Do Cats Scratch Themselves When Stressed?

Do you love cats as much as we do? Have you ever noticed your furry friend scratching themselves more than usual? Well, it’s a common sight for cat owners to witness their pets clawing at themselves. But did you know that this behavior could be linked to stress?

That’s right. Cats tend to scratch themselves more when they’re feeling anxious, fearful, or stressed. Unfortunately, some cat owners overlook this behavior and brush it off as mere grooming habits. However, understanding the underlying reason for your pet’s scratching behavior is crucial.

In this blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into the topic “Do cats scratch themselves when stressed?” and provide you with fascinating insights into your cat’s behavior. We’ll explore the causes of stress in your feline friend, the impact of this behavior on their health, and some remedies that can help reduce their stress levels.

So if you want to understand your cat’s scratching behavior and help them feel calm and relaxed, then keep reading. This blog post will help you decode your feline friend’s behavior and offer tips to make their life a little easier.

What is Stress in Cats?

Stress can be defined as the body’s response to any physical or emotional situation that is perceived as a threat, and cats are sensitive animals that can be affected by various stressors such as changes in their environment, new people or pets in the home, loud noises, and even illness.

When a cat is stressed, it can exhibit various behaviors such as hiding, excessive grooming, aggression, and scratching itself. Excessive grooming is one of the most common signs of stress in cats. When a cat is stressed, it may groom itself excessively, causing hair loss and even skin irritation. This behavior can also lead to the cat scratching itself more often than usual.

However, not all cats will show visible signs of stress when they are feeling overwhelmed. Some cats may show no signs of stress at all and it is important for cat owners to recognize subtle changes in their behavior that may indicate they are feeling stressed.

To help reduce stress in cats, providing a comfortable and safe environment with plenty of hiding places can be helpful. Additionally, engaging in playtime and providing mental stimulation can help alleviate stress. It’s also important to take note of any potential stressors in their environment and consult with your veterinarian if you notice your cat exhibiting any signs of stress. They can help determine if there are any underlying health issues contributing to the behavior and provide guidance on how to alleviate your cat’s stress.

If a cat continues to exhibit signs of stress despite environmental changes, it may be necessary to consult with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for further assistance.

Reasons Why Cats Scratch Themselves

Cats are fascinating creatures with numerous behavioral traits that set them apart from other domestic animals. One of these traits is their tendency to scratch themselves. While scratching is a natural behavior for cats, excessive scratching can be a sign of an underlying issue. Here are five reasons why cats scratch themselves excessively:


Stress is a common cause of excessive scratching in cats. When cats feel anxious or overwhelmed, they may scratch themselves excessively as a way to self-soothe or relieve their anxiety. Changes in the household environment, lack of attention or stimulation, and illness can all contribute to a cat’s stress levels.


Cats can develop allergies to various things such as food, pollen, or household cleaners. Allergic reactions can cause itchiness and irritation on the skin, leading cats to scratch themselves excessively. It’s essential to identify the allergen causing the reaction and remove it from your cat’s environment.


Fleas and other parasites can irritate the cat’s skin and cause them to scratch themselves as a way to relieve the discomfort. If your cat has fleas, it’s crucial to treat them immediately to prevent further irritation.

Medical conditions

Medical conditions such as skin infections and hormonal imbalances can cause cats to scratch themselves excessively. It’s vital to consult with a veterinarian if you notice your cat scratching themselves excessively as they can diagnose and treat any underlying medical issues.


Scratching is a natural part of a cat’s grooming routine. They use it to remove dead skin cells and debris from their fur as well as stretch their muscles. Some cats may scratch themselves simply out of habit or because they enjoy it.

How to Recognize Stress-Related Scratching

Cats are known for their love of scratching, as it helps them maintain their claws and mark their territory. However, excessive scratching or grooming can be a sign of stress-related behavior, which can lead to skin irritation and discomfort. As a cat owner, it’s important to recognize the signs of stress-related scratching so you can take action to alleviate your cat’s anxiety and promote their overall well-being.

Excessive grooming is one of the most common signs of stress-related scratching. If you notice your cat spending an unusual amount of time licking or biting themselves, it could be a sign of stress. This behavior can cause redness and inflammation, which can progress to scabbing and crusting of the skin. Additionally, your cat may also scratch obsessively at furniture, carpets, or other surfaces in your home, which can result in damage and destruction of your property.

Changes in your cat’s behavior can also indicate that they are experiencing stress-related scratching. For instance, if your cat seems more anxious or irritable than usual, or if they are avoiding certain areas of your home or hiding more often, it may be a sign of stress. Other signs of stress can include changes in appetite or litter box habits and increased vocalization.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, it’s vital to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Once medical issues have been ruled out, you can work on addressing the underlying causes of your cat’s stress and anxiety.

Providing your cat with a comfortable and stimulating environment can help alleviate their stress-related scratching behavior. Make sure they have plenty of toys to play with and places to hide and relax. You can also try using pheromone sprays or diffusers to help calm your cat’s nerves.

Potential Causes of Stress in Cats

Cats are often viewed as self-sufficient creatures, but they can still experience stress and anxiety just like humans. Stress in cats can manifest in numerous ways, including excessive scratching behavior. As a cat owner, it is crucial to understand the potential causes of stress in your feline friend and take steps to alleviate them.

Changes in Environment

Cats are creatures of habit and any sudden changes to their environment can cause stress. Moving to a new home, introducing a new pet or family member, or rearranging furniture can all disrupt their daily routine and lead to anxiety and stress.

Lack of Stimulation

Cats are natural hunters and require ample stimulation to avoid boredom and stress. Without enough toys or activities to keep them occupied, cats may resort to excessive scratching or other destructive behaviors. This is especially true for indoor cats, who rely on their owners to provide them with adequate stimulation.

Health Issues

Chronic pain or illness can also cause stress in cats. If your cat is experiencing discomfort or pain, they may become agitated and irritable. Regular vet visits can help catch any underlying health issues early on and prevent unnecessary stress.

Tips for Reducing Stress in Cats

To reduce stress in your feline friend, provide plenty of toys and activities for mental and physical stimulation. Interactive puzzles, scratching posts, and window perches are great options. Establishing a consistent routine for feeding and playtime can also help reduce stress in cats. And if you notice any excessive scratching or signs of stress, seek veterinary care immediately.

How to Reduce Stress in Cats

Reducing stress in cats is essential to promoting their overall health and happiness. With a little effort and attention, pet owners can help their furry friends feel secure and content in their environment. Here are six effective strategies for reducing stress in cats:

Provide Plenty of Vertical Spaces

Cats are natural climbers and love to perch up high. By providing cat trees or shelves mounted on the wall, you give your cat a sense of security and control over their environment, which can help to alleviate stress.

Environmental Enrichment

Boredom is a significant contributor to stress in cats. Providing plenty of toys and interactive play opportunities, as well as different types of food puzzles or treat-dispensing toys, can help keep your cat mentally stimulated. Regular playtime with your cat is an excellent way to strengthen your bond and provide a positive outlet for their energy.

Pay Attention to Body Language

Your cat’s behavior can tell you a lot about their stress levels. Excessive grooming or scratching, hiding or avoiding interaction, and changes in appetite or sleep patterns are all indicators of stress. If you notice any of these behaviors, it’s time to consult with your veterinarian or a professional animal behaviorist for additional guidance on how to reduce your cat’s stress levels.

Provide a Safe and Comfortable Environment

Ensuring that your cat has access to clean water, nutritious food, and a clean litter box are essential elements for every pet owner. Additionally, providing plenty of toys and activities to keep them entertained will make them feel safe and secure.

Exercise and Play

Just like human beings, exercise is an excellent way to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Giving your cat a scratching post or other appropriate scratching surface will also enable them to engage in natural behaviors that help reduce stress.

Use Calming Pheromones

Using calming pheromone sprays or diffusers can help reduce stress in cats. Providing your cat with a comfortable bed or hiding place and using positive reinforcement training techniques can encourage good behavior.

When to Seek Veterinary Help for Stress-Related Scratching

As a feline fanatic, you know that scratching is a normal behavior for cats. However, when your fur baby begins to scratch excessively or compulsively, it could be a sign of underlying medical issues or stress. So, when should you seek veterinary help for stress-related scratching in cats?

If you observe that your cat is scratching more frequently than usual, it’s time to schedule a visit with your veterinarian. Additionally, if the scratching is accompanied by other signs of stress such as hiding, vocalizing, or changes in appetite or behavior, it’s crucial to consult with your vet immediately.

Your veterinarian will examine your cat to determine if there are any underlying medical conditions contributing to the scratching and provide treatment options. They may also recommend behavioral modification techniques or medication to help reduce your cat’s stress levels and decrease their urge to scratch excessively.

Ignoring stress-related scratching in cats can lead to further health complications, such as skin infections and injuries from excessive scratching. By seeking veterinary help early on, you can avoid these complications and ensure a happy and healthy life for your feline companion.

But how can you prevent stress-related scratching in the first place? Providing a stress-free environment for your cat is key. Here are some tips:

  • Offer vertical spaces for your cat to climb and perch.
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  • Provide environmental enrichment like puzzle feeders and interactive toys.
  • Ensure that their surroundings are safe and secure.
  • Encourage exercise and play opportunities.
  • Monitor their body language for signs of stress and respond accordingly.
  • Use calming pheromones like Feliway.

Natural Solutions To Reduce Cat Anxiety and Stress

Unfortunately, just like us humans, cats can experience anxiety and stress that can manifest in a range of behaviors, such as excessive scratching and hiding. Fortunately, there are natural solutions that can help reduce cat anxiety and stress.

The first step in reducing your cat’s anxiety is to create a calm and safe environment. Cats are territorial animals, so providing them with their own space where they feel secure and comfortable can significantly reduce their stress levels. Designated areas, such as a cozy bed or a hiding spot, can help your cat retreat when feeling anxious. Vertical spaces, such as cat trees or shelves, also give your cat the opportunity to climb and survey their environment from above.

Another natural solution is to use pheromone products. Pheromones are chemical signals that cats use to communicate with each other. Synthetic versions of these pheromones can be used to create a calming environment for your cat. Feliway diffusers or sprays are a popular choice for many cat owners.

Exercise and playtime are also crucial for reducing cat anxiety and stress. Not only does regular playtime provide physical exercise, but it also provides mental stimulation that can help reduce boredom and anxiety. Interactive toys, such as puzzle feeders or laser pointers, can keep your cat entertained and mentally stimulated.

In addition to these solutions, maintaining a healthy diet and grooming routine can also help reduce stress and anxiety in cats. A balanced diet can keep your cat healthy and strong, while regular grooming can help reduce any discomfort caused by matted fur or skin irritations.


In summary, cats may scratch themselves excessively as a result of stress. Stress can arise from a variety of sources, including environmental changes, lack of stimulation, allergies, parasites, and medical conditions. It is important for cat owners to be aware of the signs of stress-related scratching and take action to reduce their pet’s anxiety.

To help alleviate stress in cats, it is crucial to provide them with a comfortable and secure environment that includes plenty of hiding places and stimulating toys. Regular playtime and exercise can also go a long way in reducing stress levels. Additionally, using pheromone sprays or diffusers can have a calming effect on your furry friend.

If you observe excessive scratching or other indications of stress in your cat, it is vital to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues. Once medical concerns have been ruled out, you can concentrate on addressing the root causes of your cat’s anxiety.

Overall, understanding your cat’s behavior is critical for ensuring their overall well-being.