Have you ever wondered what behaviors are normal for your cat or dog, and which ones indicate they’re under stress? Sometimes it can be tricky to identify which is which. And because some behaviors are natural for our pets (like panting for dogs, scratching for cats), it can be hard to tell when the behavior crosses the line and becomes stress-related. So how do you know if it’s reached the point where your pet needs help managing stress?
These Pet Behaviors are Likely to be Stress-Related
While some of your pet’s actions might be more ambiguous, here are a few that are typically a reaction to stress:
- Hiding: Dogs are social creatures, so if he’s hiding behind furniture or under the bed, it’s an indication of dog stress or dog anxiety, possibly stemming from strangers, visitors, or loud noises like thunderstorms or fireworks.
- Spraying: If you find your cat spraying urine on vertical surfaces (as opposed to squatting and urinating on the floor or carpet), she’s marking territory. This is usually a reaction to some stressful disruption in her routine—a new pet, a new home, visitors, or even just a rearrangement of the furniture.
- Whining/howling: Puppies and dogs who are adjusting to a new home or fearful of being left by the pack (that’s you and your family) will often whine or howl to communicate their nervousness.
- Cat hissing: Cats in your household can feel threatened or stressed by other cats, which can lead to lots of hissing, stalking and/or fleeing from each other, or, even worse, spraying and increased scratching.
“BECAUSE SOME BEHAVIORS ARE NATURAL FOR OUR PETS, IT CAN BE HARD TO TELL WHEN THE BEHAVIOR CROSSES THE LINE AND BECOMES STRESS-RELATED.”
Help for Stressed Cats
- To help control spraying and vertical scratching caused by stress, the Comfort Zone Calming Diffuser releases a drug-free, odorless vapor that mimics a cat’s own natural, soothing pheromones.
- To reduce tension and conflict between cats, the Comfort Zone Multi-Cat Diffuser dispenses a synthetic pheromone that mother cats produce to help their kittens feel safe and secure. (This pheromone is different from the one used in Comfort Zone Calming Diffuser, and the two products can be used together.
The Gray Areas: Pet Behaviors on the Spectrum
What about those natural behaviors, like dog panting or cat scratching? Here are a few clues to understanding whether your pet is displaying stress…or just their normal animal nature.
- Cat Scratching: Cats scratch for a lot of reasons, including claw maintenance, stretching, and marking turf. But cats tend to scratch more, and vertically, when they’re under stress. Learn more about how to deter excessive scratching.
- Dog Panting: While dogs can sweat through their paws and nose (areas without fur) their primary method of cooling down is to pant. But if your dog hasn’t been playing or been outside in the heat, he may be panting because he’s nervous about loud noises or other stressful situations.
- Cat Urinating Outside the Litter Box: Cats do this for a lot of reasons. If she’s squatting and going on the floor or carpet, it could be because the litter box is dirty, in a noisy location, being blocked by another animal, or because of some health issue. But if she’s spraying (marking vertical surfaces), it’s very likely stress-related. Learn more here.
- Dog Shaking: Dogs tremble or shiver to warm themselves, just like people do. But if your dog isn’t cold or wet, his shaking is likely a physical reaction to a stressful situation.
All pets can feel stressed by travel or a trip to the vet. Try a few pumps of Comfort Zone Spray & Scratch Control Spray in your pet’s crate or carrier about 15 minutes before you put them inside. This contains synthetic versions of pheromones that soothe and comfort your pets, so their journeys are less stressful.