Causes of stress in cats and dogs
We all have something that makes us feel nervous or stressed. It could be heights, the thought of getting on a plane or spiders. Like us, certain events or situations can cause our cats and dogs to feel stressed and anxious. Are there signs a cat or dog is stressed, but you’re unsure of the cause? Are you planning on changing your pet’s home environment? Do you want to make it as stress free as possible? We have put together a quick guide of the potential causes of stress in cats and dogs, and ways to help your pet through them.
As well as using the below dog and cat calming tips, we also recommend using a Beaphar calming product, which includes calming plug ins for cats and dogs, dog and cat calming spot-ons, as well as dog and cat calming sprays. The product you use should depend on your situation.
Signs of a stressed cat or dogSome signs include scratching furniture, excessive meowing or barking, hiding or withdrawing, changes in eating, grooming and activity levels, or urine spraying.
Moving house is stressful enough for people, but it also causes stress in cats and dogs. They are being taken away from their territory and put into a new environment with new smells and sounds. While you could explain to a child or young family member what is going on, we can’t do the same with our pets. So, planning around your cat or dog is a good idea.
How to calm a cat or dog during the stress of a house move:
- Minimise the stress for your cat or dog by moving them out last and moving them in first. Choose a quiet, favourite room in your old house and set your pet up there. Leave food, water, a litter tray for cats, their bed, toys and other familiar items. Dogs in particular can get stressed if they see you packing things up. Giving your dog their own space with familiar items can help.
- Once the rest of your old house is all packed up, collect your cat or dog. Then repeat the same process in reverse at your new home. Once everything is moved into your new home and you’re mostly unpacked, allow your pet to explore their new surroundings at their own pace. Remember to let the removal company or any friends who are helping know which room your pet is in in both houses and not to enter it.
- At your new house, keep cats inside for a few weeks before letting them outside. Until they consider it ‘their home’, they may try returning to your old house. Once you’re satisfied that your cat is comfortable inside, you can introduce them to their outside environment. Begin with short, supervised sessions to help them get used to their new outdoor space. Leave your contact details with the new owners of your old house in case your cat tries to venture back so you can be reunited quickly.
- Update your contact details on your cat or dog’s collar and microchip as soon as you move. It is a legal requirement to have your dog micro-chipped from 8 weeks of age and to keep the information up-to-date. We recommend cat owners do the same.
- When you introduce yourself to your neighbours, mention you have pets, particularly cats, in case the venture into their garden. It’s worth finding out if that have any pets too you need to be aware of.
For this situation, we recommend a dog or cat calming spray, like the Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Spray or the CatComort® Calming Spray to use in carriers and/or the vehicle your pet is travelling in. Alternatively, you can use a calming spot-on, like Beaphar CaniComfort Calming Spot-On or CatComfort Calming Spot-On, which will provide your pet with comfort and reassurance during their travels.
A new baby or pet
- Before your baby arrives, note where your cat or dog likes to spend most of their time and make this ‘their space’. This gives them somewhere quiet and safe to go to if they feel overwhelmed or anxious when the baby arrives.
- Turn on noisy baby toys and play recordings of a baby crying every now and then to help your pet get used to the extra noise.
- For dogs, if any elements of their training are lacking, address them before the baby arrives.
- Arrange for someone your pet knows to look after them while you’re giving birth, whether you’re planning a home birth or going to the hospital. Having someone else look after your pet means you don’t need to worry about them and they’ll have company while you’re not there.
- It is a good idea to introduce your pet to your baby’s smell before bringing your bundle of joy home. Asking a friend, partner or family member to give your cat or dog a blanket you’ve wrapped your new born in to help.
For this situation, we recommend a dog or cat calming diffuser, like the Beaphar CatComfort® Excellence Calming Diffuser or the CaniComort® Calming Diffuser. These can be placed in the room your pet likes to spend most of its time. A dog or cat calming spray will also be useful on specific areas in your house, like your pets bed (Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Spray or the CatComort® Calming Spray).
How to reduce the stress caused by a new pet
Introducing a new pet to your resident cat or dog should be done slowly and carefully for best results. Your current pet will be used to having free reign over their territory, and may not take kindly to having to share. To avoid conflicts and stress when introducing a new cat or dog to your current pet, follow these top tips:
- Allow your pets to roam the house one at a time so they can get used to each other’s scent. Repeat this activity over several days before they meet.
- The first face-to-face meeting should be on neutral ground. This could be a secure park for dogs or a room not normally used by your current cat or dog.
- For cats, a big source of stress is a concern over resources. If you have more than one cat, it is essential that you have separate bowls for food and water, and separate litter trays.
To help your new cat get on with another in your household, we recommend a cat diffuser plug in. Beaphar CatComfort® Excellence Calming Diffuser contains the Maternal Appeasing Pheromone (MAP) which helps promote bonding and harmony in households with more than one cat; Beaphar's CatComfort® Calming Spot-On for Cats also contains this phermone.
Fireworks are exciting for us, but are of the biggest causes of stress in cats and dogs is fireworks. Many cats and dogs find fireworks frightening (54% of cats and 62% of dogs according to the RSPCA), which can be heart breaking for owners to watch. However, unlike other causes of stress you know what time year they occur, so pet owners can plan accordingly.
How to help your cat or dog cope with firework fear
- In the run up to the event, play firework sounds. You download audio files or find videos online.
- Create a pet den where they can hide away from the noises and flashes of light caused by the fireworks.
- On the night, close the curtains, windows and doors to help block out the noise and light from fireworks.
We've created a detailed pet firework plan to help reduce the stress they cause cats and dogs. Whether it's bonfire night or New Year, you can make sure you're prepared.
To help reduce stress in cats and dogs caused by fireworks, we recommend using a plug in to cat cats or dogs, like the Beaphar CatComfort® Excellence Calming Diffuser or CaniComfort® Calming Diffuser, or the Beaphar CatComfort® Spot-On or CaniComfort® Spot-On.
Fireworks and bonfire night - a step-by-step plan for your pet
Why are cats and dogs scared of fireworks
Travelling in the car
Travelling in a car isn’t a pleasant experience and can be a huge cause of stress in cats and dogs. Try to make the experience as comfortable as possible for your cat or dog, especially if it’s a long drive. During a car journey, you must secure your cat or dog in a suitable carrier, or use a dog seatbelt. NEVER let your pet roam free in the car while you’re driving – this goes against The Highway Code. Not only does it create a distraction, if an accident occurs you could injure yourself or your pet. You can also invalidate your car insurance, so using a crate or harness is essential.
How to reduce travel anxiety in cats and dogs
- Before your first car trip, try to get your cat or dog used to the car and/or the carrier.
- Use blankets to make the inside of the carrier or car comfortable for your cat or dog.
- If embarking on a long journey, make sure you feed your pet a couple of hours before setting off. We recommend leaving 1-2 hours for cats and 2-3 hours for dogs. This reduces the chance of car sickness – something which can cause further stress for your cat or dog.
- While you should avoid feeding your pet too much, you must ensure that water is available during the journey.
- Remember to stop for regular toilet breaks for both you and your dog, and make sure cats have access to a travel litter tray. If your pet needs the toilet but feels unable to go, this will cause them a great deal of stress. It’s a good idea to pack poo bags, kitchen roll and pet friendly disinfectant just in case of accidents!
- Make sure your pet is secured before you open your car doors or windows. If travelling has made your pet scared or anxious they may try to escape and get lost, which would be distressing for both of you. Their collar and microchip information should also be up to date before you travel. It is a legal requirement to have your dog micro-chipped and the information up to date. We recommend cat owners do the same. When in a public place, dogs must also wear a collar with a tag with their owner’s name and address on.
To help reduce stress in cats caused by travelling in the car, we recommend using the Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Spray or the CatComort® Calming Spray to use in carriers and/or the vehicle your pet is travelling in. Alternatively, you can use a cat calming spot-on, like CatComfort Calming Spot-On, or calming collars for dogs like CaniComort® Calming Collar for Adult Dogs or Puppies.
