Cat Separation Anxiety – Everything You Need to Know

Cat Separation Anxiety – Everything You Need to Know

We all know what it’s like to be separated from our favorite people and things. Whether we are at work, on vacation, or just away for the weekend, there are times when you are away from your cats. How do your cats react when this happens? It turns out that this is a rather complicated question for which there is no clear answer. Some cat parents find that their feline friends are comfortable with solo playtime, while others struggle with cat separation anxiety.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the signs of separation anxiety in cats, the causes, and your options as a cat owner!

What is cat separation anxiety?

Cat separation anxiety syndrome occurs when cats experience stress and fear of being separated from their owners. This can be caused by a number of things, including fear of new places, new people, or new situations. When your cat suffers from separation anxiety, he may become destructive, aggressive or depressed.

Signs of separation anxiety in cats

Cats can show various signs of separation anxiety, all of which vary in severity.

Urinating outside the box

Your cat may begin to urinate outside of their litter box. Cats are very territorial animals and often mark their territory with urine when they feel threatened or anxious. So if you notice your cat urinating outside of their litter box, it could be a sign of anxiety.

Excessive scratching

If your cat scratches at the furniture to get attention, this may be related to separation anxiety. She may also try to scratch walls or other objects to express her frustration. However, you may not notice this unless you are home with your cat all day.

Aggression toward other pets

aggression toward other cats is a sign of cat separation anxiety

Some cats have been known to act aggressively towards other pets or even people when they are experiencing stress due to separation. They may even attack another animal without provocation. In these cases, the cat’s behavior becomes unpredictable and dangerous.

Depressive behaviors

Separating your cat from you can cause her stress that leads to depression. For example, she may refuse food, sleep more than usual, or hide under blankets. These behaviors indicate that your cat is feeling stressed and needs extra attention.

In extreme cases, she may stop eating altogether or just nibble at her bowl. She may also lose interest in playing or interacting with toys.

Excessive grooming

Some cats have been known to scratch themselves raw from stress. Self-grooming is a normal behavior, but some cats over-groom during stressful times. If you notice bald spots on your cat’s body, he may be scratching excessively.

Excessive vocalization

When a cat is frightened or anxious, may express itself by meowing or yowling loudly. A frightened cat may make high-pitched sounds, while a cat that is angry may growl softly.

Symptoms of separation anxiety can also be signs of other illnesses. Therefore, if in doubt, take your cat to the vet if the behaviors persist.

Causes of separation anxiety in cats

Separation anxiety in cats can be caused by a number of factors, which can vary from cat to cat.

Hereditary 

Female cats are more likely to be diagnosed with separation anxiety than male cats. In addition, certain breeds such as Siamese and Persian cats are more prone to separation anxiety than others.

Stressful life events

A recent study found that cats who had traumatic experiences were twice as likely to suffer from separation anxiety as cats whose lives were relatively calm. The most common event was moving to a new house.

Lack of social interaction

Many cats do not like to spend time alone. When separated from their owner, they can experience loneliness and boredom. This may be why some cats prefer to spend time outside rather than inside.

Lost their mother young

Cats raised by their mothers often show less aggression toward strangers and unfamiliar environments. However, it can be difficult for kittens who lost their mothers early to cope with changes in routine.

How can you help your cat with separation anxiety?

There are many ways to deal with your cat’s separation anxiety. Some of these are purely behavioral methods that you can try to correct the behavior. Others are more medical in nature, so you may want to ask your veterinarian for help.

Here are some ways you can try:

The safe space

cat hiding due to cat separation anxiety

By providing your cat with a safe place, you can easily help him cope with his anxiety. Just like humans, stressed cats can become violent or destructive. Therefore, it is important that you keep your cat away from dangerous places when you are not around.

Place your cat in a room that is familiar to her. This will be her safe place where she feels comfortable and secure. Also, the room should be a place where she can rest and sleep so that she is more relaxed and less anxious.

In addition to basic needs like clean water, food and a litter box, you should also put toys, perches, cat trees and hiding places in the room. This will allow the cat to spend more time there and enjoy their time there.

Cat pheromones

Cat pheromones are available in diffusers and sprays that you can use to calm your cat. These are natural substances that promote the release of feel-good hormones in cats to reduce anxiety. If you want to buy such a product, make sure it is formulated specifically for cats.

Behavior Modification

In addition to relaxation techniques, the method of behavior modification can also help some cats, who will not calm down until they are back to their usual routine.

For example, rewarding positive behavior (like using the scratching post) and ignoring unwanted behavior (anything destructive or disruptive) works in most cases. You can use treats or playtime as rewards.

