How to Calm a Cat?

How to Calm a Cat?

by Michael
(London, UK)

Calm Cat - Photo by Ernesto De Quesada (Flickr)

Calm Cat - Photo by Ernesto De Quesada (Flickr)

How to calm a cat? The answer is to create an environment for the cat in which he or she can express natural innate drives and desires supported by a calm reassuring routine and a good and varied diet.

If a person is searching for an answer to the question, "how to calm a cat?" it must be the case that the cat is not calm. I will presume that the cat in question is their cat - the cat living with the person asking the question. That person should ask a different question, a question that precedes the how-to-calm-a-cat-question and it is this: what is causing my cat to be agitated or anxious? Remove the cause of anxiety and the cat will become calm. In fact before even asking that fundamental question the cat caretaker concerned should make sure that they have correctly assessed their cat's psychological state. Are you sure that your cat is stressed? It can be hard to tell. How do you tell? It may be the case that the person is interacting with the cat in way that makes the cat react in a manner that gives the impression that the he or she is not calm. This may be coupled with false expectations. If a cat caretaker incorrectly thinks a cat should be doing something and it doesn't the person will incorrectly think that something is wrong when it is not. Provided the person has "correct cat perceptions" behaviour disorders can be a sign of cat stress (Please see also: 15 Ways to Avoid Cat Behavior Problems). You can see how a simple question such as, "how to calm a cat?" can lead to complexities.

The signs that a cat is stressed might include, (a) inappropriate elimination (b) urinary tract disease as mentioned above (c) compulsive grooming - OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) - this is an "energy displacement phenomenon"1 (d) aggressive behaviour - brought on by "environmental stress, leading to heightened fear".1(e) stress induced allergies - my opinion based on personal observation. When a cat is not allowed to express natural impulses the stress created can, I think, manifest itself in an allergic reaction, sometimes, (f) eating house plants - a substitute for not being able to eat grass (see Cat Eating Grass) - some plants are safe incidentally, (g) an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, which may (rarely) be due to "deep seated insecurity and stress"1.

On the basis that a cat is agitated, stressed and anxious, the first way to calm a cat is to adjust the environment so that it is more suited to the cat. A normal, well socialised (raised to accept people and other animals) cat will feel reasonably calm if the environment in which the cat lives is reasonably comfortable for the cat. An example of a nice environment for a cat might be one in which (a) the cat caretaker is present a lot of the time, (b) the caretaker is calm and speaks quietly to their cat, (c) the person allows the cat to have a routine that is reassuring (d) plays with the cat (c) allows the cat to go out into an inside/outside enclosure if possible (d) takes the cat out on a leash occasionally if possible (e) provides good and varied food, (f) ensures that their cat is in good health. Poor health can be painful and pain leads to an unhappy and stressed cat, obviously. Poor health can also lead to inappropriate elimination.

A good example of a person who has created a good environment for a cat is Ruth - see Monty's Paradise and Finn - see Lessons for a first time cat owner.

An example of an environment that is not ideal is being left alone for long periods (cat separation anxiety). This is not that uncommon. It is likely to cause stress which can lead to illnesses such as cystitis. Another cause might be the presence of another cat that has been introduced into the household. Other reasons are a noisy environment, a permanently confined and dark environment (some people keep their cats in garages - for heavens sake why keep a cat if you do that?). A permanent indoor environment, say an apartment, together with long absences by the cat's owner due to work commitments and going out in the evening can stress up a cat. Although this is not necessarily the case. I depends on a variety of factors.

Some say pet music calms a cat (and dog). I am not sure but if there is no way to fix some problems at source it sure as hell beats drugs:

A cat needs to express his or her natural innate desires such as hunting, and aggressive play. If a cat is free to do so the chances of being calm are greatly increased. In short a comfortable environment for a cat is one where he or she can express natural behaviour and release energy. Take away all the stress factors and the cat will become calm. I guess that is obvious but it is worth stating. Often an easier route for the caretaker is to give the cat tranquillisers but this really is a very poor substitute to fixing the problem at its core. Personally I would more or less rule out drugs. All drugs are poisons to some extent.

I would love to hear the views of others on how to calm a cat....


It should be noted that spraying is not inappropriate elimination. The former is a territorial marker and the latter can be due to a number of reasons one of which is stress, particularly in Persian cats.

Aggressive cat behavior is not necessarily the sign of a cat that is not inherently calm. It is usually defensive an related to self-preservation. If a cat caretaker is finding that their cat is often aggressive it might be wise for them to ask how they are treating their cat (are they the cause of the aggression?) and to check the overall environment as described.

Muti-vaccinations can cause stress


1. Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs Carlson and Giffin.

Michael Avatar

How to Calm a Cat? to Cat Health Problems

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How to Calm a Cat?

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Feb 12, 2011 Drugs
by: Michael

Hi Gail, I agree, I would almost never give my cat drugs. There may be the odd occasion such as travelling for a cat that hates travelling when a natural tranquilliser such as Rescue Remedy might be appropriate. This though is a personal thing. It is a question of balance between benefit and detriment. What is the best outcome?

Michael Avatar

Jan 24, 2011 Really Michael?
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

Drugs? Nah. People need to make the effort to de-stress their cat themselves the old fashioned way or don't have cats, period.

The photo says 'natural' but by whose standards? Abby, I've been told, races through the house like a whirling dervish after I've left in the morning. My family lives below and hear her every day. No wonder she's tuckered out sometimes when I get home. When she gets a bit too noisy, brother goes up there to play with her to tire her out. Pills? Nah.

Jan 22, 2011 Last resort?
by: Michael

Feline Matricalm for Cat Aggression Feline Matricalm for Cat Aggression - $ 37.95
Matricalm is a natural, herbal product that works to calm anxiety and excitability. It is suitable for treatment of both adult cats and kittens.

Dec 17, 2010 Got it right
by: Michael

Hi Gail, I think you have it right. And you make a good point: "cats thrive on appropriate stimuli with rest in between". Cats will sleep a lot but they do need appropriate stimulation. This helps to burn off any stress in the same way that people need exercise and activity; physical and mental.

I wonder if in some ways the domestic cat is his or her own worst enemy. The fact that they sleep a lot can make us complacent about ensuring that they are sufficiently stimulated. Cats are also good at hiding discomfort etc.

Michael Avatar

Dec 17, 2010 Calm? HAHAHA!
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

Great article, Michael. I say 'hahaha' because trying to calm Abby is like trying to hold back the tide, LOL! Abby is high energy and since I work full-time and she's alone the better part of the day, we've gotten into a regular routine.

From the time the alarm goes off to the time I walk out the door, it's the same ritual, repeated at night. We play when I get home, after she's fed. Sometimes we play chase or hide-and-seek; other times I roll her balls in catnip and hide them. She loves the hunting aspect, using her 'catnip nose' to suss out her toys. Other times she just wants to chill and joins me watching TV on the bed.

To keep her company while I'm out, I leave the TV on Animal Planet for her. I've seen her watching TV, especially fast-moving animals like the big cats or jungle shows. She just stares at the movement and her tail twitches. It's pretty funny. Periodically, she'll go mouse-hunting although I haven't seen any since she's been here.

All-in-all, calm cats thrive on appropriate stimuli with rest in between and good food. Abby enjoys Halo Spot's Stew wet and is currently on Prescription Diet dry (temporarily) for weight gain. She will most likely be weaned to Halo Spot's Stew dry in the near future.

Finally, after all that, just before bedtime, she gets a full body massage. The photo at the top of this article is pretty much the expression whilst being kneaded all over. One can almost imagine a contented sigh!

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