For many people, the idea about separation anxiety in cats seems crazy. After all aren’t cats supposed to be loners? Well, you may be in for a surprise after reading this post. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not only dogs that pine if left alone for periods of time.
Keep reading as I share with you what causes separation anxiety in cats and how you can tell if your feline friend is suffering. Plus, tips to help calm your kitty while you’re away.
What causes cats to panic if left on their own?
There are many reasons cats develop separation anxiety. Sometimes if kittens are taken from the mother too soon or not socialised properly they may develop problems. In addition, some breeds such as Siamese seem more prone to anxiety issues.
Signs your kitty may be anxious if left alone include meowing excessively after you’ve gone, or tearing furniture in frustration. Of course, unless your neighbours start complaining about a noisy cat you won’t know!
Over enthusiastic greetings on your return are another sign, as well as clinging behaviour. For example if your kitty insists on sitting on your lap with her paws on your chest even when you’re trying to work!!
Separation anxiety can also occur after the loss of another pet. Cats often grieve if a close feline companion dies just as much as you would. Such a loss could also spark separation anxiety.
In addition, both cats and dogs are highly sensitive to emotion, and it’s possible that if your feline companion sees you’re upset it could make her even more anxious.
How covid can worsen separation anxiety or even trigger it
Unless you’re a key worker, chances are you’ve been spending a lot more time at home lately. This means more time with your pets, especially if you have the luxury of working from home.
However, if like many you have to return to the work place this means leaving your cat after three or four months of being together. You may have developed a close bond during this time, and suddenly being apart may cause your kitty to feel anxious.
It can take a while for cats to adjust to a new routine. They’re creatures of habit with a dislike of change. Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, every cat is different. You may find your feline friend isn’t bothered by your absence just as long as you feed her on your return!
Trigger points that make your cat anxious
If your cat reacts every time you pick your keys up or put your jacket on, this is a sign she’s anticipating you leaving the house. She may respond by running to the door, meowing, or clinging on to you. Some cats even hide.
Once you notice these trigger points you can take steps to desensitize your cat. For example, pick your keys up and put them down again without going out. Your kitty will respond in the usual way to begin with, though become less bothered over time.
Cats are highly intelligent with excellent memories, and once something is learned they don’t forget. When you pick up your keys to go out, avoid talking to your kitty. I know it’s hard as I always tell my cat “I’ll be back soon,” or “won’t be long!”
If he’s outside he’ll follow me a little way along the path and then stop. I never know what goes on inside his little kitty head, but he’s always pleased to see me on my return!
Other trigger points include putting your jacket on, picking your bag up or any other things you do prior to going out. As soon as your cat stops associating trigger points with being left alone she may become less anxious.
Going on vacation
If you’re at home for most of the time and you’re suddenly absent for two weeks it’s possible your cat may suffer anxiety. Having a new person coming in to feed her each day may be stressful, especially if your pet sitter is a stranger. As mentioned previously, cats don’t like changes in their environment. Loss of appetite and hiding are common reactions.
If you have a close bond with your cat and apart from a trip to the supermarket you’re mostly at home, your long absence may be very stressful. You could argue that cats don’t have a sense of time, but a two week vacation will be noted!
Although your cat is unable to read a clock unless she’s super clever, she’ll still be aware that time has passed. Like us, cats have an inbuilt body clock that alert them to routine activities. This is essential for survival in the wild. Though sense of time passing is different from that of routine, your cat will know you’ve been away far longer than usual.
How to avoid separation anxiety when you go away
Your cat is highly intelligent and intuitive. The sight of an open suitcase on the bed will signal you’re going away. Pets pick up signs from us, especially if there’s a strong bond. If you notice your cat becoming clingy or vocalising, there’s a chance she’s anticipating your departure.
There are a few things you can do though. If you have a pet sitter coming to stay, get him or her to spend time with your cat in advance. Invest in a Feliway plug in diffuser. Many veterinary clinics use Feliway as it helps keep their patients calm. Also, place an item of clothing with your scent in her bed. This helps provide comfort and reassurance.
Stock up on your feline friend’s favourite treats, and get your pet sitter to spend time playing with your cat each day. This may help take her kitty mind off your absence and help get used to the new human!
Get a supply of cat toys including feather wands and mice. Interactive games your kitty can play on her own are a great idea. These include fishing games, or self rotating balls. Make sure you leave the toys within easy reach of your cat. Felines don’t have great near vision so any toys need to be clearly visible.
If your kitty is spending lot of time indoors get a few scratching posts. These will help save your furniture from sharp claws. Cats that suffer anxiety separation can become destructive with shredded sofas and torn cushions as evidence!
Keep your routine normal
Keep your home environment and routine as normal as possible before you go away. This can be hard with all the excitement of going on holiday, but consider your feline friend. Cats don’t like changes, so only ever board your cat as a last resort. A kind neighbour popping in twice a day to feed your kitty is far better than taking her out of familiar surroundings.
A pet camera can be a great device for when you go away. Many are very affordable and allow you to see your cat’s activities in real time. Some even allow you to talk to your pet! Hearing your voice can provide reassurance, and you’ll know if the pet sitter is dong her job!
If you’re going out for the day you could leave music playing. Some cats find soft classical soothing. You can actually get calming music for cats that’s designed to ease stress. Some even contain certain sounds that felines find very soothing.
A cat with separation anxiety can display some very unwanted behaviour. For example, scratching furniture, soiling outside the litter box, or even pulling out hair! In addition, you may find your cat hiding from the pet sitter, which is why it’s a good idea to get cat and sitter aquatinted beforehand!
Rare instances of aggressive behaviour such as biting or scratching can be the result of extreme stress. This type of behaviour is unusual though. To reduce chances of unwanted behaviour make sure your pet sitter or neighbour know your cat’s routine.
Cats vary in their response to being left alone. Some become very clingy on their owners return, while others sulk! It’s like you’re being punished for daring to go away! In addition, some creative felines store their parents absence for future reference!
Keeping a happy kitty
Now you know all about separation anxiety in cats you know what to look for. Most cats are perfectly fine being left alone for short periods of time, but some get anxious if left alone for days.
NEVER leave a cat on it’s own for more than a few days without human company. Automatic feeders are a great invention, but can’t replace the human touch. Also, ensure you have several bowls of fresh drinking water to avoid dehydration.
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Wishing you a purrfect day:)