In more serious cases of stress, such as moving to a new residence or being brought to an animal shelter, cats can become depressed, aggressive or possibly ill. Another common symptom of cat stress is litter box avoidance. Stress can also make an existing medical condition worse. If you believe your cat has a stress related problem, there are several ways you can help provide some relief.
Minimize Changes in the Environment
Cats may appear to have little interest in the activities and daily lives of other members of the household, however, most cats are very aware of the changes around them. Common disruptions in the environment may appear insignificant to people but to a cat, they can be perceived as profound or even terrifying. Cats may hide or display behaviors that are out of character.
Try to avoid frequent changes to areas your cat is used to living. Your cat's bedding can be washed often but try to keep it in the same place. The same applies to the litter box. Clean it often but don't change its location more often than necessary. Consider adding an additional little box if you have more than one cat. Most importantly and often most challenging, try to change residences as infrequently as possible. Moving is often unavoidable, and much less stressful than re-homing your cat, but don't forget to keep your cat in mind when moving.
Creating a Stress-Free Zone
Providing an area specifically designed to minimize stress is especially recommended when your cat has recently been through an obviously stressful ordeal. Perhaps you just adopted a new cat or your cat has returned home from a medical procedure. In addition to providing proper food and/or medication, designate a dark and quiet place where your cat can relax and acclimate at his or her own pace.
Pheromone products such as Feliway are often used at home and in animal shelters and boarding facilities to calm cats. Although not effective for all cats, pheromone sprays and diffusers may help you create a more calming environment. Be sure to consult your veterinarian before trying one of these products.
Allow for a Routine
Most pets are creatures of habit and cats especially tend to enjoy predictability. Feeding your cat at the same time each day is one of the easiest ways to establish a routine. A regular feeding schedule also helps manage your cat's weight if he or she has a tendency to over-eat.
Let sleeping cats sleep. Because cats sleep many hours a day, it is often tempting to wake them in order to spend some time with them. Unlike most dogs, cats need their privacy and tend to be more independent. Allowing your cat to choose to visit you will help minimize stress and may actually strengthen the bond between the two of you.