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What does stress look like and what causes stress.

Updated: May 1, 2022

National stress awareness month.

We all get stressed sometimes, and even happy things can be a source of stress. So, what about our fur kids? You might be surprised to know that they can be stressed by some of the same things we are, and they can even be stressed by our stress.

We recently brought a new cat into the house. Buddy our foster fail has fostered 15 cats and kittens, so he is an old pro. But even Buddy does not like change, and in this case, it means he is banned from his favorite room until our new baby feels safe with him and with her Mama who doesn’t know her anymore.

Mama came in as a pregnant feral and decided to stay. You would think that having to share space with the rest of her colony would make her a little more accepting, but even without seeing the new baby. Mama’s stress manifested itself as a hunger strike.

We are making progress every day, but it is not an easy thing to make everyone feel secure with each other all the time.

A door opening unexpectedly, a strange person in the house, a sudden loud noise, a car ride to a new home, a visit to the vet, even a game of chase the toy: all these things can cause stress on us and our fur kids. Mama still gets nervous when I come in with bags of groceries.

Stress can look different for different animals and for different situations.

Buddy likes to hide under the covers to feel safe. Mama jumps up on the cabinet in our bathroom. It is the highest place in the house and the farthest from the living room. Other things happen too. Both Buddy and Mama’s pupils dilate to saucers. The excitement of play can elicit the same response. It is a sign of high alertness. If your cat walks around all day like that you may look into why that is. Mama is still feral. She has got Buddy on high alert almost all the time. Our new foster hides and watches.

There are other signs that your cat may be stressed. We all have seen the crouched walk, or the tail tucked. What about incessant crying, or not using the litter box. Some stress is expected when there is a change in routine, but not all stress is a sign of mental distress. Stress can also come from pain and the effort it takes to hide the pain.

If your cat is exhibiting any signs of stress or anxiety you may ask yourself what has changed, and if it is not something you can identify, it might be time to see the vet.

In case you are worried, Mama did start eating again.

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