Fear and Anxiety Behaviors of Dogs and Cats

Just as humans have a range of fears and anxieties – and coping mechanisms to handle them – so do our pets. Dogs and cats experience fear, phobias, and anxiousness towards objects or situations and react with certain behaviors.  Consequently, some pets can develop negative, destructive, or aggressive behaviors. Treating problem behavior can be a multi-step process, and often requires time and patience.

Start by Learning

So what do you do if you have a pet that has begun reacting with negative behaviors   First, observe your pet’s behavior closely to confirm what triggers the fear or anxiety and what the responses are. How long does the behavior occur? Is there anything that makes it better or worse? This information will be critical if you need to consult with your veterinarian.

Common triggers include:

  • Loud noises including fireworks, thunderstorms, construction, or street noise
  • Being home alone
  • Kenneling, boarding, traveling or moving
  • Car trips to vet or groomer
  • New family members
  • New or other pets in the house
  • Visitors or social gatherings
  • Changes to the environment or household
  • Change in daily routine

If you know what causes your dog or cat to feel fearful, you may plan ahead for these situations. Often, these situations are unavoidable. Dogs and cats can also express phobias to certain objects or situations. For example the vacuum cleaner or bathing. The fear of being home alone or separation anxiety is also common for pets. Next, take time to watch your pet to figure out what triggers them to feel anxious or stressed and what behaviors they express in response to it. Once identified, work with your pet to condition them to the object or situation. Try using training and give positive rewards to modify their behavior. Learn more about behavior modification techniques for dogs and for cats.

For some dogs and cats, these methods alone will not be enough. If you find yourselves in that position, consult with your veterinarian or a professional behaviorist. Some common signs may include but are not limited to:

Signs of Fear and Anxiety In Cats

  • Hiding
  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive chewing
  • Going outside litterbox
  • Vocalization
  • Spraying
  • Aggression
  • Avoidance or isolation

Signs of Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

  • Panting or trembling
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Cowering or hiding
  • Freezing
  • Excessive drooling or lip licking
  • House Soiling
  • Destructive or aggressive behavior
  • Excessive whining or barking

Time to Talk

Reporting behavior problems and concerns to your dog or cat’s veterinarian is important. Different medical conditions may cause changes in behavior.  Your veterinarian can rule out any potential health problems. Document your dog or cat’s behavior in detail. Prepare to answer questions regarding frequency, duration, type, and patterns of the behavior. Your veterinarian may recommend training or behavior modification techniques. Supplements or prescription medication may be prescribed in addition to these methods. All treatments should be monitored by your vet.

Featured Treatments

VetRxDirect features a large selection of behavioral health products including over the counter supplements, pheromone products, and prescription medications for both dogs and cats. We’ve highlighted a few of the most popular below.

Solliquin for Fear and Anxiety at VetRxDirectSolliquin is a nutritional supplement that encourages behavioral health in dogs and cats. Solliquin helps provide a feeling of calm and contentment during stressful events, without the use of sedation. Made with natural ingredients including magnolia and phellodendron extracts, l-theanine from green tea, and whey protein concentrate.


Reconcile at VetRxDirectReconcile, fluoxetine, is a prescription medication for dogs with certain behavior and cognitive disorders. It works by affecting serotonin levels in the brain that may be unbalanced. Reconcile is commonly prescribed to treat separation anxiety in dogs, and help relieve behavioral symptoms.



Feliway at VetRxDirectFeliway contains feline facial pheromones that help calm cats and control negative feline behaviors associated with stress and anxiety. The pheromones have a soothing effect without using tranquilizers or other medications. Feliway is also great for traveling and acclimating cats to new environments. Plug-In room diffuser, travel spray, and wipes allow for multiple applications.


Sileo at VetRxDirectSileo is a prescription treatment for dogs that suffer from anxiety and behavioral problems caused by noises (noise aversion). It contains the sedative dexmedetomidine at a low dose to help calm dogs down, without heavy sedation, so they can keep fully functional. Sileo is an oral gel labeled to start working in 30-60 min and last 2-3 hours.

Urine Marking in Cats

In the never-ending battle of dogs vs. cats, pet owners have taken a strong stand for their favorites. Dog lovers claim that canines are far more affectionate and loyal, while cat lovers stress that felines are more independent and better behaved. There is, of course, no clear victor of which species is better, since all animals are different and, let’s face it, absolutely adorable.

