to discuss the best approach to manage their anxiety naturally.
    • Valerian Root: Just like in humans, valerian can ease anxiety in cats. A small amount can be sprinkled on their favorite toy.
    • Chamomile: Chamomile tea can be brewed and cooled for your cat to drink or added to their food. It’s known for its calming properties.
    • Lavender: This fragrant herb can be used as an essential oil in a diffuser, but ensure it’s diluted, and your cat isn’t directly exposed to it.
    • Catnip: Many cats find catnip to be a great stress reliever.
  • Behavioral training – Behavioral training is a powerful tool to help your feline friend cope with anxiety. To start, create a safe, predictable environment by maintaining a consistent daily routine. Use positive reinforcement techniques like treats and affection to reward calm behavior. Provide stimulating toys and activities to keep their minds engaged. Gradual desensitization can help cats confront their fears. For specific anxieties, like fear of the carrier or car rides, for example, desensitization may mean gradually introducing your cat to the carrier by leaving it open and placing treats inside. Once your cat becomes comfortable, close the carrier for short periods and gradually increase the time. If anxiety persists, consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist, such as myself, for further guidance. By investing time and patience in behavioral training, you can help your cat lead a happier, more relaxed life.


Our cats bring joy to our lives every day, and it’s our responsibility to ensure they live without unnecessary stress or anxiety. By taking the time to understand their behavior and implementing the strategies discussed, you can provide your cat with a happier, healthier, and more relaxed life.

Cartoon Image of Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist