Psychosomatics when the cat’s soul gets sick

The fact that animals can also develop psychosomatic illnesses is by no means universally known. Cats quickly reach the limits of their mental capacity, especially when kept indoors only. Then mental suffering can turn into physical suffering, which often resists any treatment or returns again and again. Some diseases seem to be predestined for a psychological component.

Psychosomatic diseases are a cry for help from the soul

Cats are increasingly kept without outdoor access for a variety of reasons. In contrast to the dog, which has been shaped by breeding for a long time on humans and its environment, the life behind closed doors bores many domestic cats. If they can't keep their urge to explore, hunt and play sufficiently occupied, the prere of suffering can be so great that they become ill, both psychologically and physically. In this order.

Mentally induced physical, d.h. Psychosomatic illnesses are often preceded by gradual behavioral changes that remain unnoticed for a long time. Because cats usually suffer discreetly: sleep a lot, play rarely, cuddle less. And thus deceive their owners about their true condition. Others mew more frequently, are appetiteless and fussy about feeding, become emaciated. Rarely they become thicker. In particularly bad cases, they may even become aggressive or develop obsessive-compulsive behavior, such as a compulsion to clean and lick, because their ability to adapt to a purely indoor environment is overtaxed. Although they often seem very calm, they are under great stress because they cannot escape their situation on their own initiative.

Animal psychosomatics: behavioral changes such as withdrawal are often the first symptoms (Photo: Losche)

If you know your cat and observe it closely, you will notice possible behavioral changes. Early intervention by a trained behavioral therapist and possible medical examinations by a qualified therapist or veterinarian can prevent the development of physical symptoms.

Trigger chronic stress reactions of the body

In addition to postural conditions and incorrect handling, severe traumas or long-term stressful experiences can also be the starting point for psychological changes. They are the springboard for the development of physical symptoms, because persistent psychological stress increasingly puts physical strain on the body as well. The metabolism changes. The adrenal cortex permanently releases too much cortisol. This stress hormone and the negative emotional mood can eventually make the cat ill.

Psychosomatic diseases are the final stage of what is also called the loss of control system. Loss of control – the loss of self-determination. The feeling of hopelessness – is therefore one of the most important factors for their development. In addition, there are experiences such as bullying by fellow cats, mishandling or a bad relationship with the owner. It is no wonder that outdoor cats hardly ever develop psychosomatic symptoms. What is perceived by the cat as loss of control and stress, however, is very individual.

Animal psychosomatics: Diseases in outdoor cats are less often psychologically caused (Photo: Losche)

Causally psychologically motivated illnesses can result in serious and permanent adverse health effects: Life-threatening liver and kidney pathologies, susceptibility to infections due to immunodeficiency, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, diabetes, skin diseases, tumors, carcinomas can develop against this background. The following are some of the most common conditions in which a psychosomatic background may be present, according to a 2015 report in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.

Respiratory infections caused by feline herpes virus (FHV)/feline calicivirus (FCV)

Compared to low-stress cats, high cortisol levels lead to a 5.6-fold increased risk of developing upper respiratory tract disease with prolonged stress exposure. This was found in a study of 60 cats brought to an animal shelter. Due to cortisol-induced immune deficiency, there may be a lowered resistance to viruses. bacterial pathogens or reactivation of diseases that were thought to be cured. FHV is the main cause of severe respiratory infections in cats along with feline calicivirus (FCV).

diarrhea and vomiting, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract

Persistent diarrhea and vomiting are often the result of high stress levels. If fluid loss is not compensated for during persistent diarrhea, the cat may become life-threateningly dehydrated. Furthermore, deficiency symptoms may occur due to poorer utilization of food. Anxiety and fear increase the production of gastric acid. stomach walls can be damaged, gastritis and stomach ulcers can be the result.

Animal psychosomatics: Behavioral changes of the cat should always be questioned. (Photo: Delete)

Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC)

FIC is a very common disease of the lower urinary tract (ureter and bladder) in cats. Idiopathic indicates that it is not a bacterial cause. Urinary disorders, blood in the urine, pain when urinating and urinating in front of the litter box. The origin of idiopathic cystitis of the cat is unexplained. But the inner lining of bladder damaged by stress metabolism. ureteral infection is discussed as the main cause. It must be clarified whether other causes, z.B. Bladder stones are triggering.

With all diseases it must always be clarified whether purely physical causes are responsible for the symptoms shown.

Atopic dermatitis

There is a connection between the nervous system, the occurrence of itching and stress events. This can cause or intensify and maintain nervous itching. There is also a proven negative correlation between stress resistance and high levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody that is also responsible for allergic reactions. The lower the stress level, the higher the IgE level. Atopic dermatitis is suspected to be caused by genetic factors and allergies. A high level of IgE may promote the development of allergy-related diseases, or. promote.

Psychogenic alopecia and acral lick dermatitis

Alopecia (loss of coat) can have different causes. After exclusion of other causes, a psychological cause can be amed. Whereby a frequent and heavy infestation with parasites and the susceptibility to fungal diseases as well as the susceptibility to allergies can be in a causal stress connection. The symptomatology is caused by exaggerated. Violent cleaning behavior (licking compulsion). Particularly on the easily accessible inner sides of the front legs and thighs and on the abdomen, hair is pulled out over a large area or locally, possibly – but not always – with subsequent injury to the skin by the cat's tongue and painful inflammatory reactions of the skin, which can further intensify the compulsion to lick.

Psychosomatics: when the cat's soul is sick, the need for sleep often increases (Photo: Losche)


Stress increases the blood sugar level. This can develop into an insensitivity of the cells to insulin. The cells then no longer have sufficient blood sugar available as a necessary energy source for cell metabolism. The consequences are far-reaching: emaciation despite ravenous appetite, movement disorders, apathy, immunodeficiency, circulatory disorders, dehydration, vomiting, clouding of consciousness and even coma.

If the cat emaciates despite hunger or even ravenous appetite and drinks more than usual, diabetes can be behind it.


Anorexia (emaciation) is a common and one of the most severe psychosomatic disorders in cats and is potentially life-threatening, especially due to the development of secondary symptoms such as hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver). This liver disease is particularly common in overweight cats that severely reduce or stop eating due to chronic stress levels. Stress-induced anorexia is not triggered by cortisol, but is mediated by another hormone of cortisol metabolism (corticotropin-releasing hormone/CRH), which in fish, birds, and mammals also affects food intake and recognition of prey and food. Stress-induced hormonal changes therefore have a dramatic influence on visual incentives to feed. In addition, chronic stress can affect acceptance of unfamiliar food. Feeding changes can therefore promote the expression of anorexia under stressful conditions.

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS)/Rolling Skin Syndrome (RSS)

FHS is assigned to the epilepsy as well as to the muscle diseases. Symptomatic are seizure-like nibbling and licking of limbs for seconds to minutes, violent twitching of back and chest muscles, scratching and involuntary running around, during which the cat is unresponsive. In addition, salivation, vocalizations and uncontrolled urination are described, as they often occur in connection with epileptic events. As triggers stress experience, frustration and conflict situations are discussed, likewise a connection with little cat-fair, stimulus-poor attitude conditions.

You would like to know more about psychosomatic diseases in animals? Then perhaps our training course in animal psychosomatics would be the right thing for you.

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