Have you ever heard cats can have separation anxiety?
A long time ago, I had a chance to look after a feline. Her name was Precious. I found her crying under a bush when she was four years old. We became closely bonded, and she usually hid during the day when I was at work. More seriously, my pet sister never met her.
With the role of behaviorist, I know that Precious’s case is quite common. In some cases, cats and humans become so closely bonded that leaving them alone can cause separation anxiety. This is similar to kids who can experience stress when their parents go home alone. Significantly, this might be true for cats who have suffered from trauma during their lives, like being abused or re-homed.
Imagine the picture: You are going out to work. You hold of your keys and move forward to your main door – during this time, your cat is following closely behind you and meowing constantly. When you are back home, the place has been trashed by your cat. Nothing else is clean, but the little cat box is.
Once your cat shows that behavior, he wants to say that he is getting separation anxiety. Cats are sensitive creatures, so they have different ways to express their anxiety. It seems that your cat is punishing you because of your leaving. Still, in real life, their behavior is meant to soothe and comfort them.
Common Reasons of Separation Anxiety in cats.
Cats were orphaned as young kittens.
In many cases, orphaned kittens or those weaned too soon are more likely to develop separation issues and demonstrate powerful attachments to humans. Cats who are away from their moms at such a young age can express their lifelong feelings of abandonment.
Cats were not appropriately socialized.
Cats’ personalities can be affected if they spend long periods in rescues or shelters without much human interaction. Similarly, if cats were not handled as kittens, they would have fewer chances to create trust in humans.
Once those cats are adopted and finally become bonded with their owners, they can show the signs of distress when their owners leave them alone at home, particularly for a long time.
Cats get bored and under-stimulated
Cats can experience separation when they are largely dependent upon their cat parents for stimulation at home. Cats can get bored and lonely when they are alone, that they get stressed. A place with no window perches, no cat trees, and towers, or no toys can cause no fun for cats living there.
Cats suffer from health issues.
The physical health of cats can be the valid reason for their behaviors instead of separation anxiety. Visiting the vet to rule out a sickness or other physical reason for the felines’ actions is considered the first step in explaining the behaviors.
Symptoms of cat separation anxiety.
Here are some common signs of separation anxiety in cats:
- Using excessive vocalization like meowing, moaning when the cat owner is leaving.
- Eliminating inappropriate places like defecating on bedding or clothing or urinating outside the litter box when the cat owner is gone.
- Scratching on window frames or doors when they are lonely
- Vomiting without any physical cause when the owner is away
- Not eating when the owner is not at home
- Over-grooming when the owner leaves them alone at home
- Becoming destructive of their environment as well as their owner’s environment when they are alone.
- Being aggressive when a stranger tries to touch them.
- Greeting over-exuberantly when the owner returns home.
Solutions for separation anxiety in cats.
Once your veterinarian has ruled out any health problems, it will be easier for you to do some things in dealing with cat separation anxiety.
Cats with separation problems are conditioned to have anxiety when they look at certain items or actions that say their owners will leave. Any actions like packing your suitcase for vacation or putting your coat on, and pulling your keys out may cause your cat’s anxiety. She recognizes that you are leaving when she sees these things. The critical solution is desensitizing your lovely cat to these items. Therefore, they become everyday things, rather than common signs and symptoms of impending alone time.
Attempt to leave your suitcase out without traveling. Pull your keys out several times a day without leaving. Leave your coat out for a couple of days. Remove the power of those cues, and your cat’s anxiety lessens when they see them. Once you leave home, you can distract your cat with a cat toy or several cats treats before leaving silently through the door, without any good-byes.
Providing Environmental Stimulation
Design and organize your cat’s environment with many fun things for your cat when she is alone. Filling treat balls with favorite snacks to keep her occupied for hours. Adding a cat tree is good for her to climb up to view her world. Hiding goodies in some areas around the house is also a good way for your cat. Putting bird feeders outside the window perch will keep your cat engaged. You also consider getting another cat if you have a single cat. Your cat will not even take any notice that you are left!
Television or music
Your cat will not feel like she is alone if you leave a little soft music or a television on a relatively low volume. More interesting, you can keep your cat glued to the television for a long time by some videos showing beautiful birds or colorful butterflies.
Exposure to Other People
If your lovely cat is not bonded to anyone but you, she quickly gets fearful of seeing other people. The tip for this is that you sometimes invite some friends to come to your house and encourage them to give her a cat toy or a favorite treat. Be patient to take a couple of repeated efforts before your lovely cat gets brave enough to come closer. Suppose your cat can get used to other people. In that case, she will generally get less anxious, and she easily accepts other pet sitters when you go out for holidays.
In some serious cat separation anxiety situations, medication can be a last resort before your cat responds to the steps mentioned above. If there is not anything you do to stop the cat’s anxiety, you should have a visit to the vet to choose the best action for both you and your cat.
Common Questions about Separation Anxiety in cats
Q: How do I know my beloved cat experiences separation anxiety?
A: After medical problems have been ruled out, your cat still exhibits any of the above signs such as not eating, having aggressive or withdrawn behaviors, or getting more attached to one person in the house, your cat can be more prone to suffering from anxiety.
Q: My cat has separation anxiety in the evening. Do you know the reason?
A: If your cat experiences separation anxiety issues, she might exhibit more at night once your own house is silent. When your beloved cat craves extra love and attention from you and gets anxious, you can notice her more than you may in the daytime.
Suppose your cat does not get social enough in a day. In that case, all her boredom and pent-up energy can kick her activities into overdrive because cats are known as nighttime hunters. Dawn and dusk will be a suitable time for your cat to hunt for food. Like other cats, your domestic cat with instincts can actively hunt for food, which might cause her to seek more attention at night. If your cat has not had enough playtime and human interaction during the daytime, she will look for you at night. Suppose your cat has inappropriate elimination and yowls at night. In that case, she indeed gets stressed, lonely, and anxious, and she needs more face time with you.
Q: I think my cat suffers from separation anxiety, but I’m not sure of this. What should I do?
A: The first step is visiting your veterinarian if you think your lovely cat shows signs of separation anxiety. In some cases, there have been a couple of sicknesses that have similar symptoms as separation anxiety like yowling, pacing, or not eating.
When your vet has ruled out the underlying medical problems, there is something you can do to help your cat lessen separation anxiety. Provide your beloved cat a lot of playtime with each family member. When your indoor cat is too attached to one person in the house, she can act out whenever they leave home.
It is necessary to take a turn feeding your lovely cat. This will create a good relationship between your cat and each member of the family. Playtime at dawn and dusk can mimic cat hunting behaviors. Before breakfast and before dinner, playtime can adjust your cat’s natural biological clock during the day and help her feel more comfortable at night.
Additionally, giving an environment enrichment like cat trees, comfy beds, and self-play toys will make your cat less anxious and bored when she is lonely. Offering Feliway plugs is also an excellent way to keep your anxious cat calm. When you are gone, your cat will miss you. Therefore, providing your cat with these objects will ensure she can become less anxious when you leave home.
Assisting your cat to deal with separation anxiety can take time, yet spending time addressing her fears is worth the effort. As a result, after working through cat anxiety, your cat can let down her guard and become a happy kitty, even when you leave home. Indeed, your cat is at her happiest when you are at home, and she can snuggle up next to you.