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Can Cats Have Anxiety? (Or Not?)

If you have a cat that is acting out of character, or you are just concerned, you may be wondering if it’s anxious, and if this is even possible for cats…

Can Cats Have Anxiety?

Yes. Cats can get anxious. In fact, it is quite common. This ranges from a very subtle, mild case, to a serious phobia that may need professional help. Either way, it’s best to identify it as early as possible to help your cat get over it.

In some cases it can be hard to see this, when it is subtle. But, it’s important to look into it if you see any behavior differences that are out of the norm for your cat.

What are the signs of anxiety in cats?

A cat laying down looking sad/stressed.

A cat laying down looking sad/stressed.

There are various signs of anxiety that you need to consider. Therefore, in this section, I will explain some for you to consider:

Excessive grooming

It is normal for a cat to groom themselves regularly. But, it is a concern if they are overdoing it. This can include excessive licking, or even biting. This can result in its skin getting irritated or sore.

Stops using its litter box

If you have noticed that your cat stops using its litter box then there could be several reasons for it. However, if you have ruled out the main reasons, such as:

  • A Dirty litter box
  • Unhappy with litter shape/stye
  • Medical issue, such a UTI

Then if you are sure it’s not any of these, then you will have to consider if it could be anxiety. The complex thing is this could be for several reasons as well. Such as a local cat stressing it out, new family member, etc.

Mood changes

Another tell tale sign is obvious mood changes, for example, its acting aggressive, and usually it is the opposite. Or vice versa, it’s hiding away, when it is usually quite sociable. These are signs to look out for.

Change in activity level

If you have noticed that the activity level of your cat has drastically changed. This can be another sign that they are feeling anxious. Especially when you know that your cat is usually quite active.

Acting aggressive

Aggressive behavior is usually a clear sign of anxiety. If your cat is getting quite snappy then you will need to see if this could be due to its anxiety.

Meowing a lot

A white & ginger cat looking and meowing.

A white & ginger cat looking and meowing.

If you have noticed that your cat is meowing a lot this is another bad sign. Obviously, if it’s a young kitten, then this is normal. But, if it’s an adult cat you have had for years, and it suddenly switches to meowing a lot, it’s not a good sign.

Getting nauseous

Nausea, or even vomiting, is another sign that your cat is feeling anxious. There is a chance that it could genuinely have a health issue. But, if you have ruled this out, then anxiety could be a valid reason for this.

Not eating

Loss of appetite is not expected so if you see this happening then you need to look into it. It could well be a sign of anxiety and fear.

Losing weight

This comes hand-in-hand with loss of appetite. You may notice that your cat is losing weight and not eating much. This can all be related to its anxiety.

Picking up compulsive behavior

Compulsive behavior can be brought on by anxiety. So, if you have noticed this happening then take this into consideration. However, it is quite broad. Meaning, you could see this in various forms, which could even overlap with other signs, such as excessive grooming.

What can cause cats to get anxious?

There are several things that can trigger anxiety in cats such as environmental changes, health issues, or even bad memories from the past.

Environment changes can include moving to a new home with an existing family. Or a new location, after leaving their littermates. Either way this can induce anxiety.

Regarding health issues. Sometimes this can be related to old age, such as your cat getting joint pain issues, such as arthritis, or other problems.

Finally, issues from the past can include problems. For example, a rescue cat that has had a bad history, or been abused in a previous home. This can cause anxiety and trust issues even with a new owner.

What can you do to help an anxious cat?

The help you can provide largely depends on the root-cause of the issue. So, in this section I will explain some tips for each common route cause.

Behavior issues

For behavioral issues there are some known techniques, such as desensitization or even counter-conditioning. This can help, if done correctly.

Separation Anxiety

With this issue one technique is to try and gradually increase your cat’s activity level. This could start off gently with some toys and help them feel happy and distracted.


If your cat is feeling anxiety and you have visited your vet. You may be recommended some medication. This has to be prescribed and it’s important to follow your vet’s guidance on this.

Offer it a cat tree

Another simple option is to offer it a cat tree. This can help to keep it active and happy. Especially if it is an indoor cat. Cats, in general, like to have hard to access locations that are ideally high-up to give it an advantage spot.

The theory stems from their origins in the wild and looking out for predators and their prey.

Offer it a safe place

Providing a safe and quiet spot for your cat can help it feel less anxious. For example, a separate room that keeps it away from loud music rooms, or kids play areas. Some cats can live in such environments if they know they have a place to escape for peace and quiet.

What can happen if the anxiety is left untreated?

If the anxiety is not treated it can lead to bigger issues long-term such as moving from anxiety to depression, and could lead to a break-down in its immune system, leading to vulnerabilities to sickness.

Other issues include more aggressive behavioral issues that may be harder for you to handle without professional help.

What is cat separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is when a cat exhibits anxiety related to a recent home move, or being moved continually. It can also happen when they have been rehomed and miss their previous owner, or siblings.

It is quite a common issue, especially in younger cats that have just been moved from a breeder’s home.

Lindsey Browlingdon