Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Cats And What To Do About Them
Weve all seen the memes since this COVID-19 pandemic started about dogs who have had enough of you walking them, thank you very much. And in turn, the cat memes are all about them wondering when we are going back to work and giving them their much needed personal space back. We get it. Dogs tend to be goofy and friendly while cats are, ahem, a bit more discerning about their company. The truth is, though, cats have plenty of different personality types, and many of them do experience separation anxiety. This is particularly true of cats who were orphaned. And with many of you going back to work if you havent gone back already, its a good idea to know the signs of separation anxiety in cats.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cat Separation Anxiety
How do I know my cat has separation anxiety?
A: If your veterinarian has ruled out any medical issues and your cat is still exhibiting any of the classic signs mentioned above, including not eating, acting overly aggressive or withdrawn, or becoming overly attached to one person in the household, its likely that your cat is experiencing anxiety.
My cat has separation anxiety at night. Do you know why?
If your cat has separation anxiety issues, they may show up more at night when your house is quiet. When your cat is craving your attention and feeling anxious, you will notice it more than you might during the busy daytime hours.
If your cat has not had enough social time during the day, all their pent-up energy and boredom may well kick their nighttime activities into overdrive, since cats are nighttime hunters. Dusk and dawn are the time periods cats are usually out hunting for food an indoor cat may well be wrestling with their natural instincts to be actively hunting for food, which may cause them to seek more attention from you at night. A cat who hasn’t had enough human interaction and playtime during the day will seek you out at night because this is when you are a still, sitting target for them. Yeowling at night and inappropriate elimination are sure signs of a stressed, lonely, anxious cat who needs more face time with their favorite human.
I think my cat has separation anxiety, but Im not quite sure. What should I do?
Desensitize Your Cat To Triggers
When most of us leave the house, we have a routine. This could be filling the cats biscuit bowl, closing certain doors, and then grabbing and subsequently rattling your car keys. Desensitize your cat to these triggers by doing them more often, including when youre not going out. Carry your keys around for a few days and fill the cat bowl an hour or two before you go out.
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Implement Daily Social Interactions
If your cat is still not adjusting to being alone there are a couple alternative options for owners. First, try finding a cat sitter, friend or family member if they can come over while youre at work to give your cat some attention. Another option you can try is adopting another cat to keep your cat company while youre away. Also, if youre able to, go home on your lunch break to give your cat some midday attention and play with your cat using an interactive toy like a wand toy. Check out these adorable wand toys by Disney, Pixar and Marvel!
Unnecessary Biting Or Nipping By Cat
At this stage, the cat is already battling separation anxiety and needs your help, or the cat can attack you.
When your cat keeps nipping on your feet while you are about to leave, do not ignore the cat, if you do you are calling for unwanted behaviors.
Biting and nipping can also be associated with depression, stress, frustration, and lack of attention.
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Sharon L Campbell Dvm Ms Dacvim
Dr. Campbell received her DVM degree from University of Wisconsin and completed a residency in internal medicine and a Masters Degree at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. She was a Clinical Instructor at the University of Tennessee for 2 years, then worked at a private referral hospital for many years before joining Zoetis, where she is a Medical Lead for the pain management, anesthesia, sedation, behavior and anti-infectives portfolio of medications.
Dr. Campbell is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. She is Fear Free Certified and is on the Fear Free Advisory Board.
What Causes Separation Anxiety In Cats
Some factors could predispose a cat to developing separation anxiety, while other causes are environmental:
Being a female cat. Female cats are diagnosed with separation anxiety more often than male cats.
Living strictly indoors. Most separation anxiety cases are seen in cats that live strictly indoors and come from a home with only one adult caregiver.
Not having other pets in the home.
Being orphaned, weaned early, or bottle-raised.
Experiencing a change in routine often prompts separation anxiety or causes it to get worse.
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Lower Stress And Anxiety
Petting or playing with your cat can release all the right chemicals in the brain. There is also evidence that a cats purr can help lower blood pressure and relax the nervous system.
They also help relieve stress and provide anti-anxiety benefits for their owners. Cats are generally low maintenance pets, which mean less stress for their owners, making them ideal pets for those who cant deal with a pets rigorous care.
Train The Anxiety Away
If your cat reacts to cues that you are leaving for example, you putting on your shoes or grabbing your car keys try doing these things without leaving several times during the day.
Grab your keys and put them down repeatedly. Put on your shoes, then take them off. Even try stepping out the door and immediately coming back in.
