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Stressed cat waiting for owner to come home
Sunday, June 2, 2024 - Pets

Stressed Cat When You're Away: Anxiety Signs & Solutions

You're going on a trip and leaving your kitty with a pet sitter or trusted friend? Even in their familiar surroundings, your feline friend may experience stress and separation anxiety related to your absence. What are the telltale signs of a stressed cat? How should you respond while you're away and when you get back? Our advice for leaving and returning home with a calm mind and serene cat.

Signs of a Stressed Cat When the Owner is Away

You're worried about leaving your cat even with a professional pet sitter? That's understandable, but try not to stress. Most cats handle temporary changes quite well as long as they are cared for and kept in their comforting, familiar space. However, some more sensitive kitties may show cat stress symptoms in response to changes in routine, even minor ones. Here are the cat anxiety signs your cat sitter should watch out for:

1. Appetite Changes

A stressed cat will often eat less than usual or even skip meals entirely. On the flip side, it may also voraciously devour its food as a way of coping with anxiety. Other digestive red flags are extra soft or firm stools.

2. Disrupted Sleep Patterns

A cat experiencing separation anxiety while its owner is away may have disturbed sleep - taking shorter, restless catnaps or sleeping excessively during the day. Conversely, a lethargic cat that stops sleeping altogether is also a sign of distress.

Stressed cat oversleeping on living room couch
Atypical cat naps can indicate stress and anxiety.

3. Obsessive or Neglected Grooming

Excessive licking is an anxiety cue in cats, particularly if your kitty pulls out fur or licks itself to the point of skin irritation. On the other hand, a depressed cat may stop grooming itself altogether, leading to a dull, matted coat.

4. Vocal Clues

Insistent, plaintive, or even aggressive meowing should raise concerns, especially at night. Happy cats are usually quiet, while excessive vocalizations often express a plea for comfort and reassurance.

5. Litter Box Issues

If your kitty is peeing outside the litter box, it's a sign your cat is communicating stress, anxiety or frustration. Repeated "accidents" on the couch or bed are worrisome if your cat is usually fastidious.

6. Hiding and Isolation

A cat stressed by a change in routine may hide out of sight for long stretches, whether under furniture or high up in a closet. If your kitty refuses to come out even for mealtime, it's likely withdrawing due to major stress.

Stressed cat hiding from owner in bedroom closet
Hiding for prolonged periods signals anxiety in cats.

What Should You Do if the Cat Sitter Reports Stress Behaviors?

You prepped your cat sitter on stress signals to look out for, and now they're alerting you to worrisome behaviors? Don't panic. Here's how to handle the situation remotely to soothe your anxious cat:

Adjust Visits and Interactions

Have the cat sitter modify the frequency and length of visits based on your kitty's stress levels. For a highly anxious cat, shorter yet more frequent check-ins are beneficial. The goal is offering comfort and security without overwhelming your cat. Opting for an in-home cat sitting solution like house-sitting allows your stressed cat to have a constant, reassuring presence in the familiarity of their own territory.

Provide Environmental Enrichment

Ask the sitter to introduce novel entertainment options like puzzle feeders, obstacle courses, or cat grass. Engaging activities help keep your cat mentally occupied and reduce anxiety. Calming pheromone diffusers plugged in near your kitty's go-to hiding spots can also have an appeasing effect.

Stressed cat playing with toy
Interactive toys can distract an anxious cat.

Increase Visual Contact

If the sitter is game, suggest a daily video call so you can see and talk to your cat. Hearing your voice and seeing your face will remind your cat of your loving bond. You could also have the sitter play recordings of your voice during normal routines like playtime or mealtime.

Try Calming Herbal Remedies

Some herbal teas and natural extracts like valerian or chamomile have calming properties for cats. Applied in spray form or added to drinking water, they can help relax your kitty if anxiety strikes. Consult with your vet first for proper usage advice.

Avoiding an Anxiety Relapse When You Return From Your Trip

The long-awaited reunion with your cat is here! But after many days apart, your cat's joy may be mixed with stress. To ease the back-home transition and keep anxiety at bay:

Stick to Established Routines

For the first couple days, aim to continue the schedules and setup the sitter put in place, like feeding times, play sessions, and any new accessories. A gradual return to normalcy helps your kitty regain its bearings in a stress-free way.

Slowly Reacquaint Yourself

Resist the urge to immediately smother your cat in affection. Let your kitty come to you at its own pace. Gentle play or grooming sessions can help you re-establish that close contact organically.

Cat owner plays with cat after returning from vacation
Interactive playtime reunites cat and owner after a trip

Keep Hideaway Spaces Accessible

While you were gone, your cat may have found new safe spaces to hunker down in. Let your kitty continue accessing those retreats at first, even placing a favorite blanket or toy in them. With time and patience, your cat will reclaim its usual hangout spots.

Make Homecoming a Happy Occasion

When your cat approaches you, reward that bravery with a yummy treat or quick play session. This teaches your kitty to link your presence with positive experiences again. The key is reminding your cat that home sweet home is a secure, peaceful haven.

As you can see, ensuring your cat's comfort while you're away requires proactively monitoring signs of stress, implementing thoughtful adjustments, and keeping the reunion process low-key. With an attentive cat sitter, like those in our Nomador community, you can embark on your journey worry-free: your kitty will be doted on in their own domain, and you'll be notified ASAP of any concerns. With that off your mind, you can return recharged and ready for a happy, stress-free homecoming!



Nomador, the top home and pet sitting platform in France, enables cat sitters to exchange complimentary accommodations for caring for pets in their own homes, creating exceptional travel experiences. With Nomador, cat owners gain peace of mind that their pet and house are well looked after while they relish a wonderful trip.

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