Occasionally, a member posts in the cat behavior forum asking for advice on what is clearly a stress-related behavioral issue. It soon becomes evident that the member is stressed too, often not due to the cat's issue but to other life circumstances. It can be a vicious cycle: a stressed owner projects anxiety making the cat more prone to behavioral problems, causing the owner more stress and on it goes, spiraling into a situation where both human and pet are trapped in the claws of stress and anxiety.
It's important to understand the dynamics at play here. When stress is the issue, human and feline can affect each other in positive or negative ways:
Ideally, a cat can be a source of comfort; soothing our mind and heart and allowing us to meditate to the sound of that gentle rhythmic purr. Unfortunately, things aren't always idyllic. For some humans, even the antics of an active kitten can induce stress. Others may find it difficult to deal with nighttime feline activities to the point constant stress due to sleep deprivation. Taking into account complications caused by medical or behavioral issues -- possibly made worse by financial ramifications -- keeping a cat can become a source of anxiety for most cat owners.
We have a similar effect on our cats. We can and should provide Kitty with a reassuring presence by caring not only for her physical needs but also for her mental well-being. Unfortunately, when things go sour, the human's presence can become a source of anxiety. Not respecting the cat's personal boundaries, creating a hectic home environment, or punishing the cat in any way, can all contribute towards elevating a cat's stress levels.
The thing to remember is that these are effects and counter-effects. When either human or cat is stressed, it is more likely to affect the other party in a similar way, regardless of the initial source of stress.
The good news? You can break the vicious cycle of stress!First, lower your own stress levels. Whatever the source of your own anxiety, deal with it. Not only for yourself, but for your cat's peace of mind as well. By becoming more relaxed, you will be creating a more soothing environment for your cat. There are many ways to lower one's stress levels naturally. Getting enough sleep, eating well and meditating can all help. Some people use medications to combat stress. Whatever you choose, take care of yourself so that you can take better care of your cat.
Next, there are ways to help your cat de-stress too. Assess your cat's stress levels by using our article: How to Tell if Your Cat is Stressed Out. Next, read our piece titled Six Surefire Strategies to Reduce Stress in Cats and see which ones can help your cat relax. Again, you will be helping yourself by helping your cat.
Your relationship is a partnership: Cat and human affect each other in many ways. That said, it is not an equal partnership. It is up entirely to you, the human reading these words, to take the lead in an active campaign to reduce stress in your household. For both of your sakes.