Causes of stress in cats and dogs

Causes of stress in cats and dogs

We all have something that makes us feel nervous. It could be heights, the thought of getting on a plane or spiders. Like us, cats and dogs have things that make them feel stressed and unsettled. Is your pet showing signs of stress, but you’re unsure of the cause? Are you planning on making a change to your pet’s environment, and want to make it as stress free as possible? We’ve put together a quick guide of the most common causes of stress, and ways to help your cat or dog through them.

  1. Moving house

Moving house is stressful enough for people, but for pets it’s a massive upheaval. They are being taken away from their territory and put in a place with new smells and sounds. Planning around your cat or dog is important.

  • Minimise the disruption to your cat or dog by moving them out last and moving them in first – just remember to let the removal company know which room they’re in and not to enter it. Use Beaphar Home Spray to help your pet feel more relaxed in their new home.

  • Keep outdoor cats inside for a few weeks. Cats will try to go back to where they consider ‘home’, so you’ll need to help your pet feel ‘at home’ in the new house. One Beaphar Calming Collar is effective for up to six weeks, making them ideal for house moves and settling your pet into their new environment. If you feel uncomfortable letting them outside alone, begin with short, supervised outdoor sessions to help them introduce them to their new outdoor space. Let the owners of your old house have your contact details in case you cat does try to venture back. 

  • After moving update your cat or dog’s collar and microchip details before letting them out the house. It is a legal requirement to have your dog microchipped from 8 weeks of age, and in order to remain compliant you must update your contact information. 

2. A new addition to the household

New baby on the way or a new pet moving in? This can cause massive disruption to your pet’s life and could cause them to become stressed. 

  • Babies: Take note of where your cat or dog likes to spend time and make this ‘their space’. Turn on any noisy baby toys you have and play a recording of a baby crying so that your cat or dog can get used to the sounds. For dogs especially, if there are any elements of their training that are lacking address them before the baby comes along. A Beaphar Calming Collar is effective for up to six weeks, so can be put on your cat or dog before the baby arrives home, and will continue to soothe your pet as your family adapts. 

  • New Pets: For both cats and dogs smell plays an important part in the meeting process. Always try to introduce your current pet to a potential new pet before you commit, and take note of your current pet’s reaction - if it is particularly negative you may wish to reassess. 

The introduction of a new pet should be done slowly. Keep both pets separated before introducing them face to face. Allow your pets to roam the house one at a time so they can get used to each other’s scent, and repeat this activity over several days.

Ideally the first face to face meeting should be on neutral ground, like a secure park for dogs or a room not normally used by your current cat. Try using Beaphar Calming Cat Treats when doing cat introductions – not only will they help reduce anxiety, but they will provide a distraction as well as create some positive association. A big source of stress for cats is concern over resources. If you have more than one cat it is essential that you have separate bowls for food and water, and separate litter trays. 

3. Fireworks

You might not think it, but pet owners have an advantage with fireworks as you know what time of year they will be occurring. Playing firework sounds in the run up to the event, closing curtains, windows and doors, and creating a pet den are a few things you can do to make firework night as stress-free as possible for your pet. Beaphar Calming Spot On lasts for up to one week and starts working within one hour, ideal for the firework season when you could have multiple displays in your area. If you’d like more advice, check out our step-by-step guide to preparing your pet for firework night.

4. Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms are a little trickier – while you can check the weather forecast there’s no guarantee it will be correct. As cats and dogs have more sensitive hearing than us, they may know a thunderstorm is coming before we do. Having a safe space in your home where your cat or dog knows they can hide will help comfort them and allow them to feel relaxed. One Beaphar Calming Collar can be effective for up to six weeks, making it a good choice for the spring and summer months when thunderstorms are more likely to occur. As a pre-emptive measure during the rest of year, you could also use Beaphar Calming Home Spray around your home.

