How To Calm Down A Cat

By Chyrle Bonk, DVM August 17, 2019

There’s a reason why most veterinarians that see a lot of cats keep a pair of welding gloves or a fishing net on hand.  It’s because when kitties get upset, they can transform from cuddly little balls of fuzz to a furry tornado in the blink of an eye.  They are also very well-equipped to defend themselves should the need arise.  However, not every cat will immediately become aggressive in an uncomfortable situation; some will choose to run and hide instead.  Whichever method your cat uses to cope with stressful situations, we’ll cover how to help them calm down so you can have your cat back to being the purring lap warmer that you’re used to.

How To Calm Down A Cat

It may be hard to imagine anything shaking up your cat’s demeanor as you watch them lazily stretch in a sunbeam.  However, cats are creatures of habit and most don’t take kindly to change.  Little things from having a new person in the house to taking a trip to the vet can cause your kitty stress that has them hiding under the bed or ready to attack the first person that opens the carrier door.  Knowing how to calm down your cat can save you both unwanted stress.  Here are some ways.

  • Cat Massage

If you’ve ever had a massage, then you’re familiar with the way it relaxes you to the point where you seemingly melt into the table.  Using long, slow strokes down your cat’s back or head can be soothing if your kitty is stressed and agitated.  You can also try gentle circular rubbing motions for more of the massage effect.  You’ll definitely want to avoid red flag areas, such as the tummy or the tail area, to prevent further aggravation.

  • Play

Some kitties are so distracted by moving objects that watching one can bring them out of even the deepest anxiety coma.  If your kitty has taken to hiding in dark corners or hissing and spitting at everyone that walks by, sparking up a little game may calm them down.  Try using their favorite toys and move them around at a comfortable distance.  If your cat seems interested, move a little closer.  They may eventually drop their guard and come out for some relaxing playtime.

Yes, it’s really a thing!  Some of us enjoy some nice classical music after a stressful day, while others prefer to rock the anxiety away.  Your cat may enjoy the same.  There’s also cat TV that combines calming music with entertaining videos to get your cat in to a calmer mood.

The way to some cats’ calmness is through their stomach.  If your kitty is upset, agitated, or scared, then a little tasty treat might turn them around.  I’m not talking about the run of the mill everyday cuisine.  You might want to try something a little more tantalizing like canned food or tuna.  If anxiety is a constant issue with your cuddly companion, then you may look into a cat calming treat.  Most of these treats contain L-theanine and/or a C3 blend, which are supplements that helps decrease anxiety. 

  • Catnip

While most of us are familiar with the craziness that ensues after giving our cats catnip, we might not be aware of the calm that follows.  Catnip is a natural herb stimulant that wears off after 20-30 minutes.  At that point, cats are so exhausted that they usually settle in for a nice deep sleep.  You can use catnip to your advantage when you know your cat has something stressful coming up, such as a trip to the vet or a dinner party at your house.  Give them catnip ahead of time so that they will be nice and relaxed when the stressful time rolls around.

  • Pheromones

Ever wonder why your cat rubs their face and body on you?  It’s partially because they want to spread their natural pheromones.  Those pheromones help mark you and give your cat that wonderful calming feeling that we all get when we’re around something familiar.  Providing pheromones for your cat can help make any environment seem familiar and welcoming.  These pheromones come in different forms such as a diffuser for your house or spray and wipes if you need to make specific spots, like the carrier, more welcoming.

  • Safe Spaces

We all like a little space that is just ours, our own rooms, our own cars, and even our own chairs.  Cats are no different and will look to that personal space in times of stress.  Help your cat set up their own safe space which can be well out of the way, quiet, and comfortable.  Some kitties may like something with a little more cover to get out of sight, while others might like a perch that is out of reach.  Whichever your cat prefers, a nice quiet spot that is just theirs can help reduce anxiety during stressful times.

