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How to calm an agitated cat

Cats have earned a reputation for being skittish, easily startled, and emotionally fickle—and as anyone who has attempted to calm (let alone handle) a panicky cat can tell you, it can be a daunting task.

So, what can you do to calm an easily frightened feline? Here we’ll offer some simple tips you can use to calm your cat and restore it to its chill demeanor.

Know Your Cat’s Behaviors

Chances are, if you’ve had your cat for awhile, you know something about his or her personality. The feline fear response can be triggered by a variety of stimuli—such as thunderstorms, shouting, or unfamiliar people. By knowing what stimuli frighten or agitate your cat, you can help lessen or even preempt some of your pet’s anxiety. For example, if your cat tends to get stressed around strangers and you know you’re hosting a dinner party, you may want to consider isolating your pet in one single room (with access to food, water, and litter) for the duration of the event. For less controllable stimuli, like thunderstorms, giving your cat a safe and comfortable place to hunker down till the storm passes may be the best way to go.

Provide A Safe Space

Short-term stressors can cause significant anxiety is some cats. If you know the stimulus is temporary, the best strategy may be to let your cat ride it out in as safe a place as you can provide. Cats naturally tend to hide when they feel overwhelmed or frightened, and that’s okay. Don’t force a cat that fears strangers to socialize. Your cat (and you) will be calmer if it’s allowed to lay alone in a room with food, water, toys, and a comfy spot to sleep.

Tip: Some vertical space, like a carpeted cat tree, can help provide your cat with the feeling that he or she has an escape route if things get overwhelming.

Don’t Smother

While a hug or cuddle in times of stress might be reassuring to us, many cats find that being picked up or detained in any way only adds to their fight-or-flight response. Let your cat be a cat. If he or she wants your touch or comfort, they’ll come to you. Your cat’s body language will tell you if they’re able or willing to be handled. If they approach you with head raised and tail up, chances are they’re calm enough for a little contact. Don’t approach a cat that’s hiding or hissing. Though hissing is involuntary, it’s a sign that your cat is stressed and afraid.

Use Calming Sounds & Aromas

Some cat owners have found success in calming their frightened felines by controlling the home environment. A white noise machine, for example, can muffle the sounds of a party in the next room and provide a cat that’s afraid of strangers with a measure of calm. While essential oils are not recommended around cats (the smells are too intense for sensitive feline noses), scented mists and water-based suspensions called hydrosols with calming aromas like lavender can help a stressed cat to regain its calm demeanor.

Editor’s Note: Like humans, dogs and cats can also become stressed by changes in their life—from the arrival of a new baby to the sound of thunder. These tips will help you recognize and reduce stress in your pet.

Tips For Chronic Cat Anxiety

Some cats, like some humans, experience chronic anxiety—an ongoing, long-term state of hyperawareness and stress. Chronic anxiety in cats is often best addressed in partnership with your veterinarian. Your vet has a wide range of diagnostic and treatment options available. For example, a first stem might be to rue out a medical cause for your cat’s anxiety—such as hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism in cats can produce an increased state of agitation, as well as weight loss, gastric disturbances, and oily fur. By ruling out medical causes, the emotional roots of your cat’s stress can better be identified and treated. There are medications for cats with chronic anxiety, and these can be prescribed by your vet.

We hope these tips will help you and your cats live happier and more stress-free lives!

Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.


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