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cat anxiety
Do‘s and Don’ts
- A Quick Guide

Don’t punish your cat, even if they’re exhibiting undesirable behavior. This will only increase their fear and anxiety. Do tune into your cat’s subtle clues that they’re stressed so you can be proactive about calming your cat.

Don’t attempt to pick up and/or cuddle your stressed cat if they show they don't want affection. Remember, cats like to have unrestrained freedom and can feel anxious when confined. Do look for cues from your cat to learn how they want to be handled and respectfully obey the boundaries they’re requesting.

Don’t make frequent adjustments to the layout of your home, including rearranging furniture. Cats thrive on consistency, especially in their physical environment. Do establish a routine for your cat.

Don’t respond in kind to your cat’s anxiety. Your cat is in tune with your emotions. Do remain calm to help reduce your cat’s anxious feelings.

How to prevent
and manage
your cat's anxiety

follow litter box etiquette

Cats are notoriously picky when it comes to their litter box rituals. When things aren’t “just so,” your cat may become stressed and exhibit avoidance of the litter box.

Here are some basic litter box guidelines to follow:


Every cat should have their own litter box, plus one.
For example, a home with three cats should have a
total of four litter boxes.


Size matters! You can get your cat’s ideal litter box size by measuring from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail, plus 50%.


Litter boxes should never be placed near food dishes.


Give them an escape route. Your cat’s litter box should allow for separate entry and exit points to avoid the feeling of claustrophobia. The litter box should never be placed in a dead end or a corner. This can make     your cat feel trapped.


Give them some air. Many cats prefer a non-hooded, open-air litter box.


Every cat should have their own litter box, plus one.
For example, a home with three cats should have a
total of four litter boxes.

Feeding Rules

It’s important your cat feels safe while they’re eating. This is especially important in multi-cat homes.


Provide each cat with a designated area for eating
and drinking. This should be out of sight from other
pets. Eating near other pets can make your cat feel
threatened and anxious.


Avoid putting your cat’s feeding dishes near
their litter box.

Get your cat
a safe space

Your cat should have a designated “calm space” in the home – a space they can call their own and retreat to when they’re feeling stressed. This space should be quiet and dark. Use cardboard boxes, sheets, or a cat cave to provide a secure “nest” for your cat. Children should be taught to leave your cat alone when in this safe space.

Introduce Changes in Environment

Whenever possible, cats should never be forced to accept change suddenly. This is especially true when introducing a new cat into the home.

Your new cat is likely to feel stressed at being uprooted from their previous environment and placed into another cat’s territory. Your existing cat may feel stressed the intrusion of your new cat.

Here are some dos and don’ts for introducing your cat to a new cat sibling.

Don’t force your cat to be in the same room immediately. Do place your new cat in an area of the home your existing cat rarely frequents.

Don’t assume that your new cat and existing cat will instantly get along. Do allow them time to accept each other on their own terms.

Don’t expect your cats to share everything with each other. Do build up familiarity by occasionally exchanging toys and bedding from each cat’s domain. Use positive reinforcement by giving your cat treats when removing a familiar item to share it with the other cat.

Don’t expect your cats to spend a lot of time together immediately. Do look for cues that your cats are not averse to each other’s scent before making a face-to-face introduction during a short supervised visit.

provide enrichment
for your cat

Enrichment is all about enhancing and encouraging
your cat’s natural behaviors, like climbing, playing,
and hunting. It goes beyond your cat’s basic needs
of food, water, and shelter.

Keeping your cat’s mind and body active and providing stimulation for their senses will help ward off
boredom and associated nervous energy which can
turn into anxiety.

Give your cat daily playtime with enrichment toys and
activities. These might include interactive hunting toys, climbing towers, scratching posts and mats, and toys
that encourage chasing and movement.

Use Desensitization and Counterconditionig Techniques

You can desensitize your cat to anxiety triggers by slowly and carefully exposing your cat to the offending trigger. For example, if your cat is triggered by the sound of a dog barking, wait until your cat is in a calm state and then play a recording of that sound at a very low volume.

This will take patience and time but will help your cat build a tolerance for triggers that previously caused anxiety.

Counterconditioning involves changing your cat’s response to an anxiety trigger. This also takes time and patience but will help your cat change their response to a situation that provokes stress.

Start by finding an environment that is calming for your cat. Note your cat’s body language to determine if they’re relaxed. Their ears should be relaxed, forward, and tilted slightly out. Their tail should be loose and not stiff or sticking straight up.

Grab your cat’s favorite treats and then slowly introduce the stimulus. For example, if your cat is triggered by another cat walking by, give them a treat when they see the triggering cat.

Keep counterconditioning sessions short so your cat leaves with positive feelings about the experience.
The next time, you can try spending a little more time helping your cat become more accustomed to their anxiety triggers.

Frequent, short sessions work the best. And
remember to stay calm yourself!

use pheromone therapy

Cats use natural pheromones to communicate with each other. Pheromones are a chemical that cats emit from various parts of the body. The interdigital pheromone is in the paws, the maternal pheromone is along the mammary chain of nursing cats, and each cat emits pheromones from their face (which is why they rub their face against you!), and in their urine.

Pheromone therapy, like Feliway Optimum may help your cat relax in what might otherwise be a stressful environment. Pheromone therapy can be administered with a simple room diffuser for continuous calming, or with a spray for occasional issues(like a drive to the vet).  The smell is undetectable to humans but sensed by cats.

Quick Tips for Decoding Your
Cat’s Intuition and Needs


Since it’s unsafe to let them roam around outside on their own, we keep our cats indoors. If cats had their way, they’d have the freedom to experience their world as they see fit.


Cats don’t need or want a manager or a boss. They prefer to do things on their own schedule in their own way. They also typically prefer to have their own space, without sharing it with guests, either human or animal.


Cats have a work-life balance too! They prefer you keep your noisy work out of their lives. Cats need peace and quiet away from noisy appliances or daily chaos which may interfere with their nap time.

Escape Plan

Cats need freedom within their domain. Closed doors may frustrate a cat and make them feel trapped.


Cats are territorial and it’s important to them to establish authority over their domain. They feel very unsettled when their environment is in flux and this can lead to anxiety. Moving to a new home, bringing home a new family member, or changing routine can lead to stress and anxiety.

rule out medical conditions

Certain medical conditions can result in behaviors that mimic anxiety, such as eliminating outside the litter box. If your cat is anything but calm and relaxed, it’s always important to visit your veterinarian to rule out medical reasons for unusual behavior.