Visits to the vet, catteries or kennels
A vet visit or trip to the cattery or kennel is sometimes unavoidable. Seeing the pet carrier can cause your cat or dog to feel stressed or anxious, and that’s before you’ve even set off! Help make vet visits and cattery/kennel stays less stressful by trying these tips:
How to make visits to vets, catteries and kennels less stressful for your pet
- It's helpful to get your cat or dog used to the carrier or crate before you need to use it. Leaving the door open and allowing them to explore it in the home is a good start. You may wish to feed your pet inside it, as this helps create a positive association with being in the carrier/crate. You can then move on to sitting them inside while the carrier/crate is in the car.
- Before putting your pet in their carrier, lay down a blanket or bedding that smells of them. The familiar smell can help them feel more relaxed. When travelling with your dog, either use a crate or a harness.
- It can be a good idea to pack poo bags, kitchen roll and pet friendly disinfectant just in case of nervous accidents.
- Once you’ve returned home, with cats in particular don’t try to tempt them out. Open the door and allow your pet to come out at their own pace.
To help reduce stress in cats caused by visits to the vet or catteries, we recommend using the Beaphar CatComfort® Spot-On. To help reduce stress in dogs caused by visits to the vet or kennels, we recommend using the CaniComort® Calming Collar for Adult Dogs or Puppies, or CaniComfort® Spot-On.
Whether it be a birthday, Christmas or anniversary, sometimes you might decide a party is the perfect way to celebrate. Your pet will be used to having your family around, but having their territory invaded by lots of new people has the potential to cause a stress in cats and dogs.
Tips for throwing a party without stressing your cat or dog
- Play any music you’ll be having before the party to allow your pet to get used to the noise.
- Assign a ‘safe zone’ for your pet, preferably in a room where they already spend an extensive amount of time. Once the party starts make it clear to your guests that this room is off-limits. If you can, ask you guests to stay downstairs only so your pet can retreat to the upstairs rooms if they need to take some time out.
- Don’t ignore your pet during the party. Check on them regularly and give them a treat if they’re behaving well.
To help reduce stress in cats and dogs caused by parties, we recommend using the Beaphar CatComfort® Excellence Calming Diffuser and Beaphar CatComfort® Spot-On or Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Diffuser and CaniComfort® Spot-On.
Destructive or problem behaviour because of boredom
Destructive or problem behaviour is one way cats and dogs communicate they are feeling stressed. Sometimes the cause of this stress could be boredom.
How to reduce problem behaviour caused by boredom in cats and dogs
- Pent up energy is the biggest cause of destructive behaviour in dogs. Make sure your dog is being given plenty of walks and mental exercise. This should be in line with their age and breed.
- Give your cat plenty of toys to occupy them, and make time to play and interact with them.
- It is important not to scold your cat or dog for destructive behaviour, especially if you don’t see them doing it. Unlike when you scold a human, your pet will not link their action with your reaction. Instead, it may cause them to become nervous or fearful of you. If you see your pet doing it, reprimand them firmly and calmly.
To help reduce stress in cats and dogs caused by destructive or problem behaviour, we recommend using the Beaphar CatComfort® Excellence Calming Diffuser and Spray, or the Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Diffuser and Spray.
Spending time alone
Dogs are natural pack animals, so tend to suffer more when left alone. While cats are naturally solitary, if left alone for hours on end they too can become stressed or anxious.
However, there are things you can do for your pet to reduce the anxiety caused by being left alone.
How to help your pet feel less anxious when left alone
- Dogs don’t measure time the same way humans do. Unless they need the toilet or are hungry, they’re unlikely to notice whether you’re gone for a few minutes or a couple of hours. A good way to avoid making your dog anxious about you leaving is to be confident when you exit. If you fuss over your dog they will wonder what is wrong, and could become anxious when you go.
- Leave plenty of toys and distractions at home to keep your cat or dog amused and stimulated while you’re gone.
Training and socialising
Meeting other dogs or learning new things can be a challenging experience for dogs, especially puppies.
How to support your dog during training and socialisation
- Always end training sessions on a positive note. Treats or toys are a great aid to training – they give your dog an incentive to learn commands and help create a positive association with training.
- Do not scold, shout at or punish your dog if they are not doing as you ask. They may not understand what you are asking from them. Negative reinforcement will make the learning process slower and make your dog afraid of you, damaging your relationship.
- Take your training sessions slowly and don’t make the sessions too long. Puppies and young dogs in particular have shorter attention spans and may grow tired or get distracted. Short, frequent sessions will give you better results.
