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From Toys to Training: Effective Techniques for Cat Anxiety Treatment

cat anxiety treatment

Anxiety in cats is a common issue that can significantly impact quality of life. Whether a cat has generalized anxiety or specific triggers, it is important to identify the symptoms and provide proper treatment. By effectively managing your cat’s anxiety, you can help them lead a calmer and happier life. There are a variety of ways to alleviate anxiety in cats, including prescription medications, natural remedies, behavioral training, and more.

What Causes Anxiety in Cats?

Anxiety in cats can be triggered by a variety of factors, often related to changes in their environment or routine. Understanding these triggers is essential for identifying symptoms and treating your cat.

The most common triggers include:

  • Environmental Changes: Moving to a new home, getting new furniture, or rearranging your living space can disrupt your cat’s normal routine.
  • Separation: Some cats feel stress when left alone for long periods of time.
  • Loud Noises: Some cats dislike thunderstorms, fireworks, construction, banging, or other loud disruptions.
  • Past Trauma: Previous abusive or neglectful environments can leave a lasting impact on your cat, leading to the development of anxiety.
  • New Pets or People: Introducing new pets or humans to your pet can cause anxiety.

What are the Symptoms of Cat Anxiety?

Symptoms of anxiety in cats can vary widely. Oftentimes, you will notice changes in your cat’s behavior or habits. Identifying the symptoms early can help you take a proactive approach to managing their anxiety.

Look for these common symptoms:

  • Excessive grooming or licking: In severe cases, this can lead to bald spots or sores on your cat’s skin.
  • Hiding or avoiding interaction: Your cat may lessen or stop its socialization with other people or pets. In some cases, cats will spend more time under the bed or in other secluded spots of your home.
  • Aggression: Some cats with anxiety will hiss or growl without a clear reason.
  • Excessive meowing: If your cat is talking more than usual, it may be a sign of stress.
  • Litter box issues: Anxiety can lead to urination or bowel movements outside the litter box.
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns: Be on the lookout for a decrease in your cat’s appetite, refusal to eat or drink, or signs of insomnia.

Aside from these common symptoms, anxiety in cats can manifest in other ways. These may include pacing or restlessness, destructive behaviors, digestive issues (such as vomiting or diarrhea), compulsive behaviors, crying noises, or increased clinginess.

Some of these behaviors are normal in moderation. For example, occasional hiding, grooming, and meowing are typical cat behaviors that aren’t signs of anxiety. Persistent or extreme forms of these behaviors, on the other hand, should be brought up to your veterinarian. 

How to Treat Cat Anxiety with Natural Remedies

In some cases, natural remedies can be a gentle and effective way to manage anxiety in cats. Incorporating one or more of these options can help your cat get to a more balanced state.

Some natural remedies include:

  • Pheromone Diffusers: These release calming chemicals that mimic cats’ natural facial pheromones.
  • Herbal Supplements: Products containing chamomile, valerian root, or catnip can be soothing for your cat.
  • Calming Music: Soft, calming music can help create a peaceful environment.
  • Interactive Toys: Toys that stimulate your cat mentally and physically can distract your cat and help reduce anxiety. Treat dispensers, squeaking toys, ball tracks, and mazes are examples of interactive toys you can purchase for your cat.

In some cases, natural remedies may not be enough. Medication can be prescribed by your veterinarian for more severe cases of anxiety.

Medications for Cat Anxiety

For many cats, anxiety can be severe and debilitating, significantly impacting their daily functioning. Medications can balance brain chemicals that regulate mood and behavior, effectively reducing symptoms. Certain medications can be particularly helpful for managing anxiety during specific triggers, such as vet visits, travel, or the introduction of new pets or people. Other medications are effective at long-term anxiety management. All of these medications require a prescription from your veterinarian.


These are used for quick, short-term relief of acute anxiety episodes. To achieve a calming effect on your cat’s nervous system, these prescription medications enhance the effect of a specific neurotransmitter in your cat’s brain. They are usually not recommended for long-term anxiety management due to the risks of side effects and dependency. Common benzodiazepines include diazepam, lorazepam, alprazolam, and clonazepam.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are commonly prescribed for long-term anxiety management in cats. By blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in your cat’s brain, SSRIs help increase the levels of this neurotransmitter that can help regulate your cat’s mood, emotions, and anxiety. These medications typically take several weeks to reach full effectiveness, so it’s important to consistently administer the medication over time to see results. Unlike benzodiazepines, these are usually not prescribed for short-term anxiety triggers. SSRIs your veterinarian may prescribe include fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine, and citalopram. There are also serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs), such as trazodone, that your veterinarian may explore.

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

Often used when other treatments aren’t effective, TCAs may be prescribed for long-term anxiety management for cats. TCAs block the reuptake of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and norepinephrine. By increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters, TCAs reduce your cat's anxiety symptoms by regulating mood and emotions. Similar to SSRIs, these prescription medications can take a few weeks to become fully effective. You should always follow the direction of your veterinarians and make sure to provide consistent administration of TCAs for your cat to see the full benefits. Your veterinarian may recommend TCAs such as amitriptyline, clomipramine, or imipramine.

Additional Techniques for Managing Anxiety in Cats

Build Your Cat’s Confidence with Behavioral Training

You may be able to reduce your cat’s anxiety from stressful triggers. One approach is positive reinforcement, which involves rewarding your cat’s calm behavior with treats or affection. Another approach is desensitization, where you gradually expose your cat to the source of their anxiety in a controlled manner. You can also try to maintain a consistent daily routine for your cat, which can provide them with a sense of security.

Create a Stress-Free Environment for Your Cat

A peaceful environment can significantly reduce your cat's anxiety. Consider making safe spaces in your home—hiding spots or high perches where your cat can retreat and feel safe. This may be especially helpful when introducing new people or pets to your home. Additionally, make sure you play with your cat on a regular basis. These play sessions can help burn off your cat’s nervous energy.

Provide Your Cat with Proper Nutrition

Diet plays a crucial role in your cat's overall health, including their mental well-being. Ensure your cat is eating a balanced diet that is rich in essential nutrients. Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids and specific supplements designed for stress can be beneficial for your cat.

Get Next-day Cat Anxiety Treatment with Mixlab

Do you need short- or long-term cat anxiety treatment? Mixlab has you and your cat covered. Once you get a prescription from your veterinarian, we can fill it with customizable compounding and free next-day delivery. Get in touch with our team to get started. Your cat will feel more relaxed in no time!