Eventually, your cat may lose interest in these cues and no longer come to associate them with your departure. This may take quite a bit of training, and you may wish to consult a professional behaviorist for further advice.
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Why Do Some Cats Suffer From Separation Anxiety
Cats are usually solitary and independent animals and for most cat owners, this is an attractive trait. Although cat separation anxiety is much rarer than in dogs, owners should be aware that some cats can experience anxiety when they are home alone. Certain breeds of cat usually the more exotic breeds such as and , as well as house cats may become far more bonded with their owners and therefore are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety.
With the current crisis, your cat may have become very used to having you at home all the time which may increase the likelihood of anxiety when you begin to return to work, or leave the house for longer periods.
Preparing Your Cat For Separation Or Your Return To The Office
If your kitty is quite used to being around you most of the time and that changes, your cat may experience separation anxiety. In general, cats arent big fans of change at all, and a change such as you being gone for hours at a time when theyre used to being around you can be distressing.
If you adopted a new cat or kitten during the 2020-2021 global pandemic, the only life theyve known may no longer be the norm after society opens back up. You may start working in an office again, traveling, or taking a vacation, which will take you away from kitty for hours or days at a time.
Change can be tough for humans and felines alike. Here are some tips for how to know if your cat is experiencing separation anxiety from being away from you after youve returned to the office or changed your routine to be away from them more often.
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Helping Your Cat Adjust As You Spend More Time Away From Home
If youre going to be transitioning to a new job or different circumstances that have you away from kitty more often than theyve previously known, you can help prepare your cat for the upcoming change. Here are some ways tohelp ease the transition:
- Keep routines the same as much as possible. Cats are creatures of habit and know when you get up, when you go to the kitchen, when you feed them, etc. If you and kitty always play with the feather toy in the morning while you have your coffee, keep doing that as part of your cats looked-forward-to activities.
- If routines must change, such as the time certain activity happens due to a new schedule, try to move the activity to a new time bit by bit until youre doing the new routine. This may help you transition to the new schedule, too!
- Start a new routine that your cat can look forward to, such as a game or time of attention when you come back home.
- Introduce a new toy or perch or hideaway several days prior to making the change so kitty can get used to it and feel comfortable with it before youre gone.
- Dont make other big changes such as the type of litter or where you put the box while youre changing when youre going to be home or away from kitty more than usual.
How Do I Prevent My Cat From Getting Anxiety
The best prevention for anxiety is understanding the reason for the anxiety. This can help you avoid situations that cause anxiety or help your cat adapt to them if theyre unavoidable. Cats crave routine and have some basic needs. They need to feel secure when they eat, drink, use the litter box, play, and explore.
Ways to ensure these basic needs are met include:
Provide your cat with food in small amounts throughout the day.
Place toys and treats inside for your cat, so they can pounce, play, and feel as if they are hunting.
Interact with your cat and provide ways for them to exercise. Consider adding cat perches or building something they can climb on, hide in, or scratch.
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Signs Of Kitten Separation Anxiety
If your kitten has separation anxiety, you may notice some behavioural changes. Watch for the following signs of separation anxiety:
- Your kitten is being vocal or clinging to you before you leave
- Improper urination inside of the house not consistent with litter training
- Your kitten is withdrawing or hiding as you are about to leave
- Excessive destructive behaviours in the home
Senior And Disabled Cats
Animals who became disabled or whose circumstances may have changed can also be affected including cats older than 8 years may be susceptible to detachment related problems. Likewise, cats with cognitive decline could also be less competent to deal with the absence of a caretaker and will suffer from SRP.
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Don’t Worry You Can Get Through This
For cat owners who need to hear it, Kornreich says the vast majority of cases are manageable. “It may take time, it may take perseverance, it may take consultation with the appropriate people, but we know that in most cases, these problems can be dealt with.”
Plus, he says, tackling separation anxiety with your cat has the silver lining of deepening your bond. “The cat gets the benefit from your love, and you get the benefit of the cat’s love and having gone through it. Sometimes a little bit of adversity brings people and animals closer.”
UPDATE: Feb. 28, 2022, 12:00 p.m. EST This article previously misquoted Dr. Bruce Kornreich the medical issue in question is hyperthyroidism, not hypothyroidism. The correct name of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine has also been updated.
How Do You Prevent Separation Anxiety In Cats
Acquire or raise well-socialised kittens, early experiences affect resilience and coping mechanism. Continuation of positive exposure, introduction to novel things and folks will help develop a confident, stress-free cat.
