Do you have a skittish, easily frightened cat who struggles to sit still for an extended period of time? Or who disappears under the bed for what feels like days on end? While you might love that your cat has an independent, fairly self-reliant nature, this demeanor can make it difficult for you to help your furry friend overcome her nervous tendencies.
Before you can put a solution into place, you need to know the root cause of your cat’s anxiety, advises Lynea Lattanzio, the owner and founder of The Cat House on the Kings, who has worked with abused and abandoned cats for over 22 years.
But even while you’re trying to determine your cat’s anxiety triggers, there are things you can do to help put her at ease, says Samantha Bell, the cat behavior and enrichment lead at Best Friends Animal Society. According to Bell, you should sit near your cat and speak to her in a soothing voice when she is feeling nervous. And, if your pet exhibits positive social behavior, you should reward her with high-value treats.
What Are Some Common Causes of Cat Anxiety?
It might take some time and patience to figure out exactly what’s triggering your cat’s nervous tendencies. You’ll have to rely on your keen observational skills to note your pet’s particular triggers and behavior patterns. For instance, you should think about how your cat generally interacts with his environment.
According to Lattanzio, you should start by taking a look at who your cat comes into contact with on a regular basis. She recommends that you ask yourself the following questions: “Is there a dominant cat in the household? Are there cats or other animals outside the house that are releasing odors or pheromones that are upsetting the inside-only cat?” By answering these questions, you can evaluate whether or not other animals are causing your pet to feel nervous.
According to Lattanzio, another common cause for cat anxiety is the declawing process. If you have a timid cat, this procedure “almost always causes anxiety,” she says.
How Can You Soothe Your Scared Cat?
Once you’ve figured out the cause of your cat’s anxiety, how can you go about treating it? Here are four solutions and treatment options that you can try with your pet:
- Invest in Calming Products
“There are many, many items available that say they have a calming effect on cats,” says Lattanzio. As each cat can react differently to a particular product, she says, “it’s best to try them out individually to see what happens.” When it comes to medicinal remedies, Lattanzio favors a more natural route. She stresses that flower extracts may be worth a try. Other natural remedies include calming herbs, such as chamomile. You can also check with your vet for suggestions.
- Evaluate Your Cat’s Environment
“Cats are either tree dwellers or ground dwellers,” says Lattanzio. “If you put a tree dweller on the floor it will cause anxiety.” As your cat has a natural instinct to claw, climb and perch, you should ensure that he has “many places to climb high and to hide.” A cat tree made of carpet or sisal gives your cat the opportunity to scratch, climb and hide to his delight — without turning your furniture into a watchtower.
- Encourage Playing
According to Bell, you should encourage your cat to play so that she feels like the “wild hunter” she is meant to be. Bell suggests that you purchase a wand toy that has a mouse or bird at the end so that you can let your cat hunt, catch and “kill” this fake prey. After this play period is over, you should offer your pet a treat so that she feels like she is actually eating the prey that she has caught. “They will feel so satisfied if you or your cat sitter does this with them every day!” says Bell.
- Use a Synthetic Cat Pheromone Plug-In or Spray
When your cats rubs his face against a surface, the pheromone he secretes signals that the object is safe. Bell suggests that you place a synthetic cat pheromone plug-in or spray around the area where your cat is hiding, as this will provide comfort and help your pet build confidence.
All cats’ personalities are different, and some cats are just more shy by nature. But with these tips and lots of love, you can help your anxious kitty feel right at home with you.
Tisha Berg is a Los Angeles-based mom, wife and blogger who is currently raising two lovely daughters along with two sweet, and very mischievous, female cats. You can connect with her on her family activities blog, Biz Mommy.