How to tell if your cat is stressed—and how to help.
Cats are complex creatures and identifying the reasons why one chooses to do (or not do) something can be quite vexing for humans. When evaluating a cat-related problem you need to realize that just like humans: 1) Cats never do anything without a reason—even if you don’t truly understand the motivation; and 2) Nearly every problem can be resolved by considering two aspects: Physical and/or Behavioral.
Cats use scent to communicate to one another; spraying, defecating or urinating outside of a litterbox is their way of signaling specific things, such as “this is my territory,” “I don’t feel well” or “stay away.”
How to Help
Physical: The most important thing to do is get your cat to a veterinarian to rule out cystitis, urinary tract conditions or bladder problems, some of which can become deadly in hours.
Behavioral: Once physical issues have been ruled out, you can begin working on behavioral problems. You might need to change a litterbox’s location, increase the number of litter boxes change the litter type and/or clean the boxes more often.
Sometimes, if a medical condition causes a cat pain during elimination, she will start associating that the litterbox and avoid using it. Try the aforementioned solutions, and/or using calming pheromone-based products to help ease her anxiety.
Cats will spend about 15 to 50 percent of their life grooming themselves, so it can sometimes be difficult to tell if they are doing it too often. Cats groom to self-calm, remove parasites and keep their fur clean and tangle-free. Signs of excessive grooming include thinning fur, bald patches of skin or “twitch” grooming (when your cat suddenly lunges to groom herself). Excessive grooming might be a result of infection, gland or urinary conditions, parasites or even a stress response.
How to Help
Physical: Check for parasites—fleas, ticks, mites—or other skin problems. You should also take your cat to the veterinarian to find out if there are any underlying medical conditions and/or inquire about using a parasite prevention program.
Behavioral: Regularly brushing your cat could help prevent future excessive grooming episodes. If your cat has outdoor access, you could limit her roaming by installing an enclosure such as a catio. If your cat uses grooming as a way to cope with stressful situations you could also consider using a pheromone-based product to help calm her.
Cats prefer to eat multiple times a day on a regular schedule and many aren’t shy about letting their owners when they are hungry. There are many things that could alter a cat’s eating behavior, including physical problems (e.g., digestive conditions, internal parasite, dental pain, kidney disease, thyroid conditions) and behavioral issues (e.g., boredom, stress).
How to Help
Physical: Take your cat to the veterinarian for an examination, which might include a dental check for teeth and/or gum issues; a stool sample for internal parasites; and blood work for other medical conditions. You could also talk with your veterinarian about using supplements and/or changing your cat’s feeding regimen.
Behavioral: Is another cat bullying your cat away from the food? If so, a simple change in feeding locations or using an automated feeder that only opens when the correct cat approaches could help.
Boredom or stress could also cause changes in eating behavior. A cat might eat more because she’s bored; while cat might eat less if she’s stressed. Increasing a cat’s daily activity, such as walks, play sessions and interactive toys, can help reduce boredom. Providing a cat with safe “feline-only” zones, such as trees or condos, could help reduce stress.
 Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. (n.d.). Cats that lick too much. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from https://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/Health_Information/CW_lick.cfm
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is a fulltime freelance writer, bestselling author and founder of PetsWeekly.com. She resides in the deserts of the Southwest with a few dogs, several cats and a very understanding husband.