Cat hiding under curtain
We all know there’s no place like home — home is where we feel safe and comfortable. And, of course, we want that same feeling for our cats. But while you might feel relaxed at home, your cat may be stressed out — and it may be your own behavior that is causing his anxiety.

Many cat owners are unaware of the ways in which their actions affect their cats, and they may assume that a cat’s behavioral issues are just something that has to be tolerated. But while some behavioral problems, like eliminating outside the litterbox, may have an underlying medical cause, many can be resolved with some simple tweaks to the cat’s home situation.

If you have concerns about your cat’s behavior — especially if you have noticed changes recently — start by talking to your veterinarian to determine if there are any medical issues that need to be addressed. If your cat’s issue isn’t medical, there may be changes you can make at home to address the unwanted behavior. Here are five common ways cat owners cause their felines stress — and some simple strategies for change.

5 Ways You Might Be Making Your Cat Anxious

Expecting your cat to just roll with life’s chaos. For most cat owners, home is the hub of family life. Kids run in and out; neighbors stop by; doors open and close. We take the chaos for granted, and because it doesn’t bother us, we may not realize how stressful it can be for our cats. But your cat may need to get away from the hustle and bustle of family life. One simple solution is to set up a cat-friendly sanctuary your cat can retreat to when needed. The space should always be accessible to your cat and should include all of his essentials — food, water, scratching post, hiding space, litterbox, bed, climbing space or perch, and cat-safe toys — in an area of your home that is off limits to kids, visitors and other pets.

Constantly changing your cat’s routine. Cats prefer predictability. For many felines, changes in routine can lead to stress, which can result in negative side effects, like vomiting, decreased food intake and increased eliminations outside the litterbox. Maintaining a predictable routine, with regular feeding and playtimes, reduces stress, which can help your cat stay healthier and mesh better into a shared life with humans.

Ignoring your cat’s social and engagement needs. We think of cats as independent and aloof, but that’s not necessarily the case. A cat can get attached to the people he lives with and can become upset when he’s left alone or not given enough attention. If you have a social feline, it is important to provide regular social interactions for him (playtime or training), as well as providing activities for him to engage in when you’re not around. You can do this by leaving him with toys, food puzzles and cat-safe grasses, as well as by modifying his environment by adding perches, climbing structures, scratching posts, hiding spots or a view of a fish tank (as long as the fish aren’t in danger) or bird feeder.

Adding another cat to the family. Some felines are socialites who enjoy company, but others do better on their own. For these cats, another animal is more likely to be viewed as an intruder than a welcome guest or new friend. If you are considering adding a second cat, focus on matching cats with similar temperaments. A social cat will most often adjust well to another social cat with a similar temperament and activity level, while a rambunctious, playful kitten may not get on well with an older cat who is timid or easily upset. And regardless of temperament, the new and old cats need to be introduced gradually, in order to give both cats time to adjust to their new living situation.

Blaming your cat for bad behavior. Most feline behavioral challenges are manageable and resolvable if addressed properly. In the situation of inappropriate eliminations outside of the litterbox, for instance, there are a variety of underlying causes and ways to resolve the issue. Pooping outside the litterbox may be a sign of a medical condition — or it can signal that your cat is feeling anxious about sharing the box with another feline. Regardless of the behavior, it is important to address the problem at its root cause and seek veterinary guidance in case there is a medical issue. Once you know why your cat is behaving the way he is, you can take steps to manage and prevent the problem behavior and train a better response to the situation.

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