How to Help Your Kitten With Anxiety

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Kittens can be very jumpy creatures. They might run away when they hear a loud sound or hide under the couch when new people enter the house. The term “scaredy-cat” didn’t just come from anywhere– kittens tend to be quite scared of new places and people if they aren’t adequately socialized prior to seven weeks of age. And just like humans, kittens can also have anxiety.

Kitten anxiety is when your kitten anticipates danger or threat and, as a result, reacts in fear. Kitten anxiety can cause physical and emotional reactions, such as increased heart rate and trembling. Anxiety in a cat can seriously impact the quality of its life. It can make them afraid of simple gestures, like being pet or held, and cause them to live in fear. 

There are many different causes of kitten anxiety, such as genetics, inadequate or lack of socialization, traumatic events, pain, and illness. But no matter what is causing your kitty to be so stressed, it’s important to help them to feel more relaxed, so they can live a happier and healthier life. 

In this blog post, we discuss what causes kitten anxiety, how to help your kitten with anxiety, other frequently asked questions about kitten anxiety, and more. You can learn how to calm a stressed kitten by reading the entire article, or you can use the links below to read a particular section of your choice.

What Are The Symptoms Of Anxiety In Kittens?

There are a variety of symptoms of anxiety in kittens that you should be aware of. Your kitty may have one of these or a combination of a few. Some of the most common symptoms of kitten anxiety include:

  • Significant change in activity level: A kitten who’s anxious might experience a change in its activity level. Your kitten may previously have been very energetic, but now they spend all their time sleeping or hiding. Lethargy is a common symptom of many health issues in cats, so it’s important to bring your kitten to the vet if you notice a significant shift in their activity level.
  • Significant change in mood: An anxious kitten may also experience a change in their mood. Maybe your cat was very friendly and social before, and now they run away whenever you walk into a room. If you notice that your kitten’s personality is suddenly changing, that’s likely a result of anxiety.
  • Avoiding their litter box: If your cat starts to avoid their litter box and urinates or defecates in random places in your home, that could very well be a sign of anxiety. Anxious kittens will often avoid their litter box as a way of trying to tell their owner that something is wrong. 
  • Becoming aggressive: Aggression is another symptom of anxiety. Your cat isn’t hissing at you for no reason– it’s their way of telling you something is wrong.
  • Excessive meowing: A cat who is excessively meowing is also trying to tell you something. Your cat can’t just say they’re anxious, so they have to meow. An anxious meow can also sound different than other types of meows and can sound more distressed.
  • Vomiting: If your cat is seriously stressed, it may also experience digestive issues, which can result in vomiting. If you see your cat vomiting, you’ll probably initially think that something is wrong with them physically. But actually, vomiting is a common side effect of stress.
  • Refusing to eat: Just like with humans, anxiety can also cause your feline friend to stop eating. Cats normally bolt to their food bowl the second they hear the can of cat food being opened. So if your kitty stays put when you open up that can, that probably means something is wrong.
  • Changes in weight: Weight loss can also result from anxiety since an anxious kitten will probably not eat as much. Changes in weight, along with vomiting and not eating, can be a symptom of various conditions in cats, so it’s important to bring them to the vet as soon as possible.
  • Repetitive behaviors: Anxious cats may be more inclined to take part in repetitive behaviors, which can include excessive grooming, leading to bald spots. These repetitive behaviors can be very detrimental to the physical and emotional health of your cat, so it’s important to consult a vet immediately if you notice them exhibiting these repeated actions. For example, one study of overgrooming cats found that 85% of them had an allergy,2 which is more of a reason to go to a vet. 

What Causes Anxiety In Kittens?

There are many different causes of anxiety in kittens. A cat can have anxiety at a young age because they weren’t socialized properly, or they can have it at an older age if they recently experienced something traumatic. The most common types of anxiety in kittens are:

  • Separation anxiety: One type of cat anxiety is separation anxiety. Kitten separation anxiety is when a kitten becomes attached to their owner and panics whenever they leave. A cat with separation anxiety will have inappropriate elimination outside the box, excessive vocalization, destructiveness, and self-mutilation.3 Separation anxiety can be caused by changes in owners, trauma from abandonment, and various other circumstances.
  • Change in environment: A change in your cat’s environment can easily trigger anxiety. Rescue cats or cats who moved homes a lot are especially inclined to anxiety. Moving homes or adding a new family member or pet can be very anxiety-inducing for a kitty, so it’s important to note any changes in its behaviors. Remember, something simple for you might be absolutely terrifying for your kitty.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder: A cat with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) may be hypervigilant, unable to relax, rarely rest, and startle easily.4 For owners of kittens with generalized anxiety disorder, it’s important to visit a veterinarian to get the appropriate treatment, such as anxiety medications or supplements.

How To Help Your Kitten With Anxiety

Owner petting an anxious cat

So now that you know what the symptoms and causes of kitten anxiety are, let’s discuss how you can help your kitten with anxiety:

Counter-conditioning

Counter-conditioning is when you change your kitten’s response to something from negative to positive. For example, if your cat is afraid of certain noises, you should feed them their favorite treat whenever they hear the noise. This will get them to form a positive response to the noise rather than having fear and anxiety. However, this often has to be done under the guidance of a professional, as when executed wrong, the patient can instead get worse.

Desensitization

The goal of desensitization is to reduce your kitten’s anxiety through repeated, controlled exposure to their fears at a level that does not cause them distress. For instance, if your cat is afraid of the sound of a car, you expose them to the sound in very low increments at a time. You keep doing this over a period of time, increasing the volume each time, and eventually, your cat won’t be afraid of the sound anymore if successful or executed properly. However, it is important not to overwhelm your cat if you take this route to avoid their anxiety worsening. Start small and gradually work your way up.

Enrichment activities

A cat gets anxiety from a chemical imbalance. One way to reduce anxiety is engaging in enrichment activities with your kitten. This basically just involves playing with them on a regular basis to keep their minds stimulated. Enrichment activities are also important for the physical health of your cat, as playtime, daily training, and food puzzle toys can also mean exercise. 

Medication

In some cases of anxiety, your vet may recommend giving your kitten anti-anxiety medication. Anti-anxiety medication for cats can be fast-acting, which means it’s given before a situation that will likely trigger anxiety, or long-lasting, which are medications or supplements that work over a longer period of time to create steady-state support in the brain that supports them 24/7. You can get your kitten prescribed anti-anxiety medication or supplements at Dutch.com. Dutch is telemedicine for pets and allows pet owners to get prescriptions sent directly to their door. With Dutch, getting your pet the medication they need has never been easier.

Kitten Anxiety: Frequently Asked Questions

How do you calm an anxious kitten?

There are a couple of different ways you can go about calming an anxious kitten, depending on the cause and severity of their anxiety. This can include things like giving them space when they’re anxious, reducing their exposure to the things that scare them, sticking to a routine to increase predictability, reducing changes in their environment, and introducing new things to them slowly. Above all else, if you have a kitten that’s prone to anxiety, it’s important that you stay calm, as cats can easily read a human’s reaction. If you're calm, your kitty will hopefully be too, unless they have a mental health disorder.

Does my kitten have anxiety?

There are various signs you should be aware of that may indicate if your kitten has anxiety. If your kitten avoids eye contact, moves away from you, or has any changes in their behavior, they may have anxiety. If your kitten exhibits any of these symptoms, you should bring them to the vet so you can make sure something else isn’t wrong.

What causes anxiety in kittens?

Many causes of anxiety in kittens, such as illnesses, previous trauma, genetics/hereditary predisposition, or a lack of proper socialization. It can be hard to identify exactly what triggers your kitten’s anxiety, but knowing the cause is important to figure out a proper treatment plan for them.

Final Notes

A kitten suffering from anxiety is no joke. Your cat can’t just get up and tell you that they’re stressed, so it’s up to you to identify the signs of anxiety in kittens. If you suspect your cat is suffering from anxiety, it’s important to bring them to the vet so you can figure out exactly what’s wrong. 

Dutch.com is a great solution for pet owners whose cat is suffering from anxiety. Dutch is an online telehealth service for pets that connects pet owners to licensed veterans. With Dutch, you don’t have to worry about putting your kitten in a cab and bringing them all the way to the vet. We bring the vet to you with the simple click of a button. 

Dutch also will get you any medication you need for your kitten delivered directly to your door within a week’s time. Here at Dutch, we want to help you get your kitten the care they need to get better. Sign up today so your cat can return to their friendly and social selves as quickly as possible.

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References

  1. Domschke, Katharina, and Eduard Maron. “Genetic factors in anxiety disorders.” Modern trends in pharmacopsychiatry vol. 29 (2013): 24-46. doi:10.1159/000351932.
  2. Waisglass, Stephen E., et al. "Underlying medical conditions in cats with presumptive psychogenic alopecia." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 228.11 (2006): 1705-1709.
  3. Schwartz, Stefanie. "Separation anxiety syndrome in cats: 136 cases (1991–2000)." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 220.7 (2002): 1028-1033.
  4. Crowell-Davis, Sharon L. "Generalized anxiety disorder." Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians 31 (2009): 427-430.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $15/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.