A sad dog: Can you recognise signs of stress in your pet at home?

Could you recognise signs of stress in your furry friend? While excessive grooming or loud yowling, for example, can be obvious indications of stress, be on the look-out for more subtle clues so you can help them relax.

Life can be stressful for all animals, so it’s worth looking out for changes in normal behaviours, such as a reduction in the amount your animal hides themselves away for periods of time.

Cats and dogs left alone for extended periods can suffer from separation anxiety and stress. In fact, a number of everyday factors and home situations can trigger pet stress, so try to be in tune with your pets so you can pick up on the situation and rectify things as soon as possible. How many signs can you recognise in your pet?

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Recognising feline stress 

Signs of stress in cats can range from obvious indicators such as hair loss (your cat may be overgrooming), while other cats are more subtle and may hide away for periods of time.

It can be difficult to determine when your cat is stressed because they’re generally good at hiding their feelings. Remember that the escalating level of feline stress can be gradual. Keep an eye on your cat, and if you suspect their behaviour is abnormal, check in with your local veterinarian.

Typical signs include, but are not limited to:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Hiding for long periods
  • Excessive grooming
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Chasing their own tail

Recognising canine stress 

Your dog’s personality plays a large part in how he reacts to different situations. Some dogs will get very destructive and start chewing your belongings around the house. Others may make themselves ill and vomit, or pull their hair out.

Stress is something almost every dog will experience at some point in its life. Fear, anxiety and confusion are the key instigators of stress in dogs. Be aware that these can occur even with the best of intentions.

Typical signs include, but are not limited to:

  • Excessive barking, both inside and outside your house.
  • Sudden displays of snarling, growling and biting people that they’re normally affectionate toward
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, skin allergies
  • Excessive licking and pulling out clumps of fur
  • Chewing furniture and other items around the house

Common stress triggers for pets

Neither dogs or cats love noise and activity from a party – it creates a stressful mindset. Where possible, try to keep your pets in another part of your rental. This will prevent them from trying to run away and possibly getting lost.

Illness and abuse can also trigger a rise in your pet’s stress level. Is your cat being treated properly by everyone in your house? It’s always worth checking that your roommates are pet-friendly and aren’t likely to cause your pet any harm.

Some typical stress triggers for pets include, but are not limited to: 

  • A visit to the vet;
  • Builders or renovators starting work in your home;
  • The arrival of a new family member;
  • Loud music played constantly (particularly for cats);
  • A family member leaving home or passing away;
  • Being left alone at home for long periods;
  • New furniture in the house;
  • New pets or barking dogs (particularly for cats);
  • Change in food; and
  • A dirty litter box (particularly for cats)

What can you do to remove stress? 

Proper care will do a lot for your pet’s health and wellbeing, but there are several things you can do to reduce their stress levels.

  • For dogs, daily exercise can provide immense relief – much the way it does for people. Try to establish a regular routine for your pup. If you need to move house, establish that routine as quickly as possible to help your dog ease into his new living situation.
  • Pheromone sprays can mimic the pheromones that cats and dogs give off naturally and act as stress relievers.
  • Make sure your pet has its own space and privacy in your house to escape from everyday household activities, particularly if there are young children around or maintenance work is being done.
  • Think about increasing vertical space in your home for your cat. You could buy a cat tree or kitty condo to relieve stress.
  • Both cats and dogs appreciate regular play time. Give them distraction toys to play with to offer mental enrichment.

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