How to act when meeting a strange cat

It takes time, but a new cat can become part of the tribe

How to act when meeting a strange cat

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If you enjoy being a cat owner, chances are you’ll want to own more than one cat. There are good reasons for owning more than one. While cats are capable of thriving in isolation, most cats are social creatures that enjoy the company of their own kind. In addition, it can be very difficult for a single cat to do well when left entirely alone, as often happens when their humans go off to work or, more significantly, take an extended vacation. Even with a cat-sitter showing up from time to time, cats get lonely.

Although sometimes cats will get along swimmingly in just a couple of hours, you should not be surprised to have a battle on your hands if you try to introduce your new cat too quickly. The time you spend on this all-important process will be saved exponentially by not having to break up conflicts every day. Also, the first couple of weeks can set the tone for the relationship for a long time to come, so "getting it right" the first time will save a lot of hassles later on.

Consider the Implications of Adding Cats

While it’s not always possible to foresee how two cats will interact, there are some rules of thumb for selecting a cat or kitten to add to the group.

  • If you are thinking of getting a kitten to keep an older cat company, you might want to consider two kittens. They will be able to keep each other company while the older cat learns to love them.
  • If you already have more than one cat, use the “alpha cat” for preliminary introductions. Once it accepts the newcomer, the other resident cats will quickly fall in line.
  • If you can, do your best to match personalities. For example, if you have a mellow, laid-back cat at home, chances are it’ll be overwhelmed by an aggressive or high-energy housemate.
  • If possible, ask a friend to deliver the new cat to your home, in its cage. You can act nonchalant as if it’s no big deal, then later let your resident cats think it’s their idea to welcome the newcomer.

Be Patient With Your Cats

The process of introduction can take from two hours to six months, so don't be discouraged if your cats don't seem to get along well at first. Often the case is that they will eventually be "best buddies." Lots of snuggle time and attention is indicated for all cats concerned during this period. Remember, the prime goal is to get them to associate pleasure with the presence of each other.

With patience and perseverance, you can turn what might appear at first as an "armed camp" into a haven of peace for your integrated feline family. Congratulations on giving another cat in need a permanent home!

How to act when meeting a strange cat

Set up a Safe Room

Set up a comfortable “safe room” for the new cat. Put its food, water, litter box (not near the food), scratching post, toys, and bed or another sleeping mat there. Expect a great deal of “hissy-spitty” behavior through the closed door from both cats. This is natural and normal; they are just starting to explore their “pecking order.”

Let Cats Smell Each Other

The scent is very important for cats. Let each of them smell the other indirectly, by rubbing a towel on one and letting the other smell it. They will soon accept the scent as a normal part of the house.

Switch Roles

Once or twice, switch roles. Put the new cat in the normal living quarters, and let your resident cat sniff out the new cat's safe room.

Allow Cats to Glimpse One Another

After a day or so, let the two cats sniff each other through a baby gate or through a barely-opened door. Gauge the rate at which they seem to be acclimating to each other.

Supervise a First Meeting

When you think they're ready, let them mingle under your supervision. Ignore hissing and growling, but you may have to intervene if a physical battle breaks out. Again, take this step slowly, depending on how quickly they get along. If they do seem to tolerate each other, even begrudgingly, praise both of them profusely.

Connect Pleasure to Being Together

Make their first activities together enjoyable ones so they will learn to associate pleasure with the presence of the other cat. Feeding (with their own separate dishes), playing, and petting. Keep up with the praise.

Problems and Proofing Behavior

Do your best to follow these steps to help your new pet integrate successfully into your household. Remember to give both cats plenty of praise and attention, and don't forget to continue with any routines you've established with your existing pet.

It can take several tries before your cats really begin to accept one another. If things start going badly, separate them again, and then start where you left off. If one cat seems to consistently be the aggressor, give it some "time out," then try again a little bit later.

Once you're sure your cats are interacting well under your direct supervision, you will need to "proof" their behavior. To do this:

How to act when meeting a strange cat

This can be due to the terrible noises they make and the way they hold the female during the mating process. I was going to put a video on the page but I just found it too much.

This page will take you through a normal mating so that you will learn what normal behavior in these circumstances is and to waylay any concerns or worries you may have at the time.

Cat Mating Age

How to act when meeting a strange cat

Female cats will normally have their first period of being in heat at around six to eight months of age but for some cats this may happen even earlier at around 3 and half months.

For the Male they normally begin to mature at around ten to twelve months of age but again this happen much earlier at around six months for some male cats.

It is therefore wise to note that if you do not wish your cat to have kittens or for your male to father any kittens that it is best to have them spayed / neutered at around 4 to 6 months of age.

The Cat Mating Ritual

How to act when meeting a strange cat

Both male and female cats will call when they are ready to mate; this can be loud and is known as caterwauling. It is an unusual meow and can sound like they are in distressed or in pain.

When a male finds a female he will continue to call to her and begin to circle her. At this point the female cat will either accept him or refuse him by hissing at him and flattening her ears against her head.

If the female is not ready to mate the male may still lay close by to her in the hope that she will change her mind, this can take some time.

When the female cat is ready to mate she will begin to display certain behavior to show her readiness such as:

  • Rubbing her head along the floor
  • Calling back to the male
  • Rubbing up against the Tom cat
  • Rolling around on her back

At this stage the male will grab the female on the back of the neck and he will mount her. Mating can be over very quickly and the female cat will often turn and attack the male afterwards.

The first mating induces ovulation in the female cat and so subsequent matings will happen to ensure that she has been fertilized. During her being in heat which can last several days after being fertilized she may mate with other male cats too and this is why litters can contain kittens with different fathers and so look very different from each other.

You may find these pages interesting too.

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  2. Cat Pregnancy

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Even when you’ve lived with them for years, cat behavior can be weird, and sudden changes are frustrating. It may seem like your misbehaving cat wants to ruin your life, but she might actually be telling you that something is wrong. Here are five things that might be happening with a cat acting weird.

How to act when meeting a strange cat

Is your cat acting weird? She might be sick. Photography © Tanchic | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

1. A cat acting weird might signal depression

A cat acting weird might be depressed. Remember how you felt the last time you got dumped? You stayed in bed all day, didn’t change your clothes, and ate only when your mom called and insisted that she was going to come over if you didn’t shove some food into your face right now.

How to help: What a depressed cat needs more than anything is patience and TLC. Coax him out of hiding with toys and treats while talking in soothing tones. Also try Tellington TTouch, or TTouch, which involves massaging him in circular motions, and give him a familiar blanket or article of clothing.

If all else fails, your vet can prescribe antidepressants.

2.Your cat is acting weird because she’s stressed

She hates change more than the most neurotic person you know, and since you moved, she’s been in full-blown fight-or-flight mode. Your new apartment is smaller, and all of your furniture is different. You also just started a full-time job, so she’s alone most of the day. Stress might be one of the reasons behind a cat acting weird.

How to help: Disrupt your cat’s routine as little as possible by keeping her in a separate room with her toys, litter box, food and bed while you pack and move. Then keep her in a safe room at your new place while you unpack and rearrange. Being surrounded by familiar items and smells will help her feel more at home. Additionally, before starting a new job, ease your cat into the routine by leaving her alone for increasing intervals each day and showering her with treats and attention when you return.

3. Your cat might feel threatened

You just brought home a new cat, and your old cat wants her dead. They run shrieking across the room, a footrace that ends in a furious flurry of fur. You’re afraid to leave them alone together, and they pee everywhere except the litter box.

How to help: Take a page from My Cat from Hell television host Jackson Galaxy. He makes sure that each cat has a safe place to eat and use the litter box, and he creates escape routes with cat trees and shelves. This lets cats know their territory is not under siege. Playing with the cats simultaneously can also redirect the energy they normally use to beat the crap out of each other.

4. Your cat is acting weird because she’s sick

It’s merely an inconvenience when you step in a lukewarm pile of kitty kibble barf-mash at 6 a.m., but it can become worrisome if your cat’s vomiting happens daily. It doesn’t help that evolutionarily, a sick cat is a dead cat; therefore, cats are excellent at hiding signs of illness. If your cat isn’t eating, drinks excess water, seems lethargic, hides for more than a day, stops using the litter box or suddenly changes temperament, she might be telling you something is wrong. The protrusion of her “third eyelid” can also indicate illness.

How to help: Odds are it’s nothing major, but to be sure you’re not overlooking a potentially serious health problem, a cat acting weird with these symptoms should be seen by a vet.

5. Your cat might not be your biggest fan

Well, technically this might be your boyfriend’s cat, but the two of you just don’t jibe. You try to pet him and he hides under the coffee table. Then he emerges a few minutes later and lavishes your boyfriend with headbutts right in front of you.

How to help: Realize that sometimes a cat acting weird simply might not like you. Just like humans, cats have distinct personalities, so you’re not going to get along with all of them. They’re kind of like children: Even though we’re not supposed to have a favorite, we do.

Tell us: Is your cat acting weird? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments!

In my last post I introduced the topic of cat cognition and what we broadly know about how these animals think. In this post I’m going to talk more specifically about what we understand about cats’ interactions with the animal they spend most time with: us.

Sensitivity to human cues

Since cats have both been bred to be domestic and spend a lot of time with humans, we would expect them to pick up on human cues to some extent. However, anyone who has owned a cat knows that they are not always as responsive as you might want them to be.

One way in which we frequently attempt to interact with the animals that live with us is by pointing at things. It is possible that this shows our limitations rather than our animal friends since this is a particularly human means of communication. However, in 2005 a study by Miklósi et al. demonstrated that cats could indeed follow human gestures to find food. The researchers also investigated whether, when unable to solve a task, whether the cats turned to the humans for help at all. They did not.

Another study looked to see whether cats turn to humans when unsure about a certain situation. This ‘social referencing’ is something that we do both as children and as adults, for example a clown might initially seem terrifying but if everyone else is having a good time we may quickly learn that this isn’t a situation to be feared (there are always exceptions to this of course). To see whether cats do this too, the researchers exposed cats to a potentially scary fan with streamers. The cat was brought into a room with their owner and the fan was put on. The owner was then told to act either neutral, scared of the fan, or happy and relaxed around the fan. The researchers found that most cats (79%) looked between the fan and their human owner, seeming to gage their response. The cats also responded to the emotional response of their owner, being more likely to move away from the fan when their owner was looking scared, as well as being more likely to interact with their owner. It’s difficult to know how to interpret this, but the authors suggest that the cats may have been seeking security from their owner.

Other research has also shown that cats are sensitive to human moods, being less likely to approach people who were feeling sad and more likely to approach people who described themselves as feeling extroverted or agitated. However, why this should be isn’t clear.

Human voice recognition

Two researchers, Saito and Shinozuka in 2013 demonstrated that cats can recognise their owner’s voice. To test this, the researchers played cats recordings of either their owner calling them or other people calling their name. The cats were the most responsive to their owner calling. This response was mostly seen in terms of the cat moving its ears or head, rather than walking towards the voice as a dog might.

Vocal communication

Kittens have around 9 different types of vocalisation, while adults have around 16 different types. Interestingly, domestic and feral cats also differ from each other in their vocalisations, implying that their relationships with humans influences how cats ‘talk’. Perhaps one of the most renowned vocalisations of cats is their purr. Cats don’t just purr when being stroked by humans, they also use it in interactions with each other and with their kittens. What’s more, cats alter their purr to change the meaning of the vocalization. For example, when asking for food from owners, cats’ purrs change, becoming more ‘urgent’ and ‘less pleasant’ (McComb et al. 2009). When asking for food, a high-frequency miaow is usually also embedded within the lower-pitch purr. However, whether this food solicitation call is specific to cats’ relationship to humans or whether they use it in other contexts, is currently unknown.

Attachment to owner

In 2007, Edwards et al. carried out the unusually-named ‘Ainsworth Strange Situation Test’ in order to test whether cats were more attached to their owners than to a random human. In this test, the cat was essentially placed in a room and experienced being alone, being with their human owner and being with an unknown human. The researchers found that cats spent more time allogrooming (head-butting) their owners than the stranger. They also only ever followed and played with their owner and never with the stranger. The cats were generally more exploratory and moved around more when their owner was in the room compared to the stranger. Both when alone and with the stranger, the cat generally spent more time being alert and sitting by the door. They vocalised the most when alone (compared to when with either human). Thus it seems that cats do have attachment to their owners that is stronger than with a random human, which is perhaps somewhat comforting to know.

Cats also seem to experience separation anxiety, which also indicates that they feel attachment to their owners. When separated from their human owners, cats are more likely to display stress behaviours such as urinating and defecating in inappropriate locations, excessive vocalisation, destructiveness and excessive grooming.

While the studies that exist on cat cognition have helped illuminate some of the abilities of our elusive housemates, there are still large parts of cat behaviour that remain understudied and mean we still don’t understand many aspects of cat behaviour. A greater understanding of cats’ behaviour and our influence on it will lead to better human-cat interactions, cat welfare and therefore the number of cats that are given to shelters and euthanized.

Main reference

Shreve, K. R. V., & Udell, M. A. (2015). What’s inside your cat’s head? A review of cat (Felis silvestris catus) cognition research past, present and future. Animal cognition, 18, 1195-1206.

Other references

Edwards, C., Heiblum, M., Tejeda, A., & Galindo, F. (2007). Experimental evaluation of attachment behaviors in owned cats. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 2, 119-125.

McComb K, Taylor AM, Wilson C, Charlton BD (2009) The cry embedded within the purr. Current Biology 19, R507–R508.

Miklósi, Á., Pongrácz, P., Lakatos, G., Topál, J., & Csányi, V. (2005). A comparative study of the use of visual communicative signals in interactions between dogs (Canis familiaris) and humans and cats (Felis catus) and humans. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 119, 179.

Saito, A., & Shinozuka, K. (2013). Vocal recognition of owners by domestic cats (Felis catus). Animal cognition, 16, 685-690.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Cats are naturally conditioned to mask when they’re not feeling well, so it can be difficult to detect signs of cat illness right away. However, when a cat is sick, there can be some noticeable changes in their behavior.

In fact, cat behavior often changes long before you start seeing any physical symptoms—so be on the lookout for fluctuations in the way your cat behaves, and see your veterinarian if you notice something unusual.

Here are 10 weird cat behaviors that could be signs your cat is sick.

Your Cat Is Suddenly Eating a Lot

A lot of people would worry if their cat stops eating, but an increase in appetite could also be a sign of a sick cat.

“Sudden appetite changes can indicate your cat has underlying health problems and warrants a visit to the veterinarian,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH of Animal Acupuncture in NYC. “Increased appetite can be due to endocrine disorders, such as diabetes or even hyperthyroidism, or nutrient malabsorption issues such as intestinal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.”

Image: Africa Studio/

Your Kitty Is Drinking More Than Usual

Increased water intake can definitely be a sign of a sick cat, according to Dr. Kelly Ryan, DVM, director of veterinary services at the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Medical Center of Mid-America. “And while cats need plenty of fresh water, drinking too much can indicate kidney disease in cats, diabetes or thyroid problems,” Dr. Ryan says.

Image: superbank stock/

He’s Not Grooming as Much as He Used to

Cats can stop grooming for a multitude of reasons, and this can be a sign that your cat is sick and should see a veterinarian, according to Dr. Barrack. “For example, overweight cats may not be physically able to groom,” says Dr. Barrack. “In addition, obesity can cause many health problems, including cancer, diabetes and decreased life expectancy and quality of life.”

Decreased grooming can also be connected to pain from dental disease, injury or arthritis, according to Dr. Barrack. “In senior cats, decreased grooming may be attributable to senility,” she adds.

Image: Bogdan Sonjachnyj/

He's Suddenly Very Vocal

Meowing is an important way that cats communicate with humans, so if they are sick they may be more vocal, and the sound of their meow might be different, explains Dr. Ryan.

One thing to keep in mind is that some cats are more vocal than others, so just because your cat is talking, it doesn’t mean he’s sick. “However, if you normally have a quiet kitty who’s now meowing a lot, it might be time for a vet visit,” says Dr. Ryan.

The opposite is also true. Take notice if your vocal cat becomes unexpectedly quiet. “Always consider your cat’s normal behavior, and if there are any changes, it is best to call the veterinarian,” says Dr. Ryan.

His Breath Is Not the Freshest

Eighty-five percent of cats have periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old, and bad breath is one sign, according to Dr. Ryan. “Talk to your veterinarian at each wellness visit about dental cleanings and what you can do at home to prevent dental disease; not only does dental disease cause bad breath, but it can lead to more serious issues like kidney, liver and heart problems.”

While dental disease is the most common cause of bad breath in cats, there could be other reasons for bad breath. “A cat with diabetes may have a sweet-smelling breath along with increased thirst and urination,” Dr. Ryan says. “A cat with kidney disease, on the other hand, can have breath that smells like ammonia because the kidneys aren’t able to filter waste products adequately.”

Image: Greg Brave/

He's Not Using the Litter Box Properly

When your kitty stops using the cat litter box, the underlying reason can be behavioral or medical, according to Dr. Barrack. “Behavioral reasons are usually attributable to changes in the household causing stress—a move, a new roommate (furry or human), new cat litter or less time with the owner,” Dr. Barrack explains.

“Medical issues can also cause your cat to stop using the box and may include arthritis, cancer, feline interstitial cystitis, kidney stones or urinary tract infections. Bring your cat to your veterinarian to determine if there is a medical cause of the inappropriate elimination,” says Dr. Barrack.

Image: Plotnikova Tatiana/

Your Cat’s Pupils Don’t Look Right

Pupil size changes noticeably in cats depending on the amount of light they’re exposed to, but if the changes happen at random times, or if they persist, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

“Dilated pupils, constricted pupils (when the pupils look very small) or one pupil that is dilated and the other is constricted can all be a sign of illness,” says Dr. Ryan. “Because these changes can happen normally throughout the day, it’s important to consult your veterinarian if you notice a change lasting over a long period of time.”

Keep on the lookout for other indications of cat illness that are connected to the eyes, including discharge, droopy eyes or the third eyelid covering part of the eye, as well as more generalized symptoms like lethargy or a poor appetite. These can all be signs of a sick kitty.

How to act when meeting a strange cat

Female cats who haven’t been spayed will go into heat in a cyclical fashion. Cats in heat can mean a lot of work for a cat parent, especially if they’re keeping the cat intact specifically for breeding. If your cat is not spayed and she is acting strangely, there’s a chance she’s in heat.

A cat is in heat, or enters her estrus cycle, when she’s fertile and ready to mate. Female cats who are ready to breed and are in heat are known as “queens.”

Estrus is normally seasonal, as queens go into heat in the spring and in the fall. Certain factors like your cat’s age, how many intact male cats are in the area, and your cat’s overall health can also affect when she goes into heat.

Here’s what you should know about female cats going into heat and what you can do about it.

When Do Female Cats Go In Heat?

How to act when meeting a strange cat

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Non-spayed female cats can start going into heat, or estrus, as early as four months of age. A cat’s first heat usually occurs during puberty, which is between six and ten months for a kitten.

While a cat in heat technically means that the cat is ready for mating, it’s not advised to breed a kitten or allow her to get pregnant during her first heat. Her body is still growing, and becoming pregnant could lead to health issues.

Estrus lasts approximately four to five days. If a female cat doesn’t become pregnant during this time, she will re-enter heat in roughly two to three weeks.

This is one of many reasons that, if you are not planning on breeding your cat, you should have her spayed to avoid this cycle.

How Often Do Cats Go Into Heat?

How to act when meeting a strange cat

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Cats are polyestrus breeders, which means they can go through several heat periods in a year. They’re able to have as many as five litters in a calendar year.

Cats are known as induced-ovulators, which means the actual act of mating induces ovulation, or causes the egg to go to the uterus. Every time a queen copulates during her heat cycle, an egg is traveling to her uterus to meet the male cat’s sperm.

This means that one litter of kittens can have more than one father!

What Are The Signs Of A Cat In Heat?

How to act when meeting a strange cat

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If your female cat is not spayed and seems to be acting a bit strange, she could be in heat. Here are common signs that female cats are in heat:

  • Excessive vocalizing. If your cat is normally quiet and will not stop yowling, chances are she’s calling out for a mate.
  • Super affectionate. If your female cat’s affection level has risen, it could be a sign that she’s in heat. Cats in heat will rub up against any surface, including you, to spread their individual scents. Cats scents change when they’re in heat. Kitty is letting every tomcat know she’s looking for a sire.
  • She wants out of the house. Indoor female cats who all of a sudden are incredibly determined to get outside may be in heat. She may smell a possible mate outside, or she wants to continue spreading her scent to advertise her availability. If you have an outdoor cat, she may not return as frequently.
  • Excessive licking of the genitals. Cats who are in heat may have a swollen vulva or a slight discharge. If your female cat is spayed, this could be a sign of an infection.
  • She assumes the position. Cats in heat will present themselves for potential mates by flattening the front of their bodies on the ground and sticking out their rear ends. This makes it easier for male cats to mate with them.

Can I Spay My Cat While She Is In Heat?

How to act when meeting a strange cat

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Yes, you can have your cat spayed while she is in heat, but many vets will advise waiting until her heat cycle is over.

During a cat’s heat cycle, her reproductive organs become engorged with blood. This makes spaying a more time-consuming operation, and depending on the facility, may cost more than a spay done when a cat is not in heat.

If your number one priority is to not have a pregnant cat, you should get your cat spayed as soon as possible, even if she is in heat.

How Can I Keep My Cat Calm While She’s In Heat?

How to act when meeting a strange cat

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While your cat is in heat, she may experience some added stress and anxiety. It’s important to keep your cat calm and comfortable during this time.

Each cat is an individual, so your approach will have to depend on your own unique cat.

Some cats may prefer extra petting, brushings, and attention to relax. Extra exercise can help burn off some energy and reduce stress, too, so you may wish to try some active games that get your cat moving.

Other cats prefer to be left alone and hide when they feel anxious. If your cat feels more relaxed when she’s on her own, try providing her with a safe, quiet space where she can retreat. A carrier, cat bed, or enclosed area — even a box with blankets — might give her a nice place to calm down.

A heating pad might also help your cat relax and stay warm. Many cats find catnip or pheromone products to be relaxing. You should only use these products if they help your cat stay calm when she’s not in heat. Some cats get too excited by these products, and you won’t be helping by providing them during a heat cycle.

What Else Should I Do For My Cat While She’s In Heat?

How to act when meeting a strange cat

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One thing you must do, regardless of how you manage your cat’s stress, is secure your feline’s home and environment. It’s best that you do not allow your cat outside during her heat cycle, and you certainly don’t want male cats prowling around your property.

Keep windows and doors closed when possible, and make sure there are no holes in screens or crevices where your cat can get out or where male cats can slip into your home. Cats can easily fit through very small spaces, and male cats will be especially motivated if they sense a female in heat.

Clean your female cat’s litter box regularly. A clean litter box will encourage her to use that space to go potty and may reduce spraying around the home.

A cat in heat can be a handful, to say at the least. Spaying your female cat will not only prevent her from going into heat in the future, but it will also prevent her from getting pregnant or trying to escape while she’s in heat.

