Is Your Cat Stressed? How Cats Calm Themselves

Is Your Cat Stressed? How Cats Calm Themselves

Do you know the signs that your cat is stressed? How about recognizing your cat’s natural behaviors to calm down? These are both incredibly important to understand – not only to understand your kitty’s behavior but also so you can respond correctly. Don’t be that cliché that over-cuddles their cats, stressing them out more rather than helping them chill out!


It’s pretty easy to recognize when your cat has a major freak-out in the face of stressful situations (e.g., LOUD! NOISES): widely dilated eyes, scaredy cat body language, hissing and running and hiding can all occur when a cat is suddenly and incredibly stressed by a particular situation.

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But what if the source of stress is less obvious? Something we don’t see? How can we tell our cat’s hanging by a thread then? I’m glad you asked! Any of these signs can mean a stressed feline:

Litter box problems. Your cat’s always been a model pooper (and pee-er, but that just looks weird with a hyphen and looks like I misspelled peer without it). But lately, your cat’s been doing their business outside the litter box. Are they doing this because they hate you? Of course not. It’s a sign that something’s stressing them out – from health concerns to feeling insecure in their territory.

Singing the song of their people. Has your cat been crying a lot? Any out-of-character cries or constant meowing in your kitty is something you should absolutely listen to – less frustration and telling them to shut up, more sleuthing to find out what might be stressing them.

Too much bath time. If your cat’s been grooming excessively – like, they can’t stop licking themselves at all and there are bald or raw spots happening – or if they’ve been scratching too much, you’ve got a stressed cat on your hands.

Self-imposed isolation. Is your cat hiding all the time? It’s not because they’re that in love with the Cattish Realm of the Underbed. They’re not disappearing into your closet because they’re taking field trips to Narnia either.

The Great Depression. Is your cat not chowing down with gusto at mealtimes? They’re not watching their feline figure. Or are they sleeping all the time? And, yeah, I do mean more than the 62% of the day they normally spend on the somnolent arts.

Such An Angry Kitty. Have you lately noticed that your cat’s behaviors read like that fancy 19th century novel Dr. Purr-kyl and Mr. Hide-Your-Face-Cuz-I’m-Gonna-Scratch-It? Perhaps they’ve become aggressive towards people (not necessarily you) or other animals? Stress.


Cats have natural behaviors to calm themselves, just like people do. It’s important to recognize these for what they are, especially so you don’t disrupt the behavior by being overly touchy-feely and stress your cat out even more.

Goldilocks Grooming. I know, I know – I just said above that grooming is a sign of stress. But that is too much grooming. Just the right amount of grooming – Goldilocks grooming, if you will – is a soothing process for your kitty, and you’ll notice in situations of uncertainty (scary other cats!) that your cat may decide to ignore it and groom themselves a bit instead. Grooming is pleasant, after all, even if the situation is not. Besides, their mama cat used grooming to soothe them when they were wee. It’s been a reinforced stress-management process since birth.

Release the Purring. Yes, yes, we’re not 100% on why cats purr, but purring undeniably has a soothing effect on your kitty. They may purr when they’re hurt, they may purr when they’re stressed out – purring just seems to be a cat-centric cure-all. So if you’ve noticed your cat is stressed out and they’re in a secure location while purring – don’t drag them out of it like Aunt Myrtle on a hugging bender because you think the purring means they want to be cuddled. Let them do their thing.

Safe Spacing. Cat’s need to have multiple spaces in their home environment where they can withdraw and chill out. You should provide these for them! That way, when a cat is feeling stressed by a situation, they can give themselves a calming time out. Yes, the safe spacing is totally different from self-imposed isolation. It’s all about how long they stay hidden, and how they behave when they come out.

Cuddle Time. Sometimes a cat will look for comforting petting from you, but there are some guidelines you should follow! Our tabby man, Tiger Jack, has nightmares periodically: when he wakes from one, he’ll come up to me or my husband, settle next to us, and request petting while purring. He doesn’t want to be picked up or restrained. Just comforted. So if your cat seeks comfort from you, make sure you don’t move too fast or do something they don’t want. Let them guide you.

You should have a better understanding of your cat now: you’re well-armed to recognize when they’re stressed and might need help AND you’ve got the 411 on How Cats Chill. Not bad for one article! Drop us a note in the comments about any other stress signs or chill methods you’ve noticed in your feline friends.

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