- Training should be fun. Your dog wants to please you. If you’re both having fun it will help improve your dog's learning and the bonding process between you both.
- If your dog is having trouble learning something, simply go back to the beginning and start again.
- When meeting new dogs or learning something new, a calming product can help. When dogs feel reassured and relaxed, they are more likely to respond positively to your instruction.
Bringing home a new kitten or puppy
Adding a new kitten or puppy to your family is incredibly exciting for you, but for them could be an overwhelming experience. Very early in their lives, kittens and puppies experience many things that could be stressful for them. This includes being removed from their mother, siblings and home, travelling in a car, settling into a new home, and vet visits for vaccinations and neutering/spaying.
Fortunately, by using a calming aid and remembering these top tips, you can help your new arrival feel right at home in no time.
How to help your new kitten or puppy settle into their new home
- Before you bring your kitten or puppy home, ask the breeder if you can leave a blanket with them. When you bring your new pet and the blanket home, it will smell like Mum and their siblings, which will help reassure them on the journey and can be placed in their bed when you get home.
- When your puppy or kitten arrives at your house, allow them to explore their new surroundings at their own pace. Don’t try to force cats out of carriers.
- Don’t introduce your new pet to too many people at once; the new sounds and smells will be overwhelming, and could cause them to feel scared.
- Make sure kittens have the litter tray nearby and puppies are taken outside regularly. Most kittens are taught by Mum early on how to use a litter tray, but the anxiety of a the move could cause accidents. Equally, puppies will need to be toilet trained so small accidents should be expected. You can stock up on some Beaphar Puppy Pads prior to their arrival to help.
- Gradually begin to interact and play with your new pet. Not only will this help with bonding, but it will help them see their new home as a fun, comfortable place to be, helping them settle in more quickly.
- Training classes and meeting new people and dogs is a key part of a puppy’s early life too – check out our training and socialisation tips .
- If you have already have another cat or dog, check out our tips for introducing a new pet to an existing pet.
To help reduce anxiety in kittens and puppies when bringing them home, we recommend using use the Beaphar CatComfort® Excellence Calming Diffuser, Spray and Spot-On for cats, and the Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Diffuser, Puppy Collar and Spray.
Multi-cat or multi-pet households
We love the idea of giving our pets a new friend, but sometimes they’re not always on board with this plan!
Cats and dogs can live harmoniously together, just remember they have different social needs.
Cats are naturally solitary animals, so adjusting to sharing territory can be a struggle, whether that’s with another cat or a dog. In some multi-cat homes, the cats adapt to being in a ‘social pack’ and will live harmoniously, sharing space and grooming each other. Other cats find the presence of a second cat stressful, and they may hiss or fight, and generally try to ignore each other to reduce this anxiety.
How to reduce stress and conflict in multi-pet households
- Cats find living with other pets stressful because they worry about resources. Make sure each pet has their own bed, food bowls and litter tray/toilet area, then add an additional one of each. Spread these in different areas of the house. This prevents one cat or your dog from monopolising or guarding them and scaring your cat off.
- Allow your cats their own space in multi-cat homes – don’t force them to be together. This includes during cattery stays; being away from home can be stressful enough for cats so you don’t want to cause further anxiety by forcing them to be together.
- You can reduce stress during feeding time by feeding your pets in different places or at different times.
- Using a calming product can help your pets feel more at ease, helping reduce the tension or anxiety they may feel.
- Dogs are pack animals and you’ll find many stories of dogs co-existing happily, but tension in multi-dog homes can exist. Pack conflict is often caused when there isn’t a clear leader, which causes stress and aggression. Usually, this will settle down as they become accustomed to one another, and a calming aid can help with this. However, if the aggressive behaviour continues, seeking advice from a dog behaviourist or your vet is the best course of action.
To help reduce stress in multi-pet homes, we recommend using use the Beaphar CatComfort® Excellence Calming Diffuser, Spray and Spot-On for cats, and the Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Diffuser, Puppy Collar and Spray
Situations that cause stress in cats and dogsFireworks, thunderstorms, new baby or pet, moving home, trips to kennels or catteries, multi-pet households, travelling in the car, time alone, vet visits, parties, training and socialisation