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9 Signs Your Cat is Stressed

By Stacy Painter
published: January 20, 2021 • 3 min. read
stressed cat hiding under couch

If you notice your cat behaving oddly, there’s a good chance she is experiencing some type of stress. There are several ways a cat shows her discomfort; review these cues to recognize when your cat is stressed so that you can get her the relief she needs. 


Seeking a safe place to hide is a common behavior for cats experiencing stress or anxiety. If your cat is hiding more than what is normal for her, it’s likely due to stress.

Tummy troubles

Vomiting, diarrhea or constipation can sometimes be caused by stress. However, be sure to get a vet check to rule out any other potential medical issues before assuming it’s due to stress.

Excessive shedding

Shedding beyond what is typical for your cat can be a sign of stress. This is a physiological response that is out of your cat’s control, so rather than getting frustrated at the extra cleanup duties, try to get to the bottom of what’s going on. 

Body language

Cats use their tails to express many different emotions. If your kitty’s tail is held low or tucked, it’s a sign that she’s feeling anxious or stressed.

In addition to their expressive tails, you can also glean some clues from a cat’s ears and eyes. Dilated pupils are an automatic physiological response when your cat feels like she is in a fight-or-flight situation. Pinned back ears are a sign of fear or anger.

Excessive grooming

Stressed cats will often obsessively over-groom themselves as a way of trying to self soothe. Behaviors include excessive licking and nibbling at their bodies. If this is the only symptom of stress you notice, be sure to get your vet’s opinion because it could also be due to allergies, fleas, or other pests. 

Excessive grooming can cause harm to your cat’s skin and eventually lead to infection, so it’s best to find resolve as soon as possible. 


Rather than hiding, some cats react to stressful situations with aggression towards other pets or people in the household. In this case, give your cat plenty of space and try to eliminate the stressor, or make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible if you think it may be a medical concern.


Yowling, wailing, growling and excessive meowing are ways your cat may try to communicate with you that she is in distress. 

Heavy breathing

In very high-stress situations, your cat’s heart rate and breathing may speed up. If you notice open-mouthed breathing or panting, seek immediate veterinary care.

Potty accidents

Urinating outside the litter box can signal a medical condition such as urinary tract infection, kidney disease, or bladder stones. But if your cat has a clean bill of health, then inappropriate urination is typically due to stressors like a change in the environment or routine.

How to relieve your cat’s stress

In many cases, the stressor is obvious, such as moving to a new home, adding a new pet to the household, or riding in the car. If you know what is stressing your cat, try your best to make her as comfortable as you can by creating a safe space.

If it’s not clear what is causing your cat to be stressed, it’s a good idea to see your veterinarian as soon as you can, in case of an underlying medical condition. Your vet may also have good advice on how to alleviate your cat’s stress. 

Being able to recognize signs of stress will help you quickly relieve your cat’s discomfort as soon as possible.

Stacy Painter profile
By Stacy Painter

Stacy has always been an animal lover and has worked in the pet industry and pet insurance specifically for over a decade. As a writer since early childhood, content writing for Healthy Paws pet insurance was a natural career path to combine her two passions. She currently lives in Florida with her boyfriend and Taiwanese rescue dog, Kaya.

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