How to Calm Your Cat
A stressed-out cat is no fun for anyone, especially when it can lead to unwanted behavior like clawing your couch, or worse, spraying it. Here are six feline-friendly ways to calm your cat into the purring fur ball you know and love.
1. Play soothing music
"When we brought my son, Max, home for
the first time, my cat didn't quite know what to think. All the crying
panicked her -- she would pace around and meow incessantly," says
Debbie Shapiro, 34, of New York, New York. "I inadvertently discovered
that classical music not only calmed down my baby, but me and
my cat as well. Mozart has become our best friend." However, according
to certified cat behavior consultant Marilyn Krieger, cats don't do
well around loud music. "Make sure whatever music you play is not
erratic or high-pitched," she advises.
2. Serve catnip
Denise Martin, 38, of Los Angeles,
California, uses catnip to ease her cat's bouts of anxiety. "There are
certain times when my cat gets antsy, like when I get out the vacuum
cleaner," she says. "She knows what's coming and she hides under the
bed. But I sprinkle catnip on the kitchen floor and she rolls around in
it like she's a kitten again. It totally takes her mind off the scary
vacuum monster." While the effects of catnip are different for each
cat, your stressed-out kitty will likely have an immediate and
beneficial change of state. "Catnip is stimulating stuff," Krieger
says, "but it eventually calms cats down because it helps them release
3. Treat your cat to a massage
According to Maryjane Ballner, animal massage specialist and author of Cat Massage: A Whiskers-to-Tail Guide to Your Cat's Ultimate Petting Experience (St.
Martin's Press), stressed-out cats want affection and attention, and
massage is the best way to give it to them. "On a physiological level,
it's soothing and calming and it releases endorphins," she says. "On
another level, it accelerates bonding with your cat."
Balking at the idea of giving your cat a massage? "At first, people
think it's frivolous, but when they see the results, they know that
it's substantial," says Ballner.
"We're not talking about deep muscle manipulation, we're talking
about techniques that promote bonding." Make slow movements and apply
gentle pressure so your cat feels the calming effect.
4. Speak in soothing voices
When cats experience something
stressful, such as a trip to the vet or groomer, Ballner suggests
repeatedly speaking or singing to them in a slow, low-pitched voice
because it reminds them of the comforts and consistency of home. "In
situations like that, cats are out of their element," she says.
"They're scared. When they hear us singing to them, they feel safe."
Krieger agrees: "When trying to calm down a cat, it's important to keep
your voice level. They will respond much better than if they sense a
lot of stress in your voice."
5. Try pheromone spray
When your cat rubs its face against
you, it is leaving a trace of pheromones on you to show that it feels
comfortable and happy. According to Krieger, when cats are exposed to
stressful situations, such as the addition of another household pet,
"they can exhibit fear and undesirable behavioral issues, like spraying
and inappropriate elimination." Pheromone sprays mimic the natural
facial pheromones found in cats, and when used, can create a
comforting, reassuring feeling that has a calming effect. "It's a great
way to encourage relaxation for a distressed cat," Krieger continues.
"I use Feliway [pheromone] spray when I take my cat to the vet,"
says Martin. "I spray some inside her crate, and it makes the whole
experience better for both of us. That stuff works miracles."
6. Provide visual stimulation
If your cat is alone for long
stretches of time, consider putting a kitty video on the TV before you
leave (please see below for resources). Krieger says that turning on a
TV network such as Animal Planet or even talk radio will also do
wonders for your cat. The sound and visuals simply help to make your
kitty feel less alone.
- "Cat Sitter" DVD available at thecatconnection website.
- Pawbreakers Plentiful Pride Pack catnip is available at the pawbreakers website.
- "Cat Massage" DVD is available at the dogandcatmassage website.
- Comfort Zone Diffuser with Feliway for Cats is available at Petco.
- For information on cat massage, visit thecatcoach website.