5. Travelling in the car

Travelling in a car or pet carrier can be a stressful experience for any pet. Try to make it as comfortable as possible for your cat or dog, especially if it’s a long drive.
  • Never let a cat or dog roam free in the car while you’re driving - this goes against The Highway Code. Not only does it create a distraction, but in the event of an accident you could seriously injure yourself or your pet, and you can also invalidate your car insurance. 
  • Dogs should either be placed in a crate or specifically designed harness, while cats should be placed in a cat carrier. Putting down a blanket or bedding in the carrier or crate that smells of your cat or dog can help reduce their distress, while using Beaphar Home Spray can help promote natural relaxation and feelings of calm in your pet while they travel. It can also help encourage reluctant cats inside the carrier. 
  • If embarking on a long journey feed your pet a couple of hours (1 - 2 for cats, 2 - 3 for dogs) before setting off. This reduces the chance of car sickness which could cause your cat or dog further distress. Beaphar Calming Tablets begin to work within 90 minutes, and can either be added to your pet’s meal or given directly, helping your pet relax in the car. 
  • Remember to stop for regular toilet breaks for both you and your dog, and make sure cats have access to a travel litter tray. Pack bags, kitchen roll and pet disinfectant just in case! 
  • Make sure your pet is safely secured before you open your car doors or windows. Their collar and microchip information should also be up to date before you travel.


6. Visiting the Vets, Catteries or Kennels

Is a trip to the vets on the horizon? Beaphar Calming Spot On is effective for up to one week, so can be applied to your cat or dog a couple days before the appointment and continue to keep them calm once the visit is over. 

Leaving your cat or dog in the cattery or kennels while you’re on holiday for a couple of weeks? A Beaphar Calming Collar will help your pet feel more relaxed for the duration of their stay. One collar lasts for up to six weeks, so you can relax on your holiday knowing your pet is relaxed on theirs.

7. Parties

Your pet will be used to having your family around, but having their territory invaded by lots of people has the potential to provoke a stressful reaction. 
  • Play any music you’ll be having before the party to allow your pet to get used to the noise. 
  • Assign a ‘safe zone’ for your pet, preferably in a room where they already spend a large amount of time. Spray this room with Beaphar Home Spray to help your pet feel more relaxed while they’re there. Once the party starts make it clear to your guests that this room is off-limits. 
  • Don’t ignore your pet during the party, check on them and give them a treat if they’re behaving well. Give cats Beaphar Calming Cat Treats, which will help reduce anxiety as well as provide a tasty reward for good behaviour.

Destructive or problem behaviour due to boredom

Boredom plays a part in problem behaviour for both cats and dogs.

  • The biggest cause of bad behaviour in dogs is pent up energy. Make sure your dog is being given plenty of walks and mental exercise. This should be in line with their age and breed.
  • Give your cat plenty of toys to occupy them, and make time to play and interact with them.
  • It is important not to scold your cat or dog for destructive behaviour, especially if you don’t see them doing it. Unlike when you scold a human, your dog will not link their action with your reaction. Instead it may cause them to become nervous or fearful of you. If you see your pet doing it, reprimand them firmly and calmly.

To help reduce stress in cats and dogs caused by destructive or problem behaviour, we recommend using the Beaphar CatComfort® Calming Diffuser and  Spray, or the Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Diffuser and  Spray.


Spending time alone

Dogs are naturally pack animals, so tend to suffer more when left alone. However you can make it easier for them. Dogs don’t measure time the same way humans do. Unless they need the toilet or are hungry, they’re unlikely to notice whether you’re gone for a few minutes or a couple of hours.

A good way to avoid making your dog anxious about you leaving is to be positive and confident when you exit. If you fuss over your dog they will wonder what is wrong, and could become anxious when you go.

Cats are naturally solitary, but may suffer if they go from being with another pet or human regularly to being alone. Leave plenty of toys and distractions to keep them amused while you’re gone.

To help reduce stress in cats and dogs caused by spending time alone, we recommend using the Beaphar CatComfort® or  Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Diffuser.




Training and Socialisation

Meeting other dogs or learning new things can be a challenging experience for dogs, especially puppies.

  • Always end training sessions on a positive note. Treats or toys are a great aid to training – they give your dog an incentive to learn commands and help create a positive association with training.
  • Do not scold, shout or punish your dog if they are not doing as you ask. They may not understand what you are asking from them. Negative reinforcement will make the learning process slower and make your dog afraid of you, damaging your relationship.
  • Take your training sessions slowly and don’t make the sessions too long. Puppies and young dogs in particular have shorter attention spans and may grow tired or get distracted. Short, frequent sessions will give you better results.
  • Training should be fun. Your dog wants to please you. If you’re both having fun it will help improve your dog's learning and the bonding process between you both.
  • If your dog is having trouble learning something, simply go back to the beginning and start again.
  • When meeting new dogs or learning something new, a calming product can help. When dogs feel reassured and relaxed, they are more likely to respond positively to your instruction.

To support your dog during training and socialisation, use the Beaphar CaniComfort® Calming Collar - Adult or  Puppy.


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