How Can I Stop My Cat Feeling Stressed
Cats like predictability, and if they have expected you to go to work, or your kids to go to school, they might feel frustrated when this doesnt happen . To help them feel better, try and create a set routine for them. If you can, keep an area of the house free that is just for them and create them a safe space.Pheromone diffusers can often help your cat feel calm, so it may be useful to have one plugged in near to their safe space.
Make sure they also have lots of other hiding places and high places to escape to. It is also important to ensure your cat has plenty of resources available to meet their welfare needs. Read more about creating the ideal environment for your cat.
If your cat is very social and has enjoyed your company whilst you have been at home, when your routine changes and you go back to work your cat may become upset and stressed when left alone. Signs that cats are anxious when left alone are similar to the signs of stress above, but they may also hide away so it can be difficult to know how your cat is feeling while you’re out. If you can, try to record your cat while you’re out to help you understand what they do on their own. If you do notice any of these signs, it may also suggest that they have a medical problem, so it is important to call you vet in the first instance.
First Cats Need Routine
Youre not the only creature of habit in the household. Cats take to routines just like the rest of usthe difference is when we break those routines for perfectly normal, even perfectly happy reasons, our cats dont understand that their lives are only temporarily upended.
A vacation for you might feel like abandonment for your kitten. The start of the school year might throw everything out of orbit in your new kittys carefully cultivated world. Even long-standing feline family members will take issue with separation: Ever come home from a travel adventure to find a poo on top of your bed comforter? This might seem like a big screw you from your cat. In reality, its their way of self-soothing by mixing their scent with yours.
Pet parents must consider the potentially traumatizing perceptions that animals experience before abruptly altering their schedules. If only we could sit our cats down and explain!
When Medication Is Necessary
Your vet will decide when your cats anxiety is serious enough to warrant the use of anti-anxiety medication. Each cat is different, and drugs dont come without side effects, so this decision shouldnt be taken lightly. Sometimes, however, medications are needed for your cats overall well-being.
Several different drugs are used for anxiety in cats, including short and long-acting medications. Short-acting medication is given before the anxiety-inducing event, whereas long-acting medication is given daily.
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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.
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.
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Changes In Your Cats Environment
Cats adore routine and thrive on it, to the point that changing anything can potentially cause them to become stressed. When cat owners go on a vacation a lot of things change for their pets, including the absence of their owners, different feeding times, less attention, new people, and sometimes new environments if they are being boarded.
It can take your cat anywhere from five days to two weeks to adjust and accept a new routineand sometimes even longer. Just consider how long it takes some cats to accept new cats into their homes or to adjust to a new house. Both of these situations demonstrate how inflexible cats potentially are. A stranger, such as a pet sitter, who doesn’t adhere to the routine also adds stress to your cats life. By the time your cat becomes used to the new routine with the pet sitter you return from vacation and change their daily routine again. You also no longer smell familiar to your cat because they havent been able to refresh their cheek-rub markings while you’ve been away. As a result, some cats hide, become defensive, or exhibit unwanted behaviors.
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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Exposure To Other People
If your cat isnt used to being around anyone but you, they could become fearful of others. Have a few friends come over from time to time, and let them offer your cat a favorite treat or toy. It may take a few repeated attempts before your cat is brave enough to come near, so be patient. Getting them used to other people will make them a less anxious cat overall, and will help them to accept other caregivers when you go away on vacations.
What Are Some Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Cats
While many of the signs of separation anxiety for cats are similar to those in dogs, some are specific to felines, said Katribe. “Signs of stressed cats that may not be obvious to those familiar with dog behavior include excessive hiding, feigned sleep, excessive grooming, and inappropriate elimination behavior .”
According to Katribe, some common signs of separation anxiety in cats are:
- Destructive behavior
- Excessive vocalization
- Inappropriate elimination habits
- Not eating or drinking when owners are away
- Other signs of stress can include excessive grooming
If your cat shows any of these signs, talk to your veterinarian these behaviors could also indicate an underlying medical condition. “Eliminating outside the litter box might be due to urinary tract infection or excessive meowing could be due to hyperthyroidism, as can a ravenous appetite,” said Dr. Bruce Kornreich from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
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New Research Adds To Our Understanding Of What Cats Experience When We Leave
Do cats get lonely or anxious when their humans are gone? You bet.
A study published last week, Identification of separation-related problems in domestic cats, in the journal PLOS ONE takes another bite out of the myth that cats arent bothered by being left alone for extended periods of time. According to the study, more than 1 in 10 cats display behaviors that may indicate separation-related anxiety.
This is very similar to the incidence of separation-related problems reported for dogs. Some of the separation-related behavior problems seen in cats are also seen in dogs, such as destructive behavior, excessive vocalization, and peeing in inappropriate places.
Separation anxiety in dogs has been well-studied and is one of the most common behavioral problems driving people to seek help from a behaviorist, trainer, or veterinarian. Whether cats experience anxiety related to being separated from their human companions has received far less attention. Indeed, there has been very little research into the behavior and welfare of domiciled cats and their interactions with their human caregivers in the home environment, period. Luckily, this is starting to change and researchers are turning attention to the behavior and welfare of homed cats.
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Consider Prescription Anxiety Medication
Depending on the severity of your cats anxiety, your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medication. Reach out to yours if you think your cat might need a little extra help.
While behavioral medication is helpful, it is not a treatment for behavior, but an aid, Young said. We start these protocols with the goal that they will be temporary, and that the guardian will continue utilizing other methods to hopefully break the behavior, the medication making it easier, and eventually being able to be stopped.
While separation anxiety can be heartbreaking, that doesnt mean its impossible to fix. With these tips, you should be able to help your cat feel way more confident when you head out the door.
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Lack Of Stimuli Or Changes In Routine
Cats that lack playtime and attention tend to get overly attached to their owners. Sudden changes in their daily routines, like a move, a death, the birth of a baby, the addition of another pet, or a change in your work schedule, can also cause anxiety. Even changing to Daylight Savings Time can impact their mood!
Cats are also good at reading our moods and emotions. If you are anxious about things, your cat might get anxious too.
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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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
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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Can It Be Cured
This is a tricky one. There is no cure, as such, for many behavioural issues, but it is very much possible to manage anxiety in such a way as to make your cats life much happier. A good routine, some measures to keep your cat settled and interested when youre away, and a safe place to hide can be all thats needed to ensure your cat no longer becomes distressed when you leave. It is not feasible to expect cat owners to never leave the house, but these simple changes can make the experience much more pleasant for all.
Q: I Have A Social Cat Who Enjoys Company But I Travel Often And He Becomes Agitated In My Absence I Have Someone Who Checks In On Him Regularly When Im Away But This Doesnt Seem To Help What Can I Do To Lessen His Stress
A: Its a myth that cats are essentially independent. Felines, especially those highly bonded to their people, may become stressed when left alone, especially for long periods of time. Some felines may be OK with shorter daily periods of separation but may have trouble with longer absences.
Separation distress can lead to a variety of unwanted behaviors, including defecating and urinating outside of the litterbox , excessive vocalization, appetite loss, throwing up, destructive clawing and excessive self-grooming.
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