Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best anxiety relief for cats

Domestic cats are creatures with lots of quirks and idiosyncrasies, largely stemming from their days in the wild. As both predators and prey, cats have a heightened perception of threats than do their canine counterparts. However, a noticeably anxious cat is not normal and may require some anxiety relief.

Fortunately, there are a number of products available that calm and soothe felines with anxiety. Before searching for a product to relieve your anxious cat, there are key factors to consider. It’ll be important to determine the root cause of the anxiety. You may also want to consider your cat’s diet, their age, how picky they are and the specific signs of anxiety that they exhibit.

This buying guide will touch on potential causes for feline anxiety, symptoms to be aware of, how different products relieve those symptoms and how they lower your cat’s stress levels.

anxiety relief for cats
With anxious cats, sometimes less is more. Ignore the urge to smother your cat with affection. Don’t force them out of their hiding spaces, either.

Key considerations

Cause

Cats can become chronically anxious if they perceive a threat or harm in their environments. There are quite a few reasons that cats become anxious. Cats are notoriously bad at accepting change, so a change in their environment (such as moving or getting new housemates) can easily cause anxiety.

In addition, some cats experience separation anxiety, which can flare up when their owners leave the house or are out of their sight. For other cats, anxiety can be a sign of another underlying medical or behavioral issue. Because anxiety has several potential causes, it takes time and patience to pinpoint a root cause — and sometimes that cause can’t be determined with any certainty.

Feline anxiety manifests itself in a few different ways. Some signs of an anxious cat can include:

  • Inappropriate elimination: Urinating and defecating outside of their litter box can indicate that your cat isn’t pleased with their present bathroom situation.
  • Overgrooming: It’s normal for cats to spend 50% to 70% of their waking hours grooming themselves. But if you notice your cat pulling out their fur in tufts, notice an increase in hairballs or notice baldness or spots of sparse hair, then your cat is pulling out more hair than normal.
  • Restlessness: Cats are known to lounge. Does your cat pace excessively? Are they unable to settle in one spot before standing up and settling in another? Do they sleep only for a little bit before waking and meowing at you?
  • Hiding: If your cat spends more time hiding in closets or under the bed or couch, or they are generally out of sight, that’s because those spaces feel safer than being out in the open.

Active ingredient

Anxiety relief products for cats work by using pheromones, herbal oils, or a combination of both.

Zylkene is a nonsedative anxiety relief supplement created by veterinarians. It uses a protein called alpha-casozepine, which is a naturally occurring ingredient from cow’s milk. Zylkene has been shown to lower stress in cats and dogs. Results are generally noticeable within two weeks. Zylkene is available as a capsule or in powders. Some treats may also integrate it as an active ingredient.

Valerian root is another common cat anxiety relief ingredient. Valerian root is an herb that’s indigenous to parts of Asia and Europe. It contains valencia acid, proven to inhibit the brain’s breakdown of GABA. GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, helps regulate our brains and nervous systems from stress. When GABA transmitters attach to proteins in the brain, a calming effect follows. People have used valerian root for centuries to relieve insomnia bouts and stress.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has grown more popular for anxiety relief in pets. CBD is an active compound in cannabis and in hemp. Some studies have linked CBD to lower anxiety levels. And CBD products for pets don’t contain THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. CBD is typically found as tinctures and as treats.

anxiety relief for cats
DID YOU KNOW?
Cats may become more anxious as they age. Heightened anxiety, especially at night, is a common sign of feline dementia. For reference, cats are considered “senior” once they reach 11 years old.
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Features

Form

The majority of anxiety relief products for cats can be distilled into four main categories: solid treats, oils and tinctures, capsules, and wearable products.

Treats are likely the easiest deliverable form of anxiety relief for cats. They may be packaged as soft chews or hard treats made with active anxiety-relieving ingredients. A number of cats are picky, but once you find the right treat, it won’t be too hard to dispense. Treats are usually less concentrated than oils and tinctures, so you may need to administer more to see noticeable results.

Oils and tinctures are concentrates that can either be added to food or treats or dropped directly into a cat’s mouth. Oils and tinctures aren’t as appealing to cats, tastewise, but they’re more potent than treats. If you have a picky cat, you may need to find some tasty wet food to hide the taste of the liquid. Otherwise, opt for a treatment with little to no taste.

Capsules are the no-frills option. They’re usually the cheapest form, as well. Anxiety relief capsules for cats can be administered to the animal directly in a bit of food, or they can be opened and the powder sprinkled on wet food.

Lastly, you can try your luck with wearable treatments such as a collar, which works by releasing pheromones, often the same ones that mothers release to their kittens. The collar must be placed securely around the cat’s neck and replaced after 20 to 30 days. Another garment is a type of jacket with straps around the torso that hold it in place. The garment applies a slight pressure to your cat’s body — like a hug — to make them feel secure. This is similar to the concept of a weighted blanket for people. Not all cats are amenable to wearing garments, however, so this method won’t work for some cat owners.

Some cat owners bristle at the idea of putting their pets on pharmaceuticals, but SSRIs like fluoxetine and sertraline may be worth looking into if you’ve exhausted other options. Book an appointment with your vet to learn more.

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Pricing

Inexpensive: There are plenty of options in the $10 to $20 price range. The majority of these products are anxiety relief treats or capsules, and there are occasionally some tinctures of 100 milliliters  or less. Some calming collars will be available at this price point as well. On the whole, these products use herbal essences and tinctures as primary ingredients.

Mid-range: In the $20 to $40 range, more wearable anxiety relief solutions for cats are available, including jackets that wrap around your cat’s neck and torso. You’ll also encounter some CBD products in this price range; the best among them will have organic certification.

Expensive: At a price of over $50, buyers pay a premium for high-quality CBD tinctures or bulk quantities of tinctures and capsules.

anxiety relief for cats
DID YOU KNOW?
If anxious behavior appears suddenly, a vet visit may be in order. If it’s been a while, schedule an appointment for a physical exam and bloodwork to rule out underlying conditions.
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Tips

  • Create a safe home environment. All litter boxes should be easily accessible, and cats should have their own space to play and hang out. There should be a corner of the house (by a window, ideally) with a cat tree or space to perch and watch.
  • Prove regular playtime as a form of anxiety relief. Check if your cat is willing to channel their energy into chasing a feather wand or a dangling string. This will probably work better with anxious cats rather than cats who like to hide.
anxiety relief for cats
For severe cases of anxiety, a vet may refer you to a cat behaviorist. They’ll help you manage your cat’s anxious behaviors. Such specialists are expensive and generally should be considered only after exhausting all other options.

FAQ

Q. How will I know if the anxiety relief is working?

A. You should notice a decrease in anxious behaviors, which may take anywhere from one to four weeks to occur.

Q. What anxiety relief method should I try first?

A. That’s entirely up to you, and it depends on the needs of your cat. If your cat is food-motivated, you might try treats first. Consult with your vet for further guidance.

Q. If I find an anxiety relief method that works, will my cat need it for the rest of their life?

A. Not necessarily. Sometimes, anxiety is situational and temporary. If your cat becomes more anxious after moving to a new home, for example, then you can try tapering down the dosage and seeing how that affects your cat. But if you do need to rely on anxiety relief substances for the life of your cat, be assured knowing that many of the available options won’t harm your cat in the long run.

 

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