Treating Separation Anxiety In Your Cat
Before labeling your cat as having separation anxiety, its important he be examined by the veterinarian. The behavior being displayed may have an underlying medical cause. For example, elimination outside of the litter box may be due to a urinary tract issue or some other medical cause. Excessive grooming may be the result of external parasites, skin allergies, irritation, etc. Eating too fast or if your cat shows a lack of appetite, it may also be caused by an underlying medical condition. Dont skip this very important step of visiting your veterinarian.
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What Happensif Cat Anxiety Remains Untreated
If left untreated, anxiety in cats couldonly get worse over time. Not only can it alter your cats behavior, but chronicstress can also affect your pet cats well-being. Symptoms such as loss ofappetite or diarrhea can make your cat weaker, so you want to address the anxietyproblem right away. With your tender loving care and professional help, you canhelp your cat get over the stress he is experiencing and restore him to fullhealth.
Helping Your Stressed Cat
The first thing you need to know in order to help your anxious cat is that you should never punish or scold them for their anxious behavior. This will only increase negative associations and fear and make things worse instead of better. The goal should be to help them feel safe and relaxed in their surroundings.
Once you’ve identified anxious behaviors in your cat, the first step is to make an appointment with your veterinarian to either diagnose or rule out any underlying health issues or toxins that might be causing your kitty stress. Because cats tend to hide their pain, this is not something that is likely to be obvious, and may require a thorough series of blood panels and other tests. If it turns out that your cat is suffering from pain or a medical issue, treating the issue may be all that’s required to eliminate the anxious behavior and help your kitty get back to their normal self.
On the other hand, if your vet rules out a physical problem as the cause, this may mean that the issue is psychological. If this is the case, your vet should be able to advise you on a course of treatment.
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What Causes Separation Anxiety In Dogs
There are a number of risk factors that could contribute to your dog dealing with separation anxiety. Knowing why your dog may have separation anxiety wont magically cure them, but it could give you a place to start looking for answers with your veterinarian.
- Rescued from a shelter: Animal shelters do amazing work for animals in our community every single day, but the reality is that a shelter can still be a stressful environment for an animal. Its a place filled with foreign smells, sounds, and sights. This can be an overwhelming situation for a dog, and lead them to cling to the human that rescues them from it all.
- Being left alone as a puppy: If a dog was left alone more often than they should have been as a puppy, this can also lead to an unhealthy level of clinginess that can turn into separation anxiety. Dogs, but especially puppies, depend on their owners for their needs like food, water, enrichment and playtime, and socialization. If a puppy is ignored a lot when theyre developing and learning, they can become overly attached to anyone who pays them any attention at all.
- Experiencing a traumatic event alone: If your dog has ever experienced a traumatic event while by themselves it could also lead to separation anxiety. This could be an injury, a previous owner passing away, or physical abuse.
What Signs Of Anxiety Need A Vet
Some signs of