Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 28, 2023 by Crystal Uys

abbyssinian cat meowing

Stress, whether physiological or emotional, is the root cause of illness for humans as well as pets. We may wonder, as we look at our feline charges sleeping the day away on the sofa, what in the world could possibly cause them to be stressed out?

Actually, a lot of things.  Since most cats prefer familiar routines, anything from other cats in the household to a new baby, a move, remodeling, or even just furniture being moved around can create feline stress.

But did you know that your stress could make your cat sick? Yes, your stress can be passed to your cat and can make them sick.

Cats and their humans often mirror each others’ physical and emotional states.  Cats are sensitive creatures as well as natural healers, and in my Reiki practice, I’ve sometimes seen them take on their human’s problems, often in an attempt to heal them.  Because of the bond shared between cat and human in a close relationship, energetic imbalances may be shared as well.

“The emotional turmoil brought on by such difficulties as household financial problems, frequent job travel, or marital differences can  affect our cats in very tangible ways,” says Dr. Fern Crist, a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. “Our stress can induce undesirable behaviors in our cats, such as inappropriate urination.

“More importantly, our stress can also influence the development of actual physical illness in our cats as well as in ourselves. As responsible owners, we sometimes need to take a good look at ourselves when we ask why our pets are having problems. Stress relief for pet owners won’t solve every pet health problem, but can go a long way toward alleviating many of them.”

sick cat
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

I’ve experienced what the effects of human stress can do to a cat’s health firsthand when I was dealing with the aftermath of my divorce.  Feebee, my then 10-year-old cat who had never been sick a day in his life, developed bladder stones a few months after my former husband moved out.  Ours was not an ugly divorce, there was no kitty-custody battle, and Feebee staying with me was never in question.  But he loved my former husband, and I’m sure that losing one of the two humans who had been there for his entire life, combined with my emotional state at the time, contributed to his health problems.

In retrospect, I wish I’d known about this stress connection back then – maybe my little man wouldn’t have gotten sick.  The experience definitely made me more sensitive to managing my own stress around my cats.

It seems the least I can do, considering how much they help me relieve my stress.

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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8 Comments on Could Your Stress Make Your Cat Sick? Human-Pet Emotional Connection

  1. I have had cats my whole life who have served as family members secondary to being an only child, with a severely abusive mother.
    I treat my cats the same way I would treat any human being. I don’t subsciribe to being in the superior position because I am bigger!!! It is no different then a rich country destroying a poor country, thus the problems with human nature and society.

    My cat Einstein is 3 and was a wild, hyper, feral kitten. He always has maintained this wild streak but strives well with his best friend Christopher, who was an orphan kitten from a home.
    I recently was told I have a mass in my liver and must go for a biopsy. This was found on accident post a CT scan, after injuring my ribs in a total wreck auto accident.

    I have watched Einstein become very depressed,liveless and limpless. He sits on me or beside me, and just stares at me. He jumps on top of the shower stall to watch me in the shower and is relieved when I am done. My energy is poor from Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia, so he always worries about me but still enjoyed being a trickster.
    My friend saw him 2 days ago, after not seeing him for 2 months, he said Einstein looked old and haggard???

    My 3 year old cat should not be aging. Cats don’t age like humans do. Christopher looks the same and they are 1 day apart, met at the adoption center and have been together 24/7, ever since.
    Christopher is like a Forrest Gump type in a cat, or Rainman, he is very gentle but doesn’t stress because he just doesn’t get it. I’m glad he is spared. Einstein carries the weight of the world on him. He even becomes sad because he can’t open the front door, he tries and becomes frustrated. He wants to come anytime I leave the house and appears to not understand why he has to stay home?
    I looked at him yesterday and wonder if he knew I was sick with this mass before I did? Can he smell it, does he know? All I know is, there is evidence that he is too consumed with me and hasn’t been his little self with his devilish behavior. He always knocks things down, if I don’t attend to his every comand at the exact time he asks for it. Since this accident, he aks for his wet food but if it takes me 10 minutes at 5am to open the can, he patiently waits. Prior to this, I’d hear things falling over, as he pushes them on purpose, taking his hands and pushing pictures, as to threaten me he will knock them off the wall. Now he awakes me with a touch of his nose on my face, rather then the boomb of a falling vase.
    Why has he become so considerate and not the rambuncious cat, I know him to be? He looks very depressed and I fear he thinks I am going to leave him???
    I know I many sound nuts to those that don’t get cats and see their spirutual gifts.
    I don’t know how to hide my fears from Einstein, he can see right through me.
    I know I am making him ill, depressed or aging him. I’ve told him not to worry and to be himself, that all will be fine. I have never seen a cat stare at one’s eyes the way he does and I have had many special felines. Many people comment on his staring ,for he always has done this and some humans find it uncomfortable.

    As I said, he always stares at me but now, it’s as if he knows something I may not??? What happened to my manipulative cat that always gets his way?? He looks as if he has a broken heart, refuses to play with all his toys, cat trees, condo’s and only wants to babysit me!!
    What do I do, how can I make him feel better, when I can’t hide my stress from him? He is truly falling apart, not the survivor, as an ill 1 oz kitten who had to be bottle fed, fell out a window at 2 yrs old, 3 stories high, and didn’t even scrape his paws!!! His curiousity gets him in trouble but still has 7 long lives. Is it possible Einstein knows something may be very wrong , I fear he has a broken heart and is giving up??? I want him to be care free and stop worrying about me!!!!!
    Any advise????

    • I’m so sorry about your health problems, Victoria. I don’t think you sound nuts at all. I believe cats do pick up on energetic changes not just in our emotions, but also in our bodies, so it is possible that your cats may have known about your mass before you did. As for Einstein, if you haven’t already done so, I’d take him to your vet for a thorough physical exam, just to rule out any medical issues. I think it’s pretty hard to not be stressed when you’re going through a health scare. Do the best you can at managing your own stress, and keep telling Einstein that it’s not his job to take on your stress. If you can, spend some extra time playing with him, and reassuring him that all is well. Try and keep your routines the same as much as you can. All my best to all of you!

  2. There’s no doubt that human stress impact cat physically but also emotionally with behavioral issues. One of the biggest gifts we can give our cats is to keep our stress levels down.

  3. Oh, Ingrid, you and I have seen this with my Cookie lately! And I’ve experienced it with a few of my other cats to a certain extent. There is definitely a connection.

    • I often wonder whether our cats take on our stress to remind us to take better care of ourselves. Since we won’t do it for ourselves, they probably figure we’ll do it for them!

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