Cats like predictability, establish a daily routine with little disruption. Keep them engaged and supply safe outdoor access which allows to express natural activities.
Remain calm when leaving and returning home, avoid making a fuss then getting emotional.
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Consult With Your Vet
If your feline isnt showing their normal cat-titude or you notice any changes to their behaviour, consult with a vet. FirstVet is available 24/7 for video appointments with trained UK vets and can provide advice and recommendations for your cats wellbeing.
The symptoms of separation anxiety can be similar to other conditions, so seeking out purr-fessional advice is important for getting the right treatment. For example, your feline peeing outside of their usual spot can be a sign of anxiety, but also indicate a possible urinary infection.
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How To Deal With Cat Separation Anxiety
Dr Jessica May, FirstVet vet 2021-10-07 11:30:39 |7 minutes read
You may have heard a lot of talk on the grapevine about dog separation anxiety, but what about the sassy feline in your life?
Your cat may pick and choose when they want to be fussed, but they can also feel separation anxiety, just as much as their canine counterparts. They enjoy their routine and can feel all out of sorts when this is shaken up and disrupted. FirstVet vet Dr Jessica May helps you learn all about cat separation anxiety, including how to prevent it and how to deal with it when needed.
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It May Come As A Surprise But Cats Can Get Separation Anxiety Which Can Make Them Stressed And Cause A Lot Of Other Problems As Lockdown Is Slowly Lifted We Need To Help Our Cats Re
Cats love routine, so any change can cause them to become upset and stressed. Changes because of the coronavirus pandemic, like family being home more than usual, increased noise, change in feeding patterns and other differences might make them unhappy.
When cats are stressed there may be a change in their behaviour. Some signs your cat might be stressed include:
- Weeing in the house
- Being aggressive towards people in your household
- Hiding away
What Are The Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Cats
A few possible signs that a cat is suffering from separation anxiety include:
Urinating outside the litter box: in one study, three-quarters of the cats that peed outside the litter box did so exclusively on the pet parents bed
Defecating outside the litter box
Excessive vocalization: some cats also carry a favorite toy in their mouths while yowling or crying
Destroying things: more common in male cats
Excessive grooming: more common in female cats
Hyper-attachment to their caregiver: seeking constant contact when they are together
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Management Of The Environment
There are quite a few ways you can modify your cats environment to help relieve your cats separation anxiety.
Here are some examples of changes you can make to manage the environment.
Provide Enrichment Activities
There are endless options for enrichment activities to keep your cat busy while you are gone. There are TV shows designed specifically for cats and even cameras that allow you to toss treats to your cat and talk to them when you are not home.
You can also try puzzle feeders, which are toys that your cat has to play with to release the food inside. Giving one to your cat before you start getting ready to leave can keep them busy so they arent worried about what you are doing.
Working for their food is wonderful enrichment for cats.
Ignore Attention-Seeking Behaviors
Try to ignore attention-seeking behaviors whenever possible. Instead, provide attention when your cat is calm and shows signs of independence.
For example, you can praise or toss a small treat to your cat when they are resting in another room or when they stop meowing for attention.
Remain calm when you leave your house and return home. Wait until your cat is calm and quiet to give them attention after you get home.
Giving your cat activities to keep them busy and engaged as you get ready to leave and while you are gone can be very helpful. Some cats also experience a calming effect from pheromone products, such as plug-in diffusers or collars.
Create and Maintain a Consistent Routine
Can Cats Have Separation Anxiety
Do cats get separation anxiety? Compared to dogs, cats are less commonly diagnosed with separation anxiety. However, some cats do show signs of separation anxiety with their humans. Cats can be treated for separation anxiety with anti-anxiety medications prescribed by a vetbut there are other treatment options to try before resorting to medication. Well discuss how to deal with a cat with separation anxiety below!
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How To Treat And Manage Anxiety In Cats
The best way to treat most cases of anxiety is a multi-modal approach that combines behavioral modification techniques, making changes to your cats environment, natural calming aids, and potentially anti-anxiety medication, depending on the severity of your cats anxiety. Any underlying or linked medical conditions will need to be treated as well.
Successful treatment plans require consistency and commitment, as it may take several months for your cat to overcome their anxiety, or to reduce it to a manageable level. Be patient and remember that even small changes in their behavior and symptoms will have a meaningful and cumulative impact on their wellbeing and quality of life.
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