Separation anxiety disorder is not new to dog owners. In pet behavior, there is a lot of research on separation anxiety in dogs. But what many people overlook is that separation anxiety exists not only in dogs but also in cats.
Cats are indeed more independent compared to dogs, which is why it is hard to believe that cats can also suffer from separation anxiety. Cats like to be independent, but they are also social animals, and they crave regular socialization.
Separation anxiety in cats is much harder to detect than separation anxiety in dogs. When you are out, cats do not “protest” as dogs do. They keep meowing. But when you are not at home, how can you find them crying softly?
What is Separation Anxiety？
Separation anxiety disorder is a mental state of sudden tension and emotional tightness until collapse under normal circumstances when separated from a family member. Some domestic pets, when their owners leave, are often in distress.
Birds, dogs, cats, horses, pigs, sheep, cattle, and primates, including humans, have a definite separation cognition. Usually, separation anxiety is more difficult to detect in cats than in dogs.
Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Cats
When cats have a “dysfunctional” relationship with their owners, they can develop obvious behavioral problems.
If your cat urinates on your clothes or bed when you are not home, don’t think they are retaliating for being left alone, they may be trying to self-soothe and hoping the smell will help you find your way home.
When cats exhibit separation anxiety, they will not have the mighty destructive power of a dog demolishing a home. Still, they will engage in dangerous behaviors such as scratching doors, furniture, sofas, etc.
Other symptoms of separation anxiety in cats include
- 1. frequent, loud and constant barking.
- 2. Excessive licking and grooming of their fur.
- 3. Refusing to eat or over-eating.
- 4. Defecating on the owner’s bed, sofa, or clothes.
- 5. Before the owner leaves, the cat falls, rolls over, and rubs its legs at its feet.
- 6. Vomiting and diarrhea.
- 7. Frequent drinking water.
- 8. After some time, she refuses to contact other people or animals, and if forcibly approached, it will cause aggressive behavior.
Causes of Cat Separation Anxiety
Kittens that are forced to leave their mother and siblings too early are most likely to suffer from separation anxiety, and they often lack a sense of security.
A kitten should not be separated from its family for 8 weeks after birth. Premature separation can cause cats to miss out on essential socialization stages, and lack of socialization is a common cause of anxiety in cats.
Socialization of cats usually occurs between the 3rd and 9th weeks of their lives.
Genetic depression plays a crucial role in separation anxiety disorder. Just as humans have their personalities, each cat has its personality.
Some cats are naturally active, while others are naturally depressed, so they are more likely to suffer separation anxiety. Studies have shown that some large cats are more prone to emotional depression.
Siamese cats, Burmese cats, and some cat breeds prone to high-stress levels are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety. You cannot change your cat’s genes, but you can provide your cat with adequate exercise opportunities and recreational stimulation.
Breaks the cat’s usual mood and routine can cause them to become anxious due to instability and psychological trauma.
- Abandonment, abuse.
- A sudden change of environment.
- A newborn in the family.
- The death of another pet or family member
- Your work and rest have changed.
Before you identify cats suffering from separation anxiety based on their behavioral changes, consider some of the cats’ health conditions. You will need to tell your vet about the observed behavioral changes. They may check and determine if the cat has a urinary tract infection, hyperthyroidism, intestinal disease, skin problems, allergies, and parasites.
Some physiological changes outside of disease – estrus, neutering, pregnancy, old age – are also a possible cause.
In addition, lack of companionship, playful friends, and such social problems.
How to Relieve Separation Anxiety in Cats?
1. Fix a regular work schedule.
There is a fixed schedule for eating, sleeping, going out, and coming home.
Help cats to know and get used to roughly what time their owners go out and come home, helping them to better adapt to the separation and reduce anxiety performance.
Initially, when cultivating, the owner can come back immediately after leaving the room and play with the cat and then extend the time outside little by little to let the cat have a buffer process. Once the habit develops, they will know that the owner will go out and come home.
2. Create a good home environment for cats.
Cats are usually curious about what is happening outdoors, and providing them with a habitat where they can see the outdoors helps stimulate their mental activity. Prepare cat climbing frames and cat jumping platforms by windows or in the open to enhance the range of vision when in high places, and cats feel very secure.
3. Play with your cat often.
Cats need a certain amount of playtime every day. Because cats have a hunting nature, lively and active, they can release their playful exuberance and interact with their favorite toys such as ribbons and teasing sticks to enhance their happiness.
Before going out and before going to bed at night are prime times to play with your cat. A happy cat is less likely to feel anxious. Play with your cat for at least 20 to 30 minutes a day. You can play with your cat for 10 minutes at a time and play with your cat 2~3 times a day.
4. Leave the owner’s scent.
When you go out, you can put some clothes, shoes, and other supplies with the owner’s scent in the house so that your cat always feels the owner’s scent around and thus feels at ease.
5. A short and usual farewell.
When you have to leave home, giving more attention and love to your cat will only increase the anxiety of separation. More attention will only make your cat feel like going is a big deal.
The atmosphere is contagious, and if you express too much reluctance to your cat, they will also become more attached to their owner. Before leaving the house, say “goodbye” to let your cat know that there is nothing to worry about and that the owner will be back soon.
Minimize the impact of separation actions. For example, taking the keys, carrying the bag, and putting on the coat will enhance the cat’s association with the owner leaving the house. If unavoidable, think differently. You can do these actions frequently but without leaving during the weekend so that they become accustomed to the act of going out.
6. Turn on the TV or radio during the absence.
Play music, TV shows, or audiobooks to fill the house with sound, and the cat will not feel so lonely. If you think that turning on the TV is too power-hungry, you can also install a camera that can talk.
This way, the owner can observe the cat’s movements and call them and talk to them as if the owner had never left the house.
7. Provide sufficient food and water and use educational toys.
Change your cat’s toys regularly with new ones so your kitten will not get bored with the same set of toys. Puzzle feeders can provide plenty of food and stimulate your cat’s hunting instinct by encouraging the fun of eating. Leaky food toys are also a great option to force your cat to use its brain and have a great time brainstorming.
Other toys that are suitable for cats to play with include
- Toys that make sounds or can vibrate.
- Ball toys.
- Toys with added catnip.
- Paper balls.
8. Get another cat (Careful)
Perhaps this is a good solution for some cats, but there are risks, and it depends on the cat’s personality.
If a cat has a very meek personality, such as the British short type, and is friendly to other animals, you can keep another one. Or the cat itself is still relatively young and has not been in the house long enough, accept the arrival of other cats.
If the cat is more selfish and enjoys the owner’s sole favor, then this method will not be suitable. It may even increase anxiety due to the arrival of another cat.
Most of the time, there is no problem for cats to be left alone. However, if your cat has separation anxiety, your going will be a big problem for them. Frequent meowing, scratching furniture and urinating where they shouldn’t are all common symptoms of a cat with separation anxiety.
As a cat addict, you should pay attention to any change in behavior in your cat’s life. Each shift in behavior may have its reason behind it. Don’t ignore every behavior change, and don’t ignore your cat’s separation anxiety.