Behind the Scenes: How to recognize stress in pets

by | General Pet Care |

Our Shelter Health Pro website has a lot of great information for shelter health professionals, but also for average pet owners! We thought you might find this information interesting, on how to spot common signs of stress in your pets behaviour. For more information, visit the page on our website!

Common signs of stress and behavioural decline:
  • Changes in original behaviour documented on arrival
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Lack of normal self-maintenance behaviour i.e. eating, grooming
  • Excessive grooming, possibly causing injury
  • Depression, listlessness
  • Stereotypies such as spinning or compulsive behaviour
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Feigned sleep

If you have an animal exhibiting other signs that you are unsure about, please click here for a more detailed list of indicators of stress. For full AAHA Behavioural Management Guidelines, click here.


Ongoing stressors can cause an escalation of the dog’s state from mild anxiety to aggressive behaviour, as illustrated in the diagram below:

ladder of agression, recognizing stress, stressors in pets

For more information, click here.


Ongoing stressors can severely impact or compromise a cat’s immune status and physical health. See below for graphic examples of progressive states from mild anxiety to defensive aggression.

cat diagram body hunched, recognizing stress, stressors in pets

cat diagram arched back, recognizing stress, stressors in pets

cat diagram showing agression, recognizing stress, stressors in pets

For more details regarding behavioural signs and postures, click here.

We need to be particularly concerned about stress in cats in a communal cat setting. For more details regarding communal cat housing, click here.

Visit our Shelter Health Pro website for more great information!