How to Spot Signs of Stress in Your Pet

How to Spot Signs of Stress in Your Pet

Pets can be great stress relievers, but they can also experience stress like humans. In fact, some of their needs can often feel like yet another burden on you. After all, when you’re constantly responsible for your pet’s well being and happiness… it can get taxing. Fortunately, there are many ways to identify when your pet is under stress (and in need of some tender loving care from you). Fortunately, this also means that pet stress management can start sooner rather than later. Here are a few signs that your furry friend may be feeling the pressure:

Change in Eating Habits

One of the first signs that your pet is feeling stressed is a change in eating patterns. This could be anything from eating more to eating less. Felines, for example, may experience a burst in appetite when feeling stressed. Dogs, on the other hand, will often have the complete opposite reaction and start to eat less. In all cases, you’ll want to keep an eye on your pet’s eating habits. If you notice any sudden and drastic changes, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian. They’ll be able to perform a routine checkup and, if need be, address the issue.

Excessive Self-Grooming

When you’re stressed, one of the first things you might notice is an increase in self-grooming. This is a way for your body to self-soothe, and can often occur when you’re feeling anxious. Pets can experience this, too. Excessive grooming refers to pets going above and beyond their normal grooming routine. Cats will often start licking their fur more often. Dogs are also known to over groom, especially around the face and paws. When you notice your pet licking above and beyond the norm, it may be a sign that they’re stressed. You’ll want to take action to remedy the situation as soon as possible. For cats, you can try to distract them with a new toy or scratching post. You can also try to deter them from excess licking by adding a calming pheromone diffuser to their environment.

Excessive Barking or Whining

Another telltale sign of stress in pets is excessive barking or whining. Again, this is usually more pronounced than usual. If your cat suddenly starts making more noise than normal, it may be a sign that they’re in distress. Dogs can exhibit similar behaviors, too. Cats are known for their high-pitched, constant meowing. Dogs will often start barking and whining for no reason. Again, this is a sign that your pet is feeling overwhelmed and in need of some sort of relief. You can start by trying to pinpoint where the stress is coming from. For example, dogs often bark when feeling stressed about their environment or if they’re hungry. You can reduce their stress by understanding their patterns in behavior.

Changes in Behavior

Your pet’s behavior is a great way to spot stress. When they’re stressed, they’ll often react in ways they normally wouldn’t. For example, a normally peaceful cat might suddenly lash out at you. This sudden burst of aggression is a clear sign that your pet is overstressed. You may also notice that your normally friendly dog suddenly becomes less enthusiastic about playing. When you notice sudden behavioral changes in your pet, it’s time for some stress relief. You can start by taking your pet for a walk. Exercise is a great way to help your pet relieve stress. You can also provide your pet with more enrichment in the form of toys and treats.


If you notice your pet exhibiting any of the signs above, it may be time to implement a few stress management techniques. Stress management for pets can take many forms. It could be psychological, fear-based or even psychosomatic. You can try to change things in your environment that may be causing your pet stress. You can also try to provide enrichment to fight boredom. You can also try to help your pet reduce their stress through regular exercise and decisive pet management. Remember to be patient and stay attentive. You’ll be able to identify when your pet is under stress and employ measures to reduce it.

Photo by Vadim B: