Treating Cat Separation Anxiety
Treatment may include changes in owner-pet social interactions to help foster independence, Martin says. Environmental enrichment and meeting the cats needs can be helpful in treating feline separation anxiety.
According to a recent study, cats that dont have other animals in the house to socialize with, are left alone for a frequent number of hours daily, and dont have access to toys are more likely to experience separation-related problems. So stock up on pet gear like interactive enrichment toys, scratching posts, and puzzle feeders to give your kitty something to keep her mind busy throughout the day and alleviate some of her anxiety.
How Do I Reduce My Cats Separation Anxiety
There are different things you can do to help make your cat more comfortable when they are alone:
Once you are home, provide affection to your cat by way of rubs, hugs, and play. If your cat has severe anxiety, your vet may suggest medication. The medication can help the cat relax so they can better cope with their owners absence.
Signs Of Separation Anxiety
Cats begin to express apprehension as the person prepares to leave, reacting to departure cues such as picking up keys, grabbing a purse, or packing a suitcase. The cat may hide, meow excessively, follow the person from room to room, or move between the person and doorway.
Here are some problem behaviors triggered by separation anxiety in cats:Inappropriate urination or defecation, often on personal items like clothing or the bed. This is an anxiety-related behavior, not a spiteful behavior.Excessive vocalization, such as loud, persistent meowingEating too fast or not at allVomitingDestructiveness, such as shredding curtains or furniture or knocking over objectsExuberant greetings when the person returns home
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Possible Symptoms In Cats With Separation Anxiety
Symptoms of separation anxiety in cats can vary from animal to animal. However, it is almost always a matter of conspicuous changes in behavior, such as uncleanliness. Affected animals then pee on the bed or in the pile of dirty laundry in your absence, for example. They try to mix their own scent with that of their caregiver to feel more secure and calm down.
Other cats may respond with destructive rage and will tear apart the home and furnishings if you leave them alone. Another warning sign that comes into question is an increased urge to clean, which can lead to bald spots in the coat. Loss of appetite or gulping down food when lonely are also possible.
In many animals, abnormal behavior can also be observed in the presence of the caregiver. They are then, for example, overly clingy, follow their favorite person everywhere and meow continuously and very loudly when they say goodbye or when they think they are alone, for example at night.
Is There Any Treatment
Once a cat starts to show signs of separation anxiety, it can be difficult to cure. All of the methods listed above that help to prevent the condition from occurring in the first place should be implemented if they havent been already. On top of this:
- Routine is key and its important that cats lead predictable lives and there is not too much disruption.
- Owners should be conscious to act as calmly as possible when both entering and leaving the home. Avoid making too much fuss of the cat on either occasion.
- A safe place should be provided where cats know they can spend some time alone without being disrupted. This may be the bed on top of a cat tree, or perhaps a high-up shelf in a laundry room.
- Consider using a calming supplement at least in the short term to keep them as relaxed as possible while we work on the other methods discussed.
- Hiring a professional feline behaviourist who can come to your home to assess your kitty in their own environment is never a bad idea. They can provide you with a tailored and specific plan for your bundle of fur.
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Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Cats
Cats are skilled at hiding illness and pain, so it can be difficult to notice that something is wrong. The degree of distress can range from mild to severe, and early signs are subtle, often easy to miss, or mistaken for something else.
Here are ten signs of cat separation anxiety to look out for if you suspect something is out of the ordinary.
Address The Cues And Teach Resilience
When your cat has separation anxiety, certain actions like picking up your keys or putting on your shoes are cues that tell them it’s time to freak out because you’re leaving. Helping to minimize the cues might help reduce this feeling because your cat isn’t in a triggered state of mind. “Dont make a big show of leaving, and try to perform obvious cues well ahead of leaving,” said Katribe.
Kornreich even suggests scrambling the cues like picking up your keys, but then putting them back down and not leaving. “Then the cat will know that sometimes when the keys get picked up, my owner’s not going anywhere.”
As a way of teaching your cat that coming and going is normal, Kornreich also suggests leaving for 30 seconds and then coming back. “By leaving and coming back quickly, that can be really helpful for them to get in their minds that not going to be gone forever and are coming back.”
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Getting An Additional Cat
Unless you get two kittens or littermates together, adding another cat could lead to even more stress and conflict.
There is no guarantee that your cat will like the new cat, or that they will become fast friends. You are also adjusting their environment to accommodate the new cat, which can cause additional stress.
Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Cats And How To Deal With Them
In the past few years, have you got used to hanging out with your cat all day every day? Or maybe you recently adopted a cat and are nervous about getting back to work, school, or more. Regardless of your situation, you may not know how stressful it can be to leave a furry family member. Changing routines can lead to confusion at best and separation anxiety in cats at worst.
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Not Using The Litter Tray
Cats are clean animals and most learn to use a litter tray from a young age. If they are ill or there is some reason they cant use the litter tray, they may wee or poo outside the tray, but this is very occasional. If you get home from being out and your cat has urinated outside the litter tray, this is called inappropriate elimination and could be a sign that they were anxious about your absence.
How To Deal With Cat Anxiety And Cat Separation Anxiety
The signs and symptoms of cat anxiety can often mask other illnesses, so always visit your vet to ensure that there are no underlying conditions. When these have been ruled out, your vet may diagnose your pet with anxiety, in which case they could prescribe medication, or advise certain cat calming techniques.
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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
Things You Can Do To Combat Separation Anxiety In Cats
Recognizing separation anxiety in your cat is part of the battle. There are some steps and actions that you can take to try and resolve the issue, giving you and your cat greater peace of mind. After all, you cant take your cat to work or on the weekly shopping run so you need to find a way to be able to leave the house without it leading to anxiety.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety In Cats
Contrary to popular belief, cats are not solitary creatures, but social beings who form very strong bonds with their human and animal families.
When that relationship is disrupted, or when cats are forced to spend long periods of time alone, they begin to exhibit certain behaviors we now know relate to separation anxiety.
Before I list the signs and symptoms of separation anxiety in cats, note that many of them can also be signs of medical issues. Before you play Freud to your kitty patient and decide your cat has an emotional problem, reach out to your veterinarian. Many of the symptoms listed below can also be a sign that your cat is sick.
Clingy and possessive behaviorInappropriate urination/defecationDestructive behaviorVomitingExcessive vocalizationExcessive groomingPoor appetite, or eating too fastPre-departure anxiety
Helpful Tips To Prevent Or Curb Separation Anxiety
Kornreich says preventing or curbing separation anxiety is about preparation. That means learning about cat behavior and how to identify the signs of a problem, understanding that there are tools and resources to minimize the likelihood of separation anxiety, and knowing that talking to a veterinarian can empower you to address the problem.
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How To Help A Cat With Separation Anxiety
If your cat experiences separation anxiety, that doesnt mean she has to always feel that way.
When youre first trying to get her to feel more comfortable with you being gone, try taking some practice trips just for short periods of time, increasing the time spent out a bit as you go. This will build her confidence that youll always come home.
Here are some other ways to help her cope better when youre gone:
Are Cats Prone To Separation Anxiety
When scrolling through social media, its not hard to see people referring to cats as extremely independent pets. While that is true to some extent, their independence doesnt mean they dont need any human interaction.
There isnt a scale to effectively grade how much social interaction amounts to separation anxiety. However, its easy to determine what counts as an excessive want for attention because it isnt a particular characteristic of cats.
If you want a straightforward answer, then yes, your cat is very prone to separation anxiety. The risks of your feline friend developing this condition depend on the level of interaction you have with it daily, but some cats will show symptoms of excessive attachment regardless.
Since cats are generally more reclusive than dogs, the symptoms they show for separation anxiety are usually more subtle. Its important to note that excessive grooming also grooms separation anxiety.
If youre wondering if your cats obsession with you counts as separation anxiety, the next section will list some of the most popular symptoms of separation anxiety in cats.
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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?
What Causes Cat Anxiety
Many different things can cause cat anxiety. They are often similar to the things that cause humans to feel anxious, such as big changes to routine or environment. Events such as moving home or introducing a new person to the family can prompt a feeling of anxiety in cats.
Similarly, many felines can become anxious when a historic trauma is triggered. If you adopted your cat from a shelter, try to learn as much about their background and previous care as possible. This will help you to avoid putting your pet in situations that could cause them to revisit a traumatic memory and trigger their anxiety. Cats that have been rehomed numerous times throughout their life are more prone to suffering from anxiety. There is also a link between kittens that havent been socialised at a young age and an increased likelihood in the development of anxiety.
Be aware that any changes in your pets routine or environment could cause cat anxiety: it doesnt always have to be something as dramatic as moving house with your cat! If you start a new job and are suddenly out of the house at different times, this could be enough to unsettle them, and cause cat separation anxiety.
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