Common Causes of Pet Stress

Many common situations and experiences can be stressful for pets – a bit like their owners! Not all animals are stressed by the same thing. For example, some cats may be stressed by a party in their house whereas others relish the extra attention, and some dogs enjoy car journeys but others find the experience difficult to cope with.

Most pets are stressed by changes to their routine or environment. This includes big changes such as moving house or the arrival of a new baby, but even small events such as rearranging the furniture can stress some pets. Cats often find the presence of other cats very stressful – this may be due to living in a multi-cat household or other cats in their outside territory.

Common causes of stress

  • A stay at even the best Kennel or Cattery
  • Moving house
  • Sudden noises e.g fireworks, thunder and lightning
  • New arrival in the home e.g. new baby, new pet
  • New cat moving into outdoor territory
  • Home alone
  • Vet or groomer visits
  • Multi-cat environment (indoor or outside territory)
  • Christmas period

Stress is all too common for our pets – for example, just under 50% of UK dogs (and many cats) are affected by fireworks. In a recent survey, 32% of dog owners thought their dog was stressed during a kennel stay and 11% planned not to leave their dog in kennels again.

Signs your pet may be stressed

Pets can’t tell us how they are feeling and coping, but they let us know by changing their behaviour. Every animal is different and pets show different responses to the same stress. For example some cats react to the arrival of a new baby by changing how they use their environment, perhaps staying outside for longer than usual, whereas others react by house soiling. Some dogs show their stress during a kennel stay with excessive barking, while others let us know by repeated pacing in their run. In fact, any change from their normal behaviour may be significant.

Some signs of stress are easier to recognise than others. Cats in particular commonly show stress by ‘withdrawal behaviours’ which are less obvious. Examples of withdrawal behaviours include increased hiding or reduced interaction. Common sign of stress include:

  • Changed demeanour e.g. altered posture, large pupils, tense muscles
  • Altered sleeping/resting patterns
  • Changed use of environment e.g. stops going into garden
  • Habits such as excessive licking
  • Excessive vocalisation
  • Changed resting places e.g. top of the wardrobe instead of the bed
  • Reduced play
  • Increased or decreased attachment to people or other pets
  • Increased or decreased social interaction
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