  • Calming Voices

If you’ve ever had to coax your cat out from hiding, then you will know that a loud voice and quick movements don’t help.  Whenever you are interacting with an anxious kitty, make sure to use a calming voice, speak and move slowly and let your kitty come to you.

  • Medication

While medication will hopefully be a last resort, don’t discount their benefits in helping to calm down your feline friend.  Speak with your veterinarian to help tailor a plan specific to your cat.  There are many products available that can be used on a daily basis or as needed.  Most of these medications also have a wide dose range, meaning you may need to experiment with the dosage a bit before your cat is responding to them appropriately.

How To Calm Down a Cat in Various Situations

Now that we’ve touched on ways to calm a nervous or anxious cat, let’s apply those techniques to specific situations.

  • How To Calm Down An Angry Cat

This may be one of the more scary situations for cat parents and cats alike.  Angry cats are definitely capable of causing damage to us and to themselves, so you’ll want to get them calm as quickly as possible.  Most of the time, anger may be more of a surprise emotion and one that doesn’t happen often.  The first thing to try is the safe space method.  Give your kitty a quiet, dark area to let them retreat and take a deep breath.  If this happens when traveling or at the vet, your cat will probably be most comfortable in their carrier with a towel over it.  If you have the time, let them decompress at their own pace.  Never try to touch an angry cat or you might get injured.  You can try giving treats or catnip from a distance, but don’t be surprised if your cat doesn’t respond.  You can also try playing some cat music or spraying pheromones in the vicinity.  Usually, the best remedy is some quiet time.

  • How To Calm Down A Cat In The Car

This is probably every cat parent’s number one question.  Most kitties don’t appreciate car rides the way that dogs do and will spend the entire trip in a high-pitched squeal.  For this one, a little practice makes perfect.  You can definitely try the catnip method by providing catnip 20-30 minutes before departure and hitting the road as your kitty is coming down from the high.  You can also use pheromone sprays or wipes on the carrier and in the car to create a welcoming environment.  Also, making your cat’s carrier part of their everyday life at home makes it easier when the time comes to travel in it.  Let your cat sleep and play inside the carrier at home so that it doesn’t seem so constrictive during travel.  To learn more about helping your cat get familiar with their carrier, read our article here.  Medication may be necessary for some cats, so talk to your vet if you’ve tried everything else and are still having terrible car rides.

  • How To Calm Down A Cat At Night

Look into providing cat TV or cat music to help your kitty sleep.  You can also try interactive toys in another room far away from where you are sleeping.  Feeding a big meal and giving a massage just before bed can really put your cat in a relaxed state.

  • How To Calm Down A Hyper Cat

Does your cat zoom up and down the halls at absurd hours of the night?  There are some cats out there that literally bounce off the walls.  For these kitties, the best thing to do is to tire them out with play.  Let them go wild chasing a laser, feather toy, or interactive toy.  Once they have burned off some energy, try switching to more relaxing activities such as cat massage, playing cat music, or spraying some calming pheromones in the air.

  • How To Calm Down A Cat In Heat

A cat in heat can honestly be a little off-putting.  She will want to make her presence known with persistent howling, yowling, and rolling around in front of you.  It’s not her fault.  Blame it on the hormones.  But until those hormones subside, you might employ the use of pheromones.  This is where a diffuser comes in handy to keep pheromones at a constant supply.  You can also attempt to calm her with music or massage or distract her with play.  However, the chances are that the hormones are still going to overpower your cat in heat.  For desperate times, your vet may prescribe a hormonal supplement that actually keeps your kitty from going into heat if spaying is not an option.


None of us like to see our cats in distress, but unfortunately most of us are bound to eventually.  With the stresses that we put them through, such as vet visits, moves, or house guests, kitties can get anxious from time to time.  Having some methods to calm them down are essential to have in any cat parent’s tool box.  You may have to mix and match methods in certain situations, and it may take some practice before you can get your kitty to calm down.

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