One thing we can say for certain, however, is that cats are easier to house train than dogs.  Puppies generally have to be confined to a small space with newspapers on the floor in order to learn that it’s not okay to go indoors. But most kittens urinate and defecate in their litter boxes from the outset but, of course, there are the exceptions. 10% of felines relieve themselves outside of their litter boxes, which can be quite frustrating and baffling for owners. Take comfort in knowing that this is not a signal of stupidity; in fact, you can argue it means quite the opposite!

If your furry friend is refusing to use its litter box, it may be because the contraption simply does not live up to your cat’s standards. Perhaps it is too large or small, or simply smells quite right. Experiment with size by giving your cat diverse options and seeing which one he or she is drawn to. Stiff joints might be preventing from your cat comfortably climbing into or using the designated space, so make sure to provide selections with varying heights as well. If this does not work, freshen the scent with products like Litter Magnet and you might be pleasantly surprised by how swiftly your genteel feline responds.

Urine Marking BlogWe think of felines as graceful and sly, and yet a shrewd hunter rests beneath your companion’s lustrous coat. Unlike their canine counterparts, many house cats will even pursue their own food! Feral or wild cats mark their territory with urine so, when your domesticated pet sprays about the house, he or she is simply trying to communicate and feel at home. Want to lessen this nuisance?  You can diminish your cat’s territorial instincts by having your pet spayed or neutered. However, if surgery is an option you don’t want to consider, lessen your friend’s exposure to other animals by simply closing the window blinds. Additionally, Feliway is a synthetic cat pheromone that has been proven to relieve stress in cats, making them far less likely to mark their territory.  It must be applied directly to the areas that your cat has marked soon after the incident occurs. Urine-Away Stain and Odor Eliminator will help diminish the smell and, therefore, lessen your cat’s desire to return to the same spot.

If the urination outside the litter box persists, it is important to inform your vet, especially if it comes in the form of puddles on the ground rather than elevated sprays. This could be a symptom of a plethora of possible medical conditions, including bacterial infections, hyperthyroidism, arthritis and cognitive difficulties. A full physical examination will help rule out many of these ailments so you can breathe easy knowing that your feline friend is plenty healthy, if not a wee bit mischievous.

Fear, Phobias, & Anxiety in Pets.

When Fido or Tiger is Fearful….Anxiety in Pets

When a thunderstorm rolls in, does your dog cower under the bed? Has your cat become aggressive since you brought your new baby home? Do Fourth of July fireworks send your cat and dog into a fearful frenzy?

Just as humans have a range of fears and anxieties – and coping mechanisms to handle them – so do our pets.  Common causes of fear and anxiety in pets include:

  • Loud noises from storms, fireworks and social gatherings
  • New family members
  • New pets
  • A change of residence
  • Changes in your household routine

When these things happen, pets tend to respond with aggressive or destructive behaviors that take their toll on your home, your family, your pet — and your patience.

Start by Learning

So what do you do if you have a pet that’s taking out its fears on your couch or urinating on the carpet? First, observe your pet’s behavior closely to confirm what triggers the fear and what the responses are. This information will be critical if you need to consult with your veterinarian. Ultimately, your veterinarian may suggest a prescription medication for your dog or cat.

But you can take steps right now to help calm your pet. Start by searching online to learn about training approaches that can curb your pet’s fear and anxiety and the resulting negative behaviors.

A Range of Remedies for Anxiety in Pets

Here at VetRxDirect we also stock a range of prescriptions and over-the-counter, natural remedies that can help.

Thundershirt for Anxiety in Dogs

Thundershirt Ships for FREE from VetRxDirect

One popular product for dogs is the Thundershirt. It’s a snug garment you put on your dog when he or she starts to exhibit fear or anxiety. Smart design makes it easy to slip the Thundershirt on your pet even when he or she is in “fear mode.” The Thundershirt applies constant, gentle pressure on the torso, which has an immediate calming effect on many dogs.

We have seen such great success with Thundershirts for dogs, we were happy to hear Thundershirts are now available for Cats!

We also stock a variety of all natural, over-the-counter medications that help calm and support dogs and cats without negative side effects including:

Have these products helped your best furry friend — and saved your couch? We’d like to know and always appreciate your feedback. Share your experience in the comments below.

Meanwhile, keep calm,