Neurotic Symptoms in Cats

When I'm scared, I act a little odd.
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You know how some people seem so darn well adjusted — outgoing, happy-go-lucky and always smiling? And some people ... well, not so much? Cats are no different: Some are friendly while others seem downright neurotic, sitting without moving for hours, avoiding the litter box, skittish and standoffish. Ever wonder why?

Odd Symptoms

Some cats display odd symptoms that you might classify as neurotic: fearing a certain room, litter box problems, scratching and hissing for what appears to be no reason, excessive licking. Such behaviors usually manifest from fear or anxiety, or they might indicate a medical problem. Your cat is not really neurotic.

Litter Box Avoidance

Take avoidance of the litter box as an example. Your cat avoids it even though it’s clean, so you think your cat is being neurotic about it. Your cat might just be afraid of the location where you keep it. If you keep the box in the laundry room, for instance, and your cat is afraid of the noise the dryer makes, she might avoid the litter box. Some cats can associate old fear with certain rooms, too. So if your cat was maybe scared when something fell off a laundry room shelf, she might always fear going into the laundry room. If you move the litter box to another room and your cat then uses it — voila — problem solved.

Stressed Out Kitty

Stressed cats, particularly shy and introverted ones, might sit immobile for long periods. Stress can lead to spraying, self-mutilation or excessive grooming, hiding, aggression to you or your other pet, incessant meowing, poor appetite and restlessness. All these behaviors could be described as neurotic, but they can be treated. Once your veterinarian has ruled out any medical reason for the odd behavior, try to determine what might be stressing out your kitty.


Avoidance of the litter box, besides its location, could be because it’s dirty, too perfumed or too confining. A cat who sprays might feel territorial because of an outdoor cat who comes to your yard, a dog that walks near your home or squirrels running around. It sometimes helps to block kitty’s view of such outside eye-catchers. Your other pet could be terrorizing your “neurotic” cat, making her afraid. Many cats are fearful because they aren’t socialized well as kittens. They can become fearful if traumatized by fireworks, gunshots or thunder. If someone in the house was cruel to the cat or if another pet attacked her, she might develop lasting fearful behavior.


You can help a fearful, stressed cat by controlling her environment, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Keep her away from rooms she’s scared of and pets she doesn’t like; and, most importantly, don’t punish her for her fear. You can also try to desensitize a scared kitty by having her associate whatever she’s fears with a pleasant experience — giving her a treat when she goes into the laundry room, for example.

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