Cats Living With Stress

Is your cat displaying signs of stress? OSCAR Helpline is here with some helpful tips and advice

Created: 2/28/2018 Updated: 8/27/2021 - Shelley Audis-Riddell

behaviour, Behaviour & Training, cats, health, kitten, stress and anxiety

Cats are very sensitive creatures who like to live in a home which is predictable, with little change. Most cat owners are aware that cats don't deal with change very well. When cats experience stress in their lives, they often respond with changes in their behaviour to help them cope, and in some cases these changes can lead to health problems.

Inquisitive tabby cat

What are the signs of stress in cats?

Feline stress can manifest itself in different ways. The cause of the stress or the environment in which it occurs, will determine how the cat behaves. For example, if a neighbouring cat has started to try and enter your cat's house through the cat flap, then you may find your cat starts to spray around that area in a territorial response.

Here are some typical signs of stress in cats:

  • Vertical scratching on objects

  • Spraying in the home

  • Hiding away

  • Increased aggression

  • Reduced social interaction

  • Over grooming

  • Loss of appetite

  • Conflict with other cats

  • Impact on health - such as cystitis and urinary tract problems or loss of fur

If you think your cat is showing signs of stress or acting differently, the first step is to take your cat to the vet for a health check so that any underlying medical problems can be ruled out. Once your cat has been given a clean bill of health, you can start to look at your cat's routine and lifestyle to assess what the stress is linked to.

Ginger cat hiding away because it is stressed

Tips to keep your cat happy

Here are some tips to help you keep a happy cat in your home and reduce cat stress.

  • Tip 1: Don't keep your cat's water and food dishes close to the cat litter tray. Cats are very clean animals, and they like to eat and toilet in distinctly separate areas.

  • Tip 2: The standard rule for litter trays in the house is 1 per cat, plus 1! If you have 2 cats, you will need 1 litter tray per cat, plus 1 extra. Have your cat's litter trays available on each floor of your home.

  • Tip 3: Cats naturally like to climb and hide at different levels in their environment. This meets their instinctive needs and makes them feel safe. Take a look around your home and see what different levels you can provide for your cat to express this behaviour. You may need to give your cat a shelf to rest on and/or provide them with a cat tree which has different levels to perch on.

  • Tip 4: Toileting for cats is a very private affair. Make sure you allow for this privacy by placing your cat's litter tray in a quiet place in the home. Placing the litter tray next to the washing machine or by the back door may be disturbing and stressful for your cat and may result in your cat toileting somewhere else in the home.

  • Tip 5: Have you ever measured your cat litter tray to make sure it is the right size for you cat? Your cat's litter tray should be 1.5 times the length of your cat from nose to tail. This is to make sure your cat has enough space in the litter tray to move around, dig, bury and use again. If the litter tray isn't big enough, your cat may go somewhere else around the home.

  • Tip 6: Tap into your cat's natural instincts and enrich their environment daily. Try introducing daily hunting games for your cat to find their food. Play games with your cat using cat activity toys to give them the opportunity to pounce, attack and chase.

  • Tip 7: Introduce a vertical scratching post for your cat to groom it's claws on and scent mark in the home. The scratching post can be placed at an area your cat likes to scratch.

Simba the cat, enjoying his scratching post

We hope this advice is useful for you and your pet family. Maybe your friends and family would like to read this too? Please feel free to share...

Do you need further advice?

If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email