Has your cat gone into heat before? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below!

We as humans know how unsettling stress can feel. It can affect our ability to process thought, our daily routines and sometimes even result in serious health conditions. Cats are also susceptible to stress and their senses are more easily affected than their human counterparts. So, what are the causes of stress in cats, what are the signs of stress in cats and how do we help stressed cats? Let’s take a look:

Causes of stress in cats

How to act when meeting a strange cat

What causes stress in cats and what are the signs of stress in cats? Photography ©PhenomArtlover | iStock / Getty Images.

Those of us who share our lives with felines are aware of particular stress triggers that are unique to our cats. Some of the more common causes of stress in cats include:

  • Changes in food or litter brand
  • Dirty litter box
  • New additions to the home — people or things
  • Strange animals outside the home
  • Repairs happening within the home
  • Loud sounds like music or fireworks
  • Inability to relocate to a secure area in the home

Signs of stress in cats

When it comes to the signs of stress in cats, cat behaviorist Pam Johnson Bennett says, “Cats don’t all show the same signs when it comes to stress, and they can be easy to overlook. You might attribute your cat’s change in behavior to something else, or the stress effects might happen so gradually that you aren’t even aware that there is a change in how your cat behaves. If your cat tends to hide on a regular basis, it can be easy to not notice that her stress level has increased.”

A list of some of the signs of stress in cats include:

Alleviating stress in cats

If you’re noticing any of these signs of stress in cats, consult a veterinarian to make sure there are no major health concerns at play. Once those are ruled out, it’s time to look for ways to help kitty and alleviate some — or all — of that stress. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Think vertically: Cats like to be able to relocate to a safe space if they feel threatened by a person or another animal. Cat trees are a great way to provide a safety zone.
  2. Gradually initiate change: Cats are creatures of habit, so abrupt changes — even small ones — can affect them in big ways. If you’re switching brands of food or litter, transition gradually by adding a little at a time to their existing brands until the switch is complete.
  3. Keep litter boxes clean: Kitties are fussy about their “bathrooms.” Scoop their boxes several times a day, and completely dump and add fresh litter once a week.
  4. Behind closed doors: If your cat is stressed by strangers inside the home, move her to a quiet space behind a closed door.
  5. Keep noise to a minimum: Some cats are more sensitive to noise than others. If yours is on the sensitive side, be mindful of how loudly you play your music, and place kitty in another room while vacuuming or using the blender or hairdryer.
  6. Regularly play with and exercise your cat: If your cat is wary of certain areas of your home, initiate play in that area to help her build confidence.
  7. Interactive toys: Distracted cats can be less likely to experience stress. While you’re away, leave puzzle toys and other environmentally enriching activities for your cat to discover.

The bottom line on stress in cats

Remain aware of the signs of stress in cats, and always check with your vet to rule out health concerns when you notice stressful behavior. Then, make the changes in your home or routine that will help keep kitty feeling safe, comfortable and confident.

July is the CHILL ZONE on! Learn how to keep your cat cool, calm and collected this summer with articles on preventing summer mishaps, staving off stress and more.

Thumbnail: Photography ©MarynaVoronova | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

How to act when meeting a strange cat

Have you ever wondered why your two cats don’t get along and yet your neighbor’s four cats all live in harmony? Many cat parents live in households with more than one cat and there are no issues, but for others, tension is ongoing. What causes some cats to simply not get along? And, could you be missing some subtle signs that indicate all is not peaceful between your cats?

There’s a very long list of reasons why the cats in your home may not get along, including lack of socialization, poorly done socialization, medical issues and so much more. From what I see during many of my in-home visits though, the most common reasons are:

How the environment is set up

The cat parent’s lack of awareness regarding subtle signs of conflict

Number and Placement of Resources for Your Cats

Even though cats are social animals, it’s their nature to hunt alone. They don’t hunt in packs and the prey they pursue is very small – enough for one meal. Even if your indoor cat doesn’t engage in outdoor hunting, he’s hardwired to be protective of his resources. Some cats are more concerned with their resources than others.

How to act when meeting a strange cat

Conflict Between Cats Bubbling Below the Surface

The social interaction between your cats goes smoothly when everyone feels they don’t have to compete for food, safe places to eliminate and safe napping areas. In many households though, I see cats put in an environment where there’s ongoing competition for resources and not enough personal space. The tension and conflict between the cats may be subtle enough that the cat parents don’t even notice or they misinterpret it until the situation gets to the point where one cat starts spending more time alone or all-out war is declared with fur flying and banshee screams. You may have not realized the subtle signs of conflict during mealtime as one cat consistently backs off when the other cat enters the room. You may not have paid much attention during playtime to how one cat is the main participant when you get out a single interactive toy for both cats. Or maybe you’ve just gotten used to the fact that one cat claims your bed at night and won’t let the other cat up there.

The cat’s meow is her way of communicating with people. Cats meow for many reasons—to say hello, to ask for things, and to tell us when something’s wrong. Meowing is an interesting vocalization in that adult cats don’t actually meow at each other, just at people. Kittens meow to let their mother know they’re cold or hungry, but once they get a bit older, cats no longer meow to other cats. But they continue to meow to people throughout their lives, probably because meowing gets people to do what they want. Cats also yowl—a sound similar to the meow but more drawn out and melodic. Unlike meowing, adult cats do yowl at one another, specifically during breeding season.

When does meowing become excessive? That’s a tough call to make, as it’s really a personal issue. All cats are going to meow to some extent—this is normal communication behavior. But some cats meow more than their pet parents would like. Bear in mind that some breeds of cats, notably the Siamese, are prone to excessive meowing and yowling.

Why Cats Meow

These are the most common reasons why cats meow:

  • To greet people. Your cat can be expected to meow in greeting when you come home, when she meets up with you in the house and when you speak to her.
  • To solicit attention. Cats enjoy social contact with people, and some will be quite vocal in their requests for attention. The cat may want to be stroked, played with or simply talked to. Cats who are left alone for long periods of time each day may be more likely to meow for attention.
  • To ask for food. Most cats like to eat, and they can be quite demanding around mealtimes. Some cats learn to meow whenever anyone enters the kitchen, just in case food might be forthcoming. Others meow to wake you up to serve them breakfast. Cats also learn to beg for human food by meowing.
  • To ask to be let in or out. Meowing is the cat’s primary way to let you know what she wants. If she wants to go outside, she’ll likely learn to meow at the door. Likewise, if she’s outdoors and wants in, she’ll meow to get you to let her back inside. If you’re trying to transition a cat from being indoor-outdoor to living exclusively indoors, you may be in for a period of incessant meowing at doors and windows. This is a difficult change for a cat to make, and it will very likely take weeks or even months for the meowing to stop.
  • Elderly cats suffering from mental confusion, or cognitive dysfunction, may meow if they become disoriented—a frequent symptom of this feline version of Alzheimer’s Disease. For more information, please read our article on Behavior Problems in Older Cats.
  • To find a mate. Reproductively intact cats are more likely to yowl. Females yowl to advertise their receptivity to males, and males yowl to gain access to females.

Take Your Cat to the Veterinarian

A cat who meows a lot should be checked thoroughly by a veterinarian to ensure a medical condition is not the cause of the cat’s distress. Numerous diseases can cause cats to feel unusually hungry, thirsty, restless or irritable—any of which is likely to prompt meowing. Even if your cat has a history of meowing for food, you should still have her checked by your veterinarian. As cats age, they’re prone to developing an overactive thyroid and kidney disease, and either one may result in excessive meowing.

Helping Your Cat Be Less Vocal

Before you try to curb your cat’s excessive vocalizing, you need to determine the cause. Look at the circumstances around her meowing and make note of what seems to get her to stop. It may help to keep a log book so you can look for any patterns in when she becomes especially vocal. Once you identify when she’s likely to meow excessively, try these suggestions to help her control her vocalizations: