|Just moved! Photo debcha (Flickr)|
Stressed cats will tend to hide (see picture). We see this when we move home. A house move puts our cat into a strange environment. We get stressed too.
Purring is not a an accurate measure of stress or relaxation as it occurs under a wide range of circumstances.
A cat that is very vigilant and who sleeps poorly as a consequence could be said to be under stress probably due to cats being forced together and/or one cat being a dominant aggressor. Overgrooming and cystitis are two examples of behavior and health that can be caused by stress.
A cat's behavior and posture signals his or her level of stress at any given time. Below is a picture that shows the two extremes and below that is a "composite behavioral scale for quantifying stress". My thanks to the book The Welfare of Cats for this.
- Completely relaxed, cat laid out on back sometimes, pupils normal, ears pricked forward, possibly purring. You might see the slow blink that a visitor described. Tail extended and held upwards with whiskers forward or normal. Chin may be resting on a surface.
- More aware than at level 1 but relaxed with ears forward and normal (midway position between forward and back), purring, meowing possibly, slow blink and whiskers forward or normal.
- Belly may be exposed. Ears forward or pricked. Legs may be stretched out and paws turned in.
- Cat may sit away from the direction of the front of the cage. Whiskers and ears normal or forward.
- Eyes slightly dilated. Cat may meow and look around. Head moves around. Body a little tense.
- Eyes dilated. Ears flattened slightly and back or forward on cat's head. Posture is tense. Plaintive meows. Actively exploring and trying to escape cage.
- Posture is stiff. Cat focuses on observing person. Plaintive meows. Ears back. Pupils dilated and cat may try to escape.
- Pupils dilated or very dilated. Prowling or motionless. Yowl. Ears flattened a bit and back on head. Body crouched. Tail close to body.
- Pupils very dilated. Body crouched and close to ground. Breathing fast. Shaking perhaps. Cat at rear of cage. Quiet or very vocal. Hiss perhaps. Whiskers back.
- Full-on defence. Hair, body and head flattened. Pupils very dilated. Warning hiss or and spit. Back in cage. Sits on all fours. Rage. Fast breathing.
Associated: Cat personality questionnaire (PDF file will download)