Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: May 2, 2023 by Crystal Uys


Written by Jai Patel for Vet-Medic

Stress is the body’s response to a stimulus, such as fear or pain, that interferes with normal physiological equilibrium. It can include physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension. And just like humans, cats experience stress. Experiences such as moving house, abuse, injury or death in the family can all cause stress. However, there can also more subtle stress triggers, such as visitors in the home, other cats, or even something as seemingly simple as installing new carpet.

Unlike humans, cats can’t tell us when they’re stressed, so it’s up to us to recognize the signs. Any noticeable change in behavior can be an indication that something isn’t quite right.

Your cat may be stressed if you see one or more of the following signs:


This is a fairly obvious sign but, depending on your cat’s personality, one that is easy to miss. If your cat is usually very social but has suddenly taken to hiding away somewhere then stress could be the cause.

Less interaction with people

If your cat is usually keen to be around people but suddenly prefers to be on her own or is more withdrawn when around people, it could be due to stress.

Loss of appetite

Loss of appetite is a serious problem in cats and can have any number of reasons. Stress can be one trigger, especially if your cat normally wolfs down his food but has suddenly decided he doesn’t want to eat anything. Never let a cat go without eating for more than 24-48 hours.

Not using the litter box

Stress can be one reason for eliminating outside the litter box. If you cat stops using the litter box, a visit to the veterinarian is in order.


If your mild-mannered cat has become more aggressive of late, either towards humans or companion animals, then it could be because something is stressing him out.

Excessive grooming

Excessive grooming, also known as psychogenic alopecia, is frequently the result of stress.

Identifying and, as much as possible, eliminating the trigger of your cat’s stress requires patience. Treatment can include enriching your cat’s environment, behavioral modification, natural remedies and, in extreme cases, prescription medications.

Vet Medic is a family-owned veterinary pharmacy based in the UK. They offer a wide range of products from prescription medications to food. For more information, please visit

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4 Comments on How to Recognize If Your Cat is Stressed

  1. Great post Ingrid. Some of that I knew but; some I did not. I always learn something new I can try.

  2. Higher than normal ‘scent marking’, I don’t mean spraying but cheek rubbing on things in the environment the cat feels belongs to them, like food dishes, water bowls, favorite toys, sleeping or hang out spots, cat doors, any entry or exit from rooms. Snowball will scent mark to the point of getting a mat tangle near her cheek area on her otherwise perfect coat. It is always the first sign that something or someone in the environment is stressing her.

    • My cat started doing this to me, normally a very docile calm cat, he is being very vocal and rubbing on me a lot. Thanks for this note, I will try and decrease his stress levels

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