Me Without You: A Guide to Separation Anxiety in Cats
Cats are widely perceived as solitary, independent, or aloof pets. They may not be as demanding as dogs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require – or benefit from – company, interaction, and affection.
The truth is, cats need close companionship, and value their owner’s involvement in their day-to-day needs. Unfortunately, separation anxiety in cats is a natural consequence of our busy lifestyles, but it doesn’t have to have a lasting impact on feline health.
Understanding the Scope Cat Separation Anxiety
A bonded cat is a beautiful thing, but a deep connection to their owner can have a profound impact on their ability to cope with solitude. Separation anxiety in cats can cause many different symptoms, such as:
- Excessive clinginess
- Withdrawal or sulkiness
- Crying or increased vocalizations
- Destructive clawing
- Disinterest in eating or drinking
- Excessive self-grooming
- Inappropriate urination or defecation
Cats that fear being parted from their owners may stand in the way of the exit. Even failed attempts to prevent their owner from leaving will not thwart overly enthusiastic greetings when their owner returns home.
There may be genetic or environmental factors to separation anxiety in cats. Some cats that were separated from their mother before they were weaned may develop certain symptoms. Other cats that suffered frightening or stressful experiences prior to adoption may be triggered by their owner’s departure.
No matter what the cause, owners can try to prevent separation anxiety in cats by ensuring they receive positive socialization as early as possible.
Stress, pain, and fear can all play their parts in separation anxiety in cats. Certain medical conditions can also be responsible for symptoms. As a result, we recommend ruling out certain health risks that could be diminishing your cat’s overall wellness. Then we can focus on treating the symptoms and modifying behaviors.
Separation Anxiety in Cats
Before you leave for any time apart, be sure to give your cat a good dose of exercise and attention. Leaving them tuckered out can significantly decrease a high level of stress. Install scratching posts, climbing structures, and since they enjoy an excellent vantage point, a perch that’s high off the ground. Also:
- Leave their meal portion inside an activity ball to keep them busy and engaged in your absence
- Leave the radio or television on
- Spray feline pheromone on their bed or on an area that is calming
- Leave out safe cat toys for them to bat around in your absence
Helping Your Cat
Cats are incredible creatures of habit and rely heavily on an adherence to daily routines. If possible, keep all meal times, play times, departure/arrival times, and snuggle times the same each day.
Try to make your leaving a “non-event”. By staying neutral you are showing your cat it’s really no big deal. Likewise, when you arrive at home, stay calm and don’t overreact to their overexcitement. Since separation anxiety in cats is typically triggered by the fear associated with losing owner attention, giving into their enthusiasm can reinforce behavior.
If the symptoms of separation anxiety persist, please let The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center know. They may need medication or the help of an expert in feline behavior.
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