How to Spot Stress in Family Pets – P.L.A.Y.

By Jennifer Sy on Apr 19, 2023

Many families value their pets very much, so maintaining their welfare is of utmost importance to pet owners.

Identifying stress in our furry family members is crucial for pet owners. Different signs of stress can appear, such as behavioral modifications and physical symptoms. It is possible to enhance pets’ general well-being and avert potential health problems by identifying and treating their stress.

In this article, we’ll look at how to identify stress in household pets, along with some advice on how to deal with it.

Understanding Stress in Pets

Before anything else, it’s essential to understand what stress is and how it affects animals. Stress is a normal reaction to perceived dangers or difficulties.

Pets’ bodies release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline when they experience stressful circumstances like loud noises, strange environments, or being separated from their owners. These hormones set off the “fight or flight” response, preparing the animal to either confront or run from the perceived threat.

According to the researchers’ findings, published in Scientific Reports today, 72.5% of all dogs displayed at least one anxiety-related behavior. Stress can be helpful for pets in moderation. They can learn to deal with stressors and become more adaptable to new circumstances. 

A pet’s physical and mental health can be affected by persistent or chronic stress.

Signs of Stress in Pets

Changes in Appetite

A change in a pet’s appetite is one sign that it might be stressed. When stressed, pets may eat less or more than usual. For instance, a cat may overeat when anxious, or a dog may refuse to eat its regular food.

While researching, veterinarian Aisling O’Keeffe found many stories of dogs eating things like socks and underwear; this may be attributed to stress and other factors. This change in appetite may be a clear sign that a pet is stressed out.

Changes in Sleeping Habits

A change in their sleeping patterns is another sign of stress in pets. Pets may sleep more or less than usual and have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep when under stress. A dog might wake up many times during the night, or a cat might choose to sleep the entire day away.

Avoidance Behavior

Pets under stress may engage in avoidance behavior. They might try to avoid people or situations that they feel will be stressful. When there are loud noises or strange people nearby, a dog could hide beneath the bed, while a cat can be reluctant to leave its hiding area.


Aggression, heightened possessiveness, and irritability are all signs of stress in animals. For instance, a dog that is often friendly may turn hostile around people or other dogs. An agitated cat could start biting or rubbing up against its owner.

Licking, Scratching, or Chewing

Another symptom of pet stress is excessive licking, scratching, or chewing. When a pet is uneasy or anxious, it might act in this way. For instance, a dog may lick its paws or tail excessively, while a cat may begin overgrooming, causing bald spots or hair loss.


Another sign of stress in animals is vocalization. When stressed, pets may scream, meow, or make other noises more frequently. For example, a dog may bark excessively in response to loud noises or when left alone, whereas a cat may meow nonstop in response to anxiety.

Changes in Bathroom Habits

A pet’s bathroom habits may have changed, which is a clear sign of stress. Pets may urinate outside the litter box or stop using it altogether when they are under stress.

A dog can start urinating indoors, or a cat might start pooping outside of the litter box. Remember that these actions might also be signs of other diseases. Thus, it is always a good idea to consult a veterinarian if you have any worries about your pet’s behavior.

Pet Stress Management

There are several ways you may help your pet manage stress:

Give Your Pet a Designated Safe Space

Provide a place where your pet can go when feeling stressed. These can be their favorite blankets and toys in a quiet room, a crate, or a bed.

Maintain Routine

Because pets enjoy routine. Make an effort to maintain a regular feeding, exercise, and playtime schedule.

Help with Mental Stimulation

To prevent boredom and manage stress, pets need mental stimulation. Give your pet puzzle toys, interactive games, and toys that release treats to keep their minds engaged.

Socialize Your Pet

By exposing your pet to social situations from an early age, you can help them feel more at ease. To help your pet develop more self-assurance and reduce stress, take them along to socialization activities like dog parks, obedience training, and other events.

Consider dietary supplements

Some pets may benefit from calming pheromones, organic herbs, or prescription medications. Consult your veterinarian if you are unsure about whether these options are appropriate for your pet.


Remember that stress can affect animals just like it does humans. You can help your furry family member live a happy, healthy life by identifying the signs of stress in them and taking action to manage it.

Managing pet stress involves providing a designated safe space, maintaining a routine, offering mental stimulation, socializing pets, and considering dietary supplements. Pets can learn to manage stress and adjust to new situations with the right care and attention. 

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