While most animal lovers worry about their dogs developing separation anxiety, we can’t forget that cats are also susceptible to this stressful condition. Separation anxiety in pets is when the animal feels overwhelming anxiety whenever they’re left alone or separated from a specific person. This isn’t your normal level of clinginess or affectionate attachment. It’s a deep-seeded fear that something bad will happen when no one is around. The good news is, you can often reduce, and sometimes even eliminate, the symptoms of separation anxiety in cats. But first, you need to recognize the signs for what they are.
Separation Anxiety in Cats
We all know cats have a reputation for being more aloof, independent, and even indifferent when compared to their canine family members. While those descriptors are true for some cats, many of our feline friends are just as affectionate and dependent on human interaction as any dog.
Any cat can develop separation anxiety. It’s most common in younger cats that were orphaned early in life. It can also happen, however, with older, more mature, cats. Some of these anxious felines experience extreme stress after leaving a shelter environment. It’s even possible for cats that have lived in a home for years to gradually show concerning symptoms.
There is no specific cause to put the blame on. Some cats are naturally more anxious than others. Their individual personalities and experiences can sometimes combine and turn into separation anxiety.
If your cat demonstrates any of the following behaviors when they’re left alone, or when a specific person leaves, they might be struggling with separation anxiety:
- Excessive vocalization
- Destructive behavior
- Inappropriate toileting
- Excessive grooming
- Stress-induced vomiting
- Desperate escape attempts
What To Do About It
Every case of separation anxiety in cats is different. Too much stress in your cat’s life could lead to other serious health conditions. It also means your cat’s quality of life isn’t as great as it could be. There is, unfortunately, no guaranteed “cure.”
Thankfully, there are ways you can help your cat gradually feel more comfortable and safe on their own. The most effective strategy will depend on your cat’s unique personality and situation.
Here are a few things to try:
- Leave the TV or radio on when you’re away
- Provide a wide range of toys and activities they can do on their own
- Don’t advertise the fact you’re leaving, keep completely calm and low-key
- Ease your cat into being left alone by trying short absences first
- Provide perches, cat trees, and other interesting elevated areas for kitty to explore
- Provide a crate or otherwise small sheltered area to serve as a safe space
- Talk to your vet
Depending on the severity of your cat’s separation anxiety, you will likely have to try a combination of strategies to help them feel more comfortable. Regardless of what you try, don’t expect to see results on your first day. It will take time and patience. Realize, however, that it’s unlikely that the situation will get better on its own. It’s more likely to get worse without intervention.
It’s also important to speak to a vet about changes in your cat’s behavior. There’s always the chance that their behavior is related to a medical condition, and not separation anxiety. Your vet will also advise you on whether or not anxiety medication or something more natural, like pheromones, would be beneficial for your cat.