December 9, 2018

The Owner’s Guide to Cat Separation Anxiety

Sad Cat sitting near the window

Cats are usually very independent. That’s why people find it hard to believe that a cat can get separation anxiety. But, cats are social beings that form strong relationships with their humans. Also, cats don’t like change. If there’s been a recent change in your routine or work schedule, your kitty can feel like they’re abandoned.

Sad Cat sitting near the window

Cat separation anxiety is more difficult to spot than dog separation anxiety. Your cat won’t bark or completely trash the place while you’re gone to the same extent a dog might. But they can start meowing a lot, become clingy, or go into hiding as you’re about to leave. An anxious cat can also show signs of fear, or urinate and defecate outside the litter box.

All these signs can mean that your pet feels neglected, depressed, or anxious. Still, before you jump to conclusions, it’s best to rule out medical issues. Take your cat to the vet for a checkup and don’t leave out any physical symptoms, behavioral changes, and changes in your home life or daily routines.

Content:

  1. Do Cats Get Separation Anxiety?
  2. Common Cat Anxiety Signs and Symptoms
  3. Understand Cat Separation Anxiety Causes
  4. How to Help A Cat with Separation Anxiety
  5. Cat Anxiety Treatment Options
  6. Kitten Separation Anxiety
  7. Leaving Cats Alone & Crying Cats
  8. Monitor Your Pet
  9. FAQs

Do Cats Get Separation Anxiety?

Yes, cats can get separation anxiety. Dog owners are making a big fuss out of it because canines make more noise and a bigger mess when they’re left alone. But dogs don’t own the condition. Felines are very attached to their owners and family members. And they can become lonely and depressed, too.

The issue is, cats aren’t usually as destructive as dogs, so separation anxiety in cats often goes unnoticed until it’s severe. Some may think of cats as loners that don’t need much interaction, but this is far from the truth. Your kitty needs enough playtime, attention, and a very stimulating environment to be happy and healthy.

Common Cat Anxiety Signs and Symptoms

When cats form dysfunctional bonds with their humans, they’ll develop behavioral problems. If your cat urinates on your clothes or your bed when you’re away, don’t assume they’re getting back at you for leaving them alone. They might be trying to self-soothe and help you find your way back to them.

Cats might not trash your entire home to the extent dogs can, but destructive behavior is not uncommon. Felines like to knock things over and scratch doors and furniture.

Other signs and symptoms of feline separation anxiety include:

  • Excessive and loud meowing
  • House-soiling
  • Excessive licking and self-grooming
  • Not eating / Eating too fast
  • Clinginess
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Isolation

Understand Cat Separation Anxiety Causes

The causes of cat separation anxiety can vary from genetic to environmental to health issues.

Early Weaning

Kittens that were taken away from their mother and siblings too soon can be more prone to the condition. Kittens shouldn’t be separated from their feline family until they’re at least eight weeks old. Orphaned kitties can also have problems. Another common cause of anxiety in cats is the lack of socialization. Socialization should occur between three and nine weeks of age.

Genetics

Genetics, as well as cat depression, can also play a role in feline separation anxiety. Siamese and Burmese cats, and high strung cats seem to be more prone to the condition. There’s nothing you can do to change the genetics. You can do a lot in terms of providing your pet enough exercise and mental stimulation.

Change or Lack of Stimuli

Cats that get bored or don’t have enough playtime can get overly attached to their owners. Other triggers include major changes such as a move, death of another pet or a family member, a vacation, a new baby, or a change in your work schedule. Even daylight savings time can cause anxiety in cats!

And remember, cats are very good at reading and picking up on our emotions. The more anxious you are, the better the chance your kitty will get anxious. Especially as you’re about to leave the house.

Health Issues

Of course, before you make the diagnosis and decide on cat anxiety treatment, consider actual health problems. Based on the symptoms, your vet will know what to look out for. They may check for a urinary tract infection, hyperthyroidism, intestinal disease, skin issues, allergies, and parasites.

Cat Anxiety Treatment Options

Once your kitty is diagnosed with separation anxiety, your veterinarian will recommend treatment. Cat anxiety treatment includes behavioral modification, and drugs may be necessary. If the symptoms aren’t too severe, most vets will start working with you on modifying behavior. Cat behavior modification techniques focus on reducing stress and increasing stimulation.

If you get stuck, you can always seek help from a pet behavior expert. If you’re a Petcube Care member, you can reach out to Vetted’s network of vet techs and specialists via live chat or phone.

Ensure Enough Playtime

The first and easiest thing to do is to play with your cat two or three times a day. Include different toys in your play sessions and allow your feline to satisfy their prey drive. When your kitty starts to play alone, encourage the behavior. Use petting, treats, and praise to make the behavior stick. *Don’t encourage clingy behavior, meowing, or any action you don’t want to see. *

Provide a Safe and Stimulating Environment

Consider getting a cat tree and vertical scratching posts. Cats love high places because they make them feel safe. If your kitty can also watch birds from their post, that’s even better. As long as you can ensure the safety of everyone involved, you can install a bird feeder in your yard. This way, your cat can have their own private entertainment committee.

Scratching posts will keep your furniture intact and allow your pet to stretch, scratch, and mark their territory. Cats prefer vertical scratching posts, and if you can have a few of them around the house, they will make good use of it. Of course, you want to place the posts in the areas where your cat spends most of their time.

Puzzle feeders, toys, and pet cameras are also good tools to use when you have to leave for longer periods of time. Puzzle feeders will keep your kitty busy for a long time. They’re great when you cat’s not eating. Fill them with your pet’s favorite food, and they’ll also get their nutrients. If you don’t have a puzzle feeder, you can also hide food or treats around the house for your little hunter to find.

Cat Anxiety Treatment – Desensitize anxiety triggers

Does your cat get nervous as you’re putting your clothes on and getting ready to leave the house? If so, determine which items give them the signal that you’re about to leave. It might be your jacket, keys, a purse or a briefcase, even your shoes. Any of these items can become anxiety triggers. When you notice what sends your cat into panic mode, you can work on the problem.

Start preparing to leave the house without actually getting out a few times a day. If the keys are the trigger, pick them up and then put them back. If it’s putting on your shoes, put them on for a minute as if you’re about to leave and then take them off and go about your day.

When your cat stops freaking out about these things, you can leave for a moment and then for short periods of time. When you come back inside, greet your pet and play a little bit. As your feline companion gets less stressed, you can start leaving for extended periods of time.

Cat Anxiety Treatment – When Medication Is Necessary

Let your vet determine if cat anxiety medication is necessary to ease the symptoms. Never give medication without consulting a vet and always give the prescribed dose. Felines are sensitive to some types of drugs, and every cat is different so you can do more harm than good.

If genetic factors are causing the anxiety, your vet is more likely to prescribe drugs. They may also do it if behavior modification isn’t working or the symptoms are too severe. There are meds such as diazepam, lorazepam and alprazolam that you can give your cat when anxiety is about to appear. Other medications include antidepressants, serotonin agonists, buspirone, and benzodiazepines. Some of these are used to treat cat depression as the two conditions often occur together.

Leave the decision up to your vet and follow their orders. Your primary focus should still be on managing stress and behavior. All drugs can have mild to severe side effects so don’t experiment on your own.

Kitten Separation Anxiety

Kittens that were weaned off too soon from their mothers are more likely to get separation anxiety. They should not be taken away from their family before they’re at least eight weeks old. The period between three and nine weeks of age is important for socialization. Kittens that weren’t introduced to other animals and humans during this time can also have problems.

A new environment, new people, and improper early socialization can all trigger separation anxiety in cats. If this happens, there will be a lot of meowing, scratching, and little messes around the house. Be patient and let your kitty adapt.

What You Can Do to Help Kittens With Separation Anxiety

Ensure that you provide a safe environment, lots of love, and enough playtime for your new family member. It’s always good to check with a vet and get some extra tips and tricks. The core of cat separation anxiety is low self-confidence and a high dependence on others. You need to let your kitty be a hunter and encourage them to do things on their own.

When you get a new kitten, you can set up a safe, quiet room where they can’t hurt themselves. Put their food, water and litter boxes in the room and leave them alone there for short periods of time. As your little buddy gets comfortable, you can increase their alone time. Later on, build up to leaving them alone as you go to work.

Other pets and kids

If you have other pets, introduce them early on and supervise the behavior. Be gentle, calm and try to figure out what kind of toys and playtime the kitten enjoys most. If you have small children, teach them to be gentle. If you have a baby in a crib, your cat shouldn’t be in the room during nap time.

Note: If your cat already has separation anxiety, getting another pet won’t help. It can worsen the condition as the two will now have to share your already limited attention. Don’t introduce a new pet to your household until cat separation anxiety is resolved.

Leaving Cats Alone & Crying Cats

Most of the time, cats don’t have a problem being alone. But if they have anxiety issues, they will make their problem everyone’s problem. Loud meowing, crying, scratching, defecating and urinating where they shouldn’t are common signs.

Prepare to Leave

Before leaving your kitty alone, make sure there’s enough food, water, and toys at their disposal. High posts where they can nap such as a cat tree or some other arrangement are also recommended. As you’re getting ready to leave, don’t waste a lot of time and energy on goodbyes. This will give your crying cat the signal that you’re going away for a long time.

It’s best that you don’t talk to your cat as you’re leaving. Get ready, gather your things, and calmly walk out the door. If you get anxious, your pets will get stressed out too and they can start crying.

Let Your Cat Enjoy

While you’re gone, your feline can enjoy puzzle feeders, bird watching, and watching TV. Leave vibrating toys, ping pong balls or catnip around the house. You can also put on soothing classical music.

If your cat cries a lot when left alone, you can use cat pheromone products. Spray some artificial pheromones around the house, and your kitty will be less anxious. Music and DVDs suitable for cats will help your pet relax or stay entertained. This will also silence outside noises.

Monitor Your Pet

You may think that now you’ve done everything you could to help your kitty battle separation anxiety. But there’s another thing you can try. You can monitor your cat’s behavior while you’re not home by using a pet camera.

There are many options on the market, but Petcube Play pet camera has unrivaled functionality. With this camera, you can watch your pet day and night. Also, you can talk to them and play with a laser. Hearing your voice and chasing a laser beam can help ease separation anxiety in cats. Be careful not to point the beam at your pet’s eyes.

Finally, you can also get a pet sitter to watch over your feline and keep them company while you’re away. Whether it’s work or vacation time for you, your pet will not be alone all day. But make sure your pet sitter and your kitty are a good match.

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FAQs

Do Cats Get Lonely on Their Own?
Cats get very attached to their families. When left alone, they can get lonely, depressed, and even anxious. It’s a misconception that cats aren’t social beings. They need their daily dose of love and attention to stay happy and healthy.

Why Is My Cat Meowing So Loud?
Cats can meow for many reasons. If your feline is also clingy and the meowing is worse when you’re away or in another room, your cat might have separation anxiety. If excessive loud meowing persists, you should always consult a vet.

Can Cats Get Depressed?
Yes, cat depression is not uncommon. They don’t respond well to change whether it’s their food, your habits, or the living environment. Common signs of depression in cats include isolation, hiding, lack of grooming, lethargy, and even aggression.

Do Cats Help With Anxiety?
Cats can help with depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. They’re among the most popular emotional support animals. They will offer unconditional love and support, and they’ll become your best friend if you let them.

Why Does My Cat Urinate on My Pillow When I Am Not at Home?
It’s annoying to have your cat urinate on your pillow, but it’s a sign of affection. By mixing your scents, your kitty is trying to self-soothe. Also, this is a way for them to leave you ’’breadcrumbs’’ so you can find your way home easier.

Why Is My Cat Destructive When I Leave?
Cats are curious and sometimes mischievous creatures. They may be knocking things over for fun. They may also claw your doors and furniture if they’re bored or don’t have enough scratch posts. But, if the behavior only occurs when you leave the house, there’s a chance your cat is suffering from feline separation anxiety.

Should I Get Another Pet To Help My Cat With Separation Anxiety?
No. If your kitty already has separation anxiety, adding a new pet can worsen the problem. Now there will be two or more of them sharing your attention and trying to secure their space inside the home.

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