Is your cat naturally anxious? It’s totally normal to wonder whether or not your cat’s anxiety is, well, normal. The fact is, cats are generally very alert animals, and their skittishness can sometimes feel like anxiousness.
But did you know that feline anxiety isn’t always innate? Here are six common causes of feline anxiety to be aware of.
1. Historical Trauma
One of the most common forms of anxiety seen in rescue cats is that caused by historical trauma. If your cat flinches at noises, is skeptical of touch, and generally seems to sleep with one eye open, she may have had some rough moments in her past. The more you can learn about her history, the better; information helps guide your training and keeps you from unwittingly putting your cat into situations that feel traumatic for her.
2. Separation Anxiety
Cats crave routine. They may seem totally independent, but your cat likely relishes you being around, if only because it makes her feel secure. Separation anxiety can be caused by a number of external factors, from a move to a new house to you spending more time with a significant other. Beware that separation anxiety can and often does mask other issues, however, so you should talk to your vet if you notice unusually anxious behaviors.
3. Joint Pain
It’s confusing for your cat when her body hurts. She may not understand that the pain caused by her arthritis and aging joints isn’t caused by some malicious action. An otherwise healthy cat over the age of 5 who suddenly starts behaving anxiously should be examined by a vet for signs of arthritis. There’s actually a lot you can do to make things less painful.
4. Illness or Disease
Did you know that diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or even poor food absorption can actually affect your cat’s psychological state? Sudden onset anxiety could indicate your cat is experiencing symptoms of a treatable illness, or even that she’s contracted a parasite or infection. It’s always a good idea to consult with your vet if your cat’s behavior changes with no real explanation.
Yes, cats can suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (Really.) Cats with OCD tend to repeat the same behaviors again and again, like licking the same spot or making exaggerated movements. OCD symptoms are generally a response to systemic anxiety and should be evaluated by a veterinarian. And remember, you shouldn’t reinforce the behaviors by “soothing” your cat while she’s performing them – she’ll take that as praise.
6. Low Threat-Tolerance
Cats are biologically inclined to defend themselves against predators. Some have a lower stimulus threshold than others, just like people do. Your cat may be particularly frightened by noise, other animals, children, or any other number of stimulus. Once you learn what’s working her up, see if there are any ways you can reduce her exposure to these anxiety-inducers and everyone will be happier.
Unexplained anxiety in cats is always a good reason to call the vet.