Why is my cat restless?

Cats can be notoriously difficult to read. 

One minute they’re chilling out on the sofa with you watching Netflix’s latest offering; the next they’re pacing up and down the house like a caged animal. 

Restless tendencies like this, while completely normal, can sometimes point to an underlying issue that’s affecting them. 

It might be illness, injury, heat, stress, a change in environment – there’s a catalogue of causes that could be contributing to their sudden agitation.

As a loving pet parent, it’s therefore vital, you know what the main symptoms are, so you can remedy the situation as quickly as possible. 

What are the main symptoms of a restless cat?

  • Pacing. You won’t need us to tell you that cats are super chilled. When they’re not snoozing, you’ll most likely find them stretched out, catching some rays on the window sill, or resting in one of their favourite spots. A cat that’s restless will spend less time chilling and more time pacing. 


  • Hiding. Not all cats are social butterflies, but if yours has suddenly become an expert at performing vanishing acts, to the point it feels like you don’t even have a cat, then that could be a sign they are struggling with restlessness. One of the main causes of restlessness in cats is anxiety/stress, so hiding when things get a little bit too much, is one of their ways of coping.


  • Loss of appetite. Restfulness can manifest itself in many ways, but one of the most concerning is a loss of appetite. Monitoring the amount of food your feline eats should always be a pet parent priority. Even the slightest change in their eating habits is a concern, and will require the attention of a medical professional. 


  • Over-grooming. We all want a cat who keeps themselves clean and well-groomed with minimum fuss. But when grooming becomes a compulsive behaviour, your feline is going to be doing far more harm than good. Keep your eyes peeled for redness, rashes or scabs on bald areas.


  • Litter box avoidance. A restless cat is going to be less inclined to use their litter box. Litter box avoidance could be down to a number of factors – urinary tract infection, changes in their environment, stress, a dirty litter box. Once the issue has been resolved, your cat’s toilet habits should return to normal, and with it, their restlessness ease. 


  • Excessive meowing. Has your quiet-as-a-mouse feline suddenly turned into a noisy housemate from hell? Excessive meowing is often directly linked to restlessness, and could be happening because your cat is hungry, afraid, sick, or simply just wants some attention. Once you’ve solved the puzzle, it should only be a matter of time before peace and serenity returns.


  • Aggressive behaviour. It can be a real shock to the system seeing your usually cool, calm and collected cat acting aggressively. You may think that the hissing, growling, scratching and biting is because they’re in a foul mood. However, it could just be pent-up energy coming out in the form of aggression. Do not react. Punishing your cat for acting out is only going to inflame the issue. Approach with caution, using all your pet parental skills to defuse the situation, while taking the time to understand what it is that ails them. 


  • Weight loss. An agitated cat is going to move more. And this increase in steps, combined with a loss of appetite, could see their weight begin to drop. At Applaws, we highly recommend you weigh your feline regularly to ensure they stay within a healthy weight range

How can pet owners help their restless cat? What steps can be taken?


  • Up their exercise levels. Regular exercise is great for a cat’s health, and may also help burn off some of that pent-up energy they’ve been storing. Cat toys, obstacle courses and scratching posts are all fun ways of helping increase activity levels. Be sure to schedule daily play sessions as well. We recommend starting out with two 15 – 20-minute sessions each day. 


  • Mental stimulation. A bored cat will inevitably become a restless cat. Providing mental stimulation, therefore, is just as vital as engaging them physically if we are to stave off restfulness in our felines. Think puzzle feeders, organising treasure hunts, teaching them tricks; anything that gets their brain cells fired up. Mentally stimulated cats won’t just be less fidgety, they’ll be happier, and more cognitively healthy, too.  


  • Remove stressors. Stress is one of the biggest triggers of restlessness in cats. Fortunately, more often than not, it’s an issue that can be resolved without contacting your vet –  all it takes is a little bit of pet parent detective work. Common stressors include moving house, the introduction of a new pet, a new baby in the home, and building work. Once you have identified the trigger – and put it in a plan to resolve it  – you should see your cat’s behaviour return to normal.


  • Create a routine. Felines are creatures of habit. The slightest change in routine can send anxiety levels soaring and restlessness through the roof. Keep their daily pattern as predictable as possible – and ensure any unavoidable alterations to it are done gradually.


  • Comfort them. Just like a restless child (or adult) is often best pacified by giving them some love and attention, sometimes a restless cat just needs a gentle stroke and some soothing words. Never shout at or punish a cat who is struggling to keep still. This will only increase their restlessness, and could result in them acting out aggressively.  

Should I take my cat to the vet if the restlessness persists?


If you’ve tried all of the above and your feisty feline is still not settling down, then now’s the time to bring in the professionals. 

Remember, though, taking your cat to the vets can be a stressful experience in itself, especially for felines of a nervous disposition. 

You will want to make the journey as pleasant as possible for them, which means using a carrier they are comfortable with. 

Try and create positive associations before you have to use it for a trip out. 

Leave the carrier out around the house. Let them play with it, explore it in their own time.  

When it comes time to go to the vets, place your cat’s bedding in there, along with one of their favourite toys. A couple of treats – healthy ones – certainly won’t do any harm either. 

Drive slowly and carefully, and don’t panic or get angry, if your feline acts out. Patience is your best friend when dealing with cats and carriers. 


Tender, loving, care


We only want what’s best for our felines. 

Seeing them stressed out or restless, therefore, can be an extremely worrying sight for any pet parent.   

The good news is that, in most cases, a bit of TLC will more than likely have them resting and relaxing in no time at all. 

If you do think there’s something more sinister at play, do not hesitate to contact your vet. 

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