Playtime

Playing with your cat two or three times a day is a good solution. You can include different toys in your playtime and allow your pet to satisfy his prey drive. This will help relieve stress and prevent destructive behavior.

Interactive toys and puzzle feeders are good options if you want to keep your cat occupied and mentally stimulated when you are away from home.

Stop playing if your cat exhibits aggressive behavior.

Catnip

Catnip is an effective way to reduce anxiety in cats by making them feel less uncomfortable. It is an herb that can be given as a special treat. It is also included in some catnip toys, filled with sachets or sprayed on your cat’s favorite toy.

However, not all cats like catnip. Hooli and Pidan love it when they have their first catnip kicker toy. It lasted a good 30 minutes and they never looked at the toy again.

Vet care

If your cat is exhibiting strong destructive behavior due to anxiety, it might be worth asking a veterinarian for advice. They may prescribe sedatives or mild medication to ease your cat’s anxiety. They can also help you examine your cat’s behavior and solve the problem.

Cat behaviorist

Yes, there are cat experts who can help you with your feline friend’s behavioral problems. They are well-educated about cat behavior, and they can help pinpoint the root of your cat’s stress. To find the best cat behaviorist for your furry friend, search online and ask around in your city’s cat forums. 

Cat Separation Anxiety During Vacation

Cats thrive on routine, even more so than humans, so a vacation presents an abrupt interruption in their daily routine, whether feeding, napping, or snacking. The stress caused by this change can manifest itself in the form of separation anxiety in cats.

When you leave your cat with either a cat sitter or a boarding home, he is in a place he is not familiar with. He may not be aware that you are going on vacation right now. For all he knows, you could be leaving him behind for good.

To deal with separation anxiety during vacation, you need to prepare your cat for the change.

You can do this by:

  • Inviting the sitter to the house several times before you leave so that they become accustomed to them
  • Leave the house for a few hours each day to familiarize your cat with your absence.
  • Ask the sitter to follow the schedule so the cat’s routine does not change (include feeding time, amount, bowl to use, favorite toy, when to play, etc.)
  • Bring out your suitcase in advance if your cat already associates it with vacation. This will prepare your cat for the upcoming trip since you always return after a holiday.

One important thing I do with my cats is talking to them. Whenever I go out, I tell them how long I will be gone. Then, a few days before the trip, I tell them about the journey that is coming up and when I will be back from it. It might sound silly, but I believe this way, they will realize that you are not ditching them and that you will definitely be back.

Frequently Asked Questions

What You Can Do to Help Kittens With Cat Separation Anxiety

One thing you can do is provide a safe environment, lots of love, and plenty of playtime for your new family member.

If you get a young cat, you need to set up a safe, quiet room where they cannot hurt themselves. Make sure you place their food, water, and litter boxes in the room and leave them alone there for short periods of time. As the kitten gets comfortable, you can gradually increase their alone time. Once they are old enough, you can eventually leave them alone as you go to work.

How do I deal with my cat’s separation anxiety?

The best thing to do is plan ahead. Start getting your cat used to being alone before you leave. With time, he will realize that you eventually come back and will be less anxious when you’re gone. You can start by leaving them in a safe room alone for short periods of time or gradually increase the time they are left alone until they are comfortable with full-time separation from their human caretaker.

Will increasing my cats’ exercise make them less anxious?

Yes. In the short term, increasing a cat’s exercise may distract him and will likely make him less anxious. Over some time, though, it doesn’t affect how nervous they become.

Can medication help with separation anxiety in cats?

Yes, medication can help with separation anxiety in cats. There are calming medications that can be taken by your cat, but DO NOT give them without consulting a veterinarian first!

If I have to leave my cat home alone, how long can I leave him?

The amount of time you can leave your cat alone depends on the age of your cat. If you are going to work, it would be a good idea to leave for no longer than 4-6 hours at a time. Always ensure that fresh water and food are available for as long as you are gone.

If you need to leave home for longer, get a friend or sitter to check in on your cats twice a day. The caretaker will need to refill their water, and food, clean their litter box and play with them daily. 

If you have kittens, do not leave them alone for long periods, especially if it is their first time alone! Kittens need to be fed every few hours and need constant supervision to ensure they are safe.

Takeaway

When dealing with separation anxiety, you should never forget that there is nothing wrong with your cats. They just have a habit that needs to be corrected.

Never punish your cats for stress-related behavior, such as scratching or urinating, as this will make the problem worse. Instead, spend quality time with them and give them love, toys, stick to a schedule and talk to them. If it gets worse, call a professional.

The best way to deal with an anxious cat is to know about the issue and be patient. In the long run, you will find that your cat will become less anxious without any intervention at all.

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