Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Separation Anxiety in Cats

By Linda Cole

Separation anxiety is a problem for some dogs. They can experience mild to severe reactions when left home alone. Because cats are thought of as being solitary, independent and aloof, the idea that they miss their owner and experience anxiety when home alone is scoffed at by some people. However, cats are social animals, and some can develop separation anxiety.

The cause for separation anxiety in cats is unknown. Scientists can only speculate, and think it could be caused by genetics and environment. Felines more inclined to become anxious are kittens that were orphaned, weaned too early, or came from a pet store or shelter. If they never learned how to be a confident kitten, s cat has a greater chance of developing separation anxiety A change in routine, like a vacation, new job, loss of a person or pet she was close to, or a new baby can cause a cat to become stressed.

What is Separation Anxiety?

Cats suffering from separation anxiety have a fear of being left alone, even if there are other pets in the home. They become anxious and stressed while you're getting ready to leave and when you're walking out the door. They can become upset and anxious when you leave a room or go outside for just a few minutes. You don't have to actually leave the house to have your cat become distressed. Just the thought of you being gone is enough to trigger an emotional response before you're out the door.

Cats express themselves in more subtle ways than dogs, and don't try to scratch through the door, wall or floor, or crash through a window. They aren't as apt to destroy trim around a door or tear up a couch, and they won't bother the neighbors with barking, whining or howling. You may not even notice your cat is stressed when you leave the house, if you've missed the signals she's giving you.

Signs of Separation Anxiety

In order to see signs of separation anxiety, you need to know who your cat is as an individual, and watch for abnormal behavior. Cats are curious creatures, and are likely to follow you from room to room to see what you're doing. However, if they seem overly attached to you, become upset while you're getting ready to leave, meow, hide, appear depressed, pout, or cower in a corner, these are signs of separation anxiety.

You may hear your cat meowing loudly as you close the door. She may try to follow you outside, and when you get back home, she greets you in an overly excited way as if it's been years since she last saw you. She won't eat when you're gone, and you've noticed a weight loss. She starts urinating on your bed, clothes, furniture or other areas in the home. You find vomit when you get home, and may see signs of excessive grooming, like bald spots in her coat. A stressed cat may also become destructive by scratching furniture or tearing up blinds, but that's not as likely.

Treating Separation Anxiety

Ignore your cat before leaving and after you get home. You're sending a message that it's no big deal that you left and came back. Wait about 10 minutes or so, then give her attention. Leave her with stimulating things to do during the day, like catnip toys or balls she can bat around. Put a cat tree or table by a window so she has a place to sit and see what's going on outside.

Put her FELIDAE cat food in an interactive treat toy, and hide some TidNips treats around the house. When you get home, pick up her toys, treat ball and food bowl so they remain special when you're gone. Some cats feel more secure if you leave a radio or TV on while you're gone. If necessary, anti anxiety medication may be needed.

Have your cat checked out by your vet to make sure there's no underlying medical issues before you decide she's anxious. Skin conditions, allergies or fleas can cause excessive grooming. Cats may not use a litter box if it isn't kept clean, or they’re dealing with a medical condition like a urinary tract infection.

Playing with your cat is a good way to help her build confidence. Reward her with FELIDAE TidNips treats and praise when she behaves the way you want her to. Cats can be very loving and form a close bond with us. Sometimes we need to help them understand that we aren't abandoning them when we leave them home alone, and help them deal with separation anxiety.

Top photo by Cory Schmitz
Bottom photo by Paulo Ordoveza

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. That is some mighty good info. I think I have some cats here that are a little stressed but just because there are too many cats here. If only I could find homes for some of them. I sure have tried.

  2. Great article, Linda! I think many folks think that it's just dogs who have separation anxiety. Our Moosey has a little bit of it, but has gotten a lot better over the years.


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