What Causes Stress in a Maine Coon Cat?


If your Maine Coon doesn’t seem relaxed, looks anxious or generally unhappy, it might be feeling emotionally strained or experiencing feelings of anxiety. If this is the case, you will need to determine the reason. What causes stress in a Maine Coon cat?

The main causes of stress in a Maine Coon cat are changes to its environment and the actions of its owners. However, there are many other reasons why Maine Coon cats suffer from stress. We detail the different symptoms, every possible stress trigger and how you can prevent them.

Cats Can Suffer From Stress

The Maine Coon is an intelligent and sensitive cat, just as capable of suffering from stress as you or I. Stress is a mental or emotional strain brought on by unfavorable or demanding circumstances. If your Maine Coon seems stressed, do your best to determine the cause. This article will help you do just that as we detail all the different behaviors that could result from stress, what the causes might be, and how you can make things right.

Why Stress Is Bad For Cats

If a cat lives in a constant state of stress this can have a detrimental effect on its overall health and lifespan. The anxiety that stress causes can stop a cat from eating and drinking and this will cause a rapid decline in its health.

Many vets believe stress in cats to be one of the causes of Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC) – also known as Feline Interstitial Cystitis. This is a type of urinary tract disease caused by inflammation.

Other medical problems that can be caused by stress are skin conditions, allergies, and mental health issues.

So in the name of keeping your cat happy and healthy, it is a good idea to learn how to recognize all the signs of stress, determine what the causes are and eliminate them as quickly as possible.

Owners can be the biggest source of stress

It may surprise (and upset) you to know that you could be unintentionally causing your Maine Coon to suffer from stress. Here are a few of the things people do that cats find stressful:

Shouting at your cat

When a Maine Coon does something that you don’t want it to, such as scratching at your expensive new leather sofa, shouting at it is not the best course of action. Yes, the behavior may stop because your cat has run a mile in fear of you but all you have done is successfully scared it off. Don’t expect it to remember not to scratch the couch again. Instead of raising your voice, try the distraction technique by using a toy to lure your cat well away from the area. Lead it to its scratching post and make a big fuss of it if it plays on that instead.

Expecting your cat to understand you

Many of us talk to our Maine Coons which is fine but remember they don’t understand what you are saying. A cat can respond to one word such as its name so why not try to teach it the word ‘No’. For example, if you don’t want your Maine Coon to jump on the kitchen counters every time it does, gently place it on the floor and firmly say, ‘No’. Again try to distract it away. Don’t roughly remove your cat whilst ranting at it as it will not understand but will be scared by this experience.

Using your fingers to play with your cat

Many people can’t resist using their fingers to encourage a cat to pounce.  A Maine Coon’s claws can cause considerable pain, even through a layer of bedclothes. Bear this in mind if you enjoy enticing your cat to pounce by wriggling your fingers under the sheets. If you react by shouting you will instantly turn what was a fun game into an upsetting experience for your cat. The answer here is to stick to using toys to encourage your cat to pounce. Most kittens and cats love wand teaser toys like thisOpens in a new tab. (opens in a new window).

Grabbing your Maine Coon for a cuddle

You can scare the life out of your cat by towering above it then swooping down and lifting it up for a cuddle. Remember that this can invoke the instinct that it is being preyed on. Always use slow movements around your cat, pick it up slowly and gently. If it doesn’t want to be held never force it to be.

Introducing a new pet into the household

You may think getting another cat or a dog will provide good company for your Maine Coon but it may not share your enthusiasm. Your house is your cat’s territory. You have always been there so that’s fine by your cat but bringing in a strange animal rarely goes down well and can be a huge stress factor for a cat. If you want to bring a new pet into the home, do so carefully.

Gradual introductions are best and should be fully supervised. Try showing your cat an item with the scent of the new pet on it and leave it in the room so it can get used to it. Make completely separate areas for each pet with separate food, water, and litter trays as necessary. Let them see each other at a distance. Gradually bring them closer together and don’t rush the process. Hopefully, they will accept each other over time but be prepared for a Maine Coon never to accept a new pet’s presence, as this can sometimes be the case.

Bathing

People commonly believe that Maine Coon cats like water and are happy to be bathed on a regular basis.

In our experience, this is not the case. Bathing, shampooing, blow-drying, applying talc to make their fur silky are things our breeder was proud to tell us she did to our Maine Coon cats as kittens. She insisted that they loved the experience.  So, when one of our kittens got extremely messy during a toileting ‘accident’, I ran a very shallow bath and gently lowered him in to clean him. Small as he was, I couldn’t keep him there. The ensuant struggle broke my heart and I had to halt the process immediately. He meowed pitifully as I wrapped him in a towel to dry him off. He ran off to hide when I put him down.

Consequently, we have never attempted to bath either cat since. The stress a bath caused was all too apparent. If your cat clearly does not enjoy a bath don’t persist. Bear in mind that the smell of shampoo can distress a cat too and they will often give themselves a whole wash after a bath to try to get rid of the unfamiliar smell.

Arguing

If there is unrest in your family, your Maine Coon will be sensitive to this. If people are constantly shouting at each other this will have an adverse effect on your cat’s happiness. Loud voices can cause it to feel stressed. Obviously, families argue from time-to-time. Try to keep shouting to a minimum and don’t do it when your cat is in the room.

Your mood

If you are sad or depressed, your Maine Coon will sense this. Your low mood can rub off on your cat and make it feel stressed. A Maine Coon is a beautiful and sociable companion so allow it to lift your mood.  The happier you are, the happier your cat will feel.

Your Stress Levels

Keep your own stress level low to minimize stress in your cat. Do whatever it takes to unwind if you feel your stress level rising – have a hot drink, a beer or a wine, anything that will prevent you from transmitting your stress to your cat.

Other common causes of stress in Maine Coon cats

Apart from the reasons mentioned above, these are the other main causes of stress in Maine Coons:

A Medical Condition or Injury

A medical condition or injury can be a leading cause of Maine Coon stress.

Symptoms

Your Maine Coon is cowering in a hunched position and is not relaxed, or it is hiding in an unusual place where you can’t reach it easily (such as under your bed), or it winces if you try to pick it up, or it tries to get away from you. It isn’t eating or drinking. The usual purrs don’t happen when you stroke it. It is not holding its tail up but lets it trail low behind it.

Causes

This behavior is often indicative of discomfort caused by injury or illness. Try to watch your cat urinate to see if it exhibits signs of pain which might be caused by a urinary tract infection. Gently palpitate its stomach to see if it has a pain in that area. Check it carefully all over for visible signs of injury.

Cure

If you have even the slightest suspicion that your cat is sick or injured, take it straight to your vet. Best be safe than sorry. If you don’t visit a vet you could be allowing your cat to suffer and it could become seriously ill very quickly. Remember cats can quickly become dehydrated so don’t let it withhold from drinking for more than 24 hours. The quicker a vet can diagnose and treat your cat, the quicker it will be back to normal. The longer you own your cat the more you will intuitively know when it is poorly.

Moving House

Moving house in one of the most stressful events for people. The same goes for your Maine Coon.

Symptoms

Your Maine Coon may start urinating or soiling indoors. It may run about in an unrelaxed fashion and appear unsettled. There might be excessive meowing. It will not seem to settle anywhere to sleep. When we moved, during the first week in our new house one of our Maine Coons urinated on a coat and then on a brand new bean bag chair.

Causes

Your new house may be filled with the scent of a previous cat or dog. It will certainly be filled with other strange and unfamiliar smells. Your cat may even react differently to you because you are not in your usual setting.  A Maine Coon is extremely sensitive to changes in its environment so you should be prepared for unusual behavior in a new house for at least the first few weeks.

Cure

Make allowances for your Maine Coon until it settles down and becomes accustomed to its new surroundings. If you usually let your cat go outside, try to keep it indoors for a few weeks until it is totally comfortable with its new home.

Ensure you give it lots of familiar things such as its toys and a scratching post from your previous house. Give it an item of your clothing to lay on. Some people suggest using a Feliway diffuser to calm a cat down. Don’t get cross with your cat for displaying unwanted behavior during this time as this will not help it settle. Do make sure it has a clean litter tray every day in a quiet area until you are ready to let it explore outside (if it’s an outdoor cat that is).

Try not to leave your cat alone in the new house for long spells. Give it lots of attention until it has settled in.

Boredom

Maine Coon cats, especially indoor cats, can feel boredom just like we can.

Symptoms

Your Maine Coon scratches at the furniture, curtains, and carpets. It seeks you out and gets in the way of what you are doing. You hear it meowing all the time and it is generally clingy. It appears to be excessively grooming itself or pulling out its fur.

Causes

Your Maine Coon is probably physically and mentally understimulated. The mind of an under-stimulated cat becomes overloaded and the result is often a display of unusual and unappreciated behavior.

Cure

A Maine Coon likes lots of your attention so be sure to give it plenty every day, especially if you are out for long spells at a time. Make sure you give your indoor cat plenty of toys to stimulate it and provide it with a sturdy scratching post (or even a tree such as this one – opens in new window) on which to exert its energy. Try to play with your Maine Coon on a daily basis. Buy it some cat brainteaser toys that will challenge its brain – choose the type that releases a treat.

Loneliness

If your cat is your only pet and you are often out it could feel lonely.

Symptoms

Your cat sleeps a lot. It meows around you when you’re home and often wakes you when you’re asleep. It enters a room and scratches at things to get your attention.

Causes

As a kitten, your cat was with brothers and sisters as well as its mum. Then you take it to your house and it is suddenly alone. This can cause separation anxiety. Add into the mix that you may go to work most days so your cat is totally without company for long periods of time.

Cure

Pre-empt loneliness by getting two Maine Coons at the same time. If this is not possible try to be at home as much as possible or when you are there give your cat good quality time. As mentioned above make sure your cat has plenty to stimulate it when you are not at home… something like this Fling-Ama-String  (opens in a new window).

Fleas, Mites, and Ticks

If you’ve ever been bitten by a flea or a mosquito you will know how uncomfortable and itchy bites are. You scratch them for relief but the itchiness returns as soon as you stop.

Symptoms

Your cat vigorously scratches its body. It does this incessantly and can develop sore spots. It fidgets around and can’t sit still. Your cat’s ears are full of specs of dirt and look red and sore. It keeps scratching its ears and shaking its head. You may notice lumpy white or black dots on areas of exposed skin such as your cat’s ears and nose that your cat just can’t clean off, no matter how much it tries.

Causes

Flea bites will cause extreme itchiness and your cat will scratch and scratch at these to try to get some relief. Mites affect your cat’s ears and it will shake its head in a vain attempt to stop the irritation. The black and white lumps are probably ticks and they can attach themselves tightly to a cat’s skin. These are more noticeable on the edges of ears, where the fur is thin, and around the edges of their nose.

Cure

There are some very good spot-on treatments available from vets to keep your cat free of fleas and ticks. Apply these on a monthly basis. If you see ticks on your cat remove them as soon as possible by gripping the whole body with tweezers and firmly pulling it away with a straight movement. Make sure you don’t leave part of the tick behind. Kill the tick by placing it in a jar of alcohol and swab the site you removed it from with a cat-friendly disinfectant. Treat mites with medication that your vet can provide.

Conclusion

So as you can see, there are a variety of factors that can cause a Maine Coon cat to feel stressed and the majority of them can be controlled or eliminated by you. Do your best to give your cat the best life you can and you will be rewarded with a happy, healthy and loving companion.

Jane

I'm Jane Pettitt, co-owner of Pets Knowledge Base with my husband, Matt. I have a grand total of 50 years’ experience as a pet owner. It all started with a guinea pig called Percy when I was 5 years old and since then I’ve lived with two more guinea pigs, a hamster, mice, a rabbit, a tortoise, a dog, and 11 cats. I’ve learned so much about pet care during this time and many of my articles are based on my personal experiences plus those of my family and friends.

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