Cats are notoriously independent creatures, so it can be hard to conceive of them suffering from anything like separation anxiety. However, cats are still social pets that form a solid bond with their owners, and they don’t like change. So, when there are sudden changes made to an owner’s schedule or routine, it can leave a kitty feeling abandoned.
That said, a dog’s separation anxiety can be much easier to spot than a cat’s. Your cat won’t bark or trash the house in retaliation to your absence in the way that a dog might.
Can cats really get separation anxiety?
Absolutely, they can. Whilst it may not be as apparent as a dog’s, cats can be very attached to their owners and do show signs of separation anxiety, as well as loneliness and depression, too.
Because the signs of these feelings are a lot less pronounced in cats, though, it’s sadly common for these anxieties to go unnoticed until it’s much worse. Some may think that cats don’t need much interaction , but this isn’t true. Cats are not loners – they need attention and playtime to be truly happy and healthy.
What are the signs of separation anxiety in cats?
The main signs that your cat is suffering from separation anxiety include:
- Loud and excessive meowing
- Excessive self-grooming and licking
- House soiling
- Loss of appetite or eating too quickly
- Vomiting and diarrhea
A cat may not become quite as naughty as a dog when it comes to trashing your home, but destructive behavior is not an uncommon sign of separation anxiety. They can knock things over and scratch doors or furniture.
They may also urinate on your bed or clothes when you’re gone. Whilst this may seem like a behavioral problem born of revenge for you having left, it may be a way of them self-soothing and leaving a scent trail to make it easier for you to return to them.
What causes cat separation anxiety?
There are a number of possible causes of cat separation anxiety, varying from environmental to genetic health issues, including:
A cat’s genetics can play a role in them experiencing feline separation anxiety, as well as cat depression. Particularly highly strung cats, like Burmese and Siamese, seem to be more prone to such conditions. Unfortunately, when it comes to genetic factors, there’s nothing you can do to change it – but you can help to manage it by providing them with enough mental stimulation and exercise.
Cats who were separated from their mother and siblings too soon as kittens can be more prone to experiencing separation anxiety. Ideally, a kitten should not be taken from their family until they are at least eight weeks of age. Orphaned kittens can have the same problem. Another common cause of cat anxiety is a lack of socialization – which is particularly important between the ages of three and nine weeks.
Before considering any diagnosis and treatment, it’s important to rule out any underlying health issues that may be causing the anxiety. Your vet will know what to check for, and The Vets explain to us that this may include hyperthyroidism, a urinary tract infection, skin issues, parasites, allergies or intestinal disease.
Lack of stimuli or sudden changes
When cats get bored or have little-to-no playtime, they can become overly attached to their owners. Also, major changes such as the death of a family member or another pet, a move, a new baby or a change to your routine or work schedule can cause anxiety for your cat.
Cats are also very perceptive regarding your emotions, so the more anxious you get before leaving the house, the greater the chances are that your kitty’s anxiety will grow, too.
How to help your cat with their separation anxiety
Once your cat has been diagnosed by a veterinarian as having separation anxiety, they will recommend a treatment path. Treatment for feline anxiety can include behavioral modifications, and sometimes even medical intervention.
You can also engage the expertise of a pet behavior specialist, as well as consider the following:
Provide a stimulating environment
Cats love hanging out in high places as it makes them feel safe, so consider getting a vertical scratching post or cat tree. So long as everyone remains safe, you could also install a bird feeder outside a window for your cat to watch. Toys, puzzle feeders and pet cameras are also useful tools to keep your cat entertained and feeling connected.
Make sure they get plenty of playtime
The easiest thing to do is to set up a routine of scheduling in some play time with your kitty 2-3 times per day to keep them engaged and having some fun. Make sure to include a variety of toys and ensure that their drive to hunt prey is satisfied in your play sessions.
Provide them with a calming retreat
Cats love to feel enclosed in a cozy, warm spot, and doing so lowers their anxiety as they can rest and relax whilst feeling safe. One of the best ways to provide this for your kitty is by getting them a cat cave and finding a home for it somewhere quiet but still somewhat central to the home. Cat caves are self-warming, cozy cat beds that provide the perfect hideaway for your cat to feel soothed and calm.
If you are in any way unsure of your beloved feline’s behaviors, it’s important to consult your vet to rule out anything serious. From there, you can make a firm plan to help your kitty to overcome their anxiety and feel happy and healthy once again.