Stress and Your Cat

How Stress (YOURS) Can Affect Your Cat…

My Personal Story

When stress affects you, your behavior goes nutty, which signals to your cat something is wrong, then your cat could feel stressed, too! This unhealthy situation holds true for all cats. New cats are tense to begin with and add to that your agitated emotions that kitty can sense. Existing cats learn your routines and personality and again sense when you’re ready to explode.

Hopefully, many people will turn to their cats for comfort and flip off the switch on stress. For both parties involved – you and your cat!

Shortly after adopting Jessie Cat, perhaps two weeks into her living in the house, we went truck shopping for my husband. His daily driver turned 18 years old and the rust holes were getting large enough for a cat to jump through! Life is a madhouse though. We can’t control everything or everyone. We live on “overload” most of the time. Surprises pop up. Some are wonderful, some terrible, some neutral but suck our time. Stress and anxiety just happen. For me, that’s daily. I have ADHD and OCD. Not to the extent I’m medicated, not presently, although several times in my life I have taken meds to help me chill.

So, it was a bit spur of the moment the day hubby planned on making a truck purchase. Obviously, I would need to tag along and drive our current vehicle back home if/when he bought a new truck since he’d be driving that one home.

I’m a very scheduled person. I felt on edge during the entire outing as my day was filled to the brim with other “things” I normally would have been doing if we weren’t truck shopping. You wonder what were such important “things” I had been pulled away from working on that day? Well, nothing that is truly that important or critical at all…such as: making a grocery list, several loads of wash to do, preparing banking paperwork, and many other household chores. But for someone with my wacky brain, when I can’t get through my many, many, varied checklists and get things done when I want them done, I can spin out of control.
By the time we arrived home with hubby’s shiny new truck, my mind wasn’t even excited about it. I immediately flew into the house to check on Jessie Cat, who was perfectly fine. I proceeded to dive into the trenches and get as much of those chores done as possible, moving at the fastest human speed I could manage. And, of course, guess what happened? The entire process of the vehicle purchase took much longer than I anticipated. Plus, I worried about a newly spayed cat stuck in the utility room (which is actually her safe room-huge-all decked out) and what trouble she was getting into. Plus, all those “things” I wasn’t getting done and when the heck would I get them done!?

I worked my tail off…and…

My heart raced, my head pounded and felt like it would pop (but no actual headache), my hands trembled and felt tingly numb, and I couldn’t take in deep breaths. Several times that afternoon into early evening I experienced anxiety attacks. Some call them panic attacks. It had been quite a few years since I had any attacks that were of that caliber; I was familiar with the sensations.

Jessie Cat had stayed on a chair, mostly snoozing, during my intense “flying around the house trying to get everything caught up” phase. Once evening came, Jessie no longer acted normal (for her). She didn’t get excited and eat her freshly set-out food. Very odd.

Then her behavior alarmed us more so as we settled down to watch two television shows (I still didn’t have all the chores done, but didn’t want to miss my favorite shows! – Oh…I’m so dedicated!). Jessie appeared sick and completely out of it! She still hadn’t eaten anything that night and seemed to sulk and not want to move off the chair. I swear it was as if someone drugged her!

My hubby gathered her in his arms, sat in his recliner with a blanket and encouraged her to snuggle into the blanket with his arms more or less holding her. He told me to fetch her food and several times tried offering her the food, holding the bowl to her mouth. With zero zest, she pushed the food around with her nose and ate a mouthful here and there. I warned him that she’d get too hot under the blankets, let alone she never lounged on him and his recliner, and jump down soon.

Not. She remained sleeping in a cocoon of the blanket, on his lap, in his huge protective arms for the entire night.

We were worried and wondered if she was ill or even dying! If she wasn’t better by morning, I would call the vet.

Note:  I  (not my hubby) was considered Jessie’s protector, her savior, her buddy, the one who cried trying to figure out what to do with her stray butt, who sat outside petting her every day for weeks, who attempted to find her a good home (for five weeks), before I convinced my husband maybe we could keep her, who did everything the vet recommended for her optimum health, who slept with her two nights on the cramped utility room floor while she recovered from her spaying and slept on the couch for another month to ensure I could hear her if she “acted up” in her safe room (utility room)…her protector.

And my stress made her sick. At least that’s what we honestly believe. By the next day, Jessie was perfectly normal again.

I look back on that day and night and realize how crazy I behaved. The unnecessary anxiety I created in myself that spilled over to Jessie Cat. Especially a cat that had only been inside our house two weeks and recently spayed.

Any time I feel stressed (which is often), I try to keep it toned down. In fact, I glance at Jessie to see if she is reacting to my behavior. Even if she appears fine (or sleeping), I keep myself from freaking out over something or do not let a high level of panic last for very long. Many times I will go to her, pet her silky hair, place my forehead against hers and tell her how much I love her. Doing this will almost always calm my frantic brain.

Cats reduce stress
Jessie on my lap-both of us relaxing

I’ve read and heard that pets can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and comfort people who are sick, lonely or in pain. Supposedly, people who have pets live longer. I try to take advantage of Jessie Cat’s medicinal-like, soothing, always free and freely-offered qualities and abilities to help me relax now.

Just remember it’s possible that having a sustained stress level can negatively affect your cat as my anxiety had done to Jessie. Now, go rub your kitty and soak up a mental chill pill from the experience!