Tips to Help Cats with Separation Anxiety
Signs of Separation Anxiety
Although it may not be common, some cats do experience separation anxiety, especially those who have faced abandonment before. Evolving from a largely independent and solitary species, the domestic cat can be very good at hiding signs that they are stressed or in pain as they don’t want to appear easy targets to others.
A stressed cat is not fun for anybody, they can become both emotionally and physically unwell on top of displaying problem behaviour. Often owners may only notice something is abnormal with their cat when it’s too late so it’s important to notice these signs. Cats may lose their appetite or be sick occasionally or behave in a way that owners have never seen before, such as spraying urine against the wall indoors or behaving aggressively. This may not simply be ‘cat behaviour’ but something more troubling to your feline friend.
The sooner it is realised that your cat could be experiencing stress, the sooner the problem can be resolved. This means monitoring the cat’s physical health as well as their behaviour so that anything ‘odd’ or ‘out of character’ that could be a sign of stress is quickly identified.
Some of these signs could be,
1. Excessive meowing, crying or moaning
2. Eating too fast or not eating at all
3. Excessive self-grooming
4. Relieving themselves outside the litter box, especially on your bed or possessions
5. Destructive behavior
6. Excitement upon returning from home that’s out of the ordinary
7. Vomiting food or hairballs
8. Trying to escape
As pet owners, we know that some of these things can be frustrating, particularly the doing their business outside the litter box. Many cat owners have gotten this “gift” of defecation on the bed, in a shoe, or on an item of clothing. This may not necessarily be a sign of spiteful behaviour but can often mean be instinctual behaviour. It is your cat trying to mix their scent with yours. Cats believe they are also helping you find your way home.
What can you do about your cat’s separation anxiety?
There are actions and items to assist if your cat truly has separation anxiety. Some cats may overcome it faster than others. And some require a lot more patience, especially if they’re new to your home or have been abandoned before.
• Leave the radio or TV on a station that is often on when you’re there
• Keep arrivals and departures low key
• Create a nook, or hiding haven for your cat that is their safe space
• Provide plenty of toys and/or puzzles for playtime while you are gone
• Channel prey instincts by hiding food in toys that make them work for it
• Start with shorter absences first
• Provide a perch or “catio” so that your cat can see their favorite views
• Consider a room diffuser or pheromones to provide a calming scent for your cat (check that it is safe for your cat first)
• Remove departure cues (i.e put your keys in your pocket a few minutes before leaving)
• Provide plenty of cuddles and playtime once home
• For more serious cases, consider having a sitter coming for 1-2 play sessions during absences
It is of course important to always check with your veterinarian when you see any change in your cat’s behavior before you assume it to be separation anxiety. Early treatment of illnesses is crucial to cat wellness.