Stress and Your Pet

Animals can experience stress just like humans.  Dogs and cats feel comfortable in an environment to which they have become accustomed.  This means that any changes in your pet’s routine or environment can be potentially stressful.  What may be exciting for us can be a source of stress in our animals including visitors, traveling, a new baby or pet, and any other interruptions to the daily routine.  It is easy to get caught up in all the excitement and overlook the effect on your animals.

Detecting Stress in Your Cat:  Cats have a tendency to hide and are frequently found under the bed during stressful situations.  They will show less interest in their environment, and normal behaviors such as eating and playing are decreased.  A cat may also urinate or defecate outside the litterbox and show inappropriate scratching behavior. With continued stress over a period of time, health problems can develop including weight loss or gain, excessive grooming, and urinary tract disease.

Detecting Stress in Your Dog:  Dogs can show stress differently than cats.  Often dogs appear restless, moving around continuously and panting excessively.  Dogs yawn more often when stressed, and they may bark or whine.  They often want to remain very close to a family member at all times.  They react to mild stimuli with agitation.  Dogs also can develop health problems with chronic stress, such as, weight gain leading to orthopedic disease, chronic diarrhea, and excessive licking leading to skin disease.

Managing Stress:  The best way to manage stress in your pets is to be prepared for stressful situations and the limit the effect on them.  Providing a safe place where your animal feels comfortable is a great way to reduce stress.  It is also important to monitor them for signs of stress so that you can intervene before the problem becomes severe or prolonged.

For dogs, often, a kennel is a comfortable place away from commotion and keeps them out of trouble when they cannot be closely supervised.  Feeding your dog in its kennel and providing chew toys, can make kenneling a more positive experience.  Adaptil is a synthetic pheromone which mimics a comforting signal in mother dogs’ milk and has a calming effect on dogs.  It comes in three forms: a collar to be worn continuously, a spray for intermittent use (such as traveling), and a diffuser to be placed in area where the dog spends most of his/her time.  Many stressors can be managed through use of Adaptil pheromones and environmental management.  However, there are some cases of severe anxiety in which medical treatment with anti-anxiety drugs or mild sedatives is warranted.

For cats, a separate room, where they go when company arrives or to escape that new puppy, makes them feel much more comfortable.  They will need to grow accustomed to this room prior to the stressful event and have access to food, water, and a litter box there.  (In the multi-cat household, a good rule of thumb is one litterbox per cat plus a spare.  This keeps them from becoming territorial over the litterbox and resorting to using other locations.)  Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that mimics those produced by the facial glands of the cat to orient them to their environment.  It comes in both a spray and diffusor and exerts a calming effect on the stressed cat.  Oftentimes, paying close attention to your cat’s warning signs, providing her/him with a safe place where he/she won’t be bothered, and using Feliway effectively can make for a much happier cat during stressful times.  Keep in mind, there are times when a cat may need medical management for certain stressors.

Remember, your veterinarian is your best partner for detecting and managing stress in your pet.  Feel free to ask questions whenever you call or visit the clinic, as we would be happy to help formulate a specific plan for your particular animals and situation.


Adaptil is a synthetic pheromone which has a calming effect on dogs. For more information, please visit the following website:


Feliway is a synthetic pheromone which has a calming effect on cats. For more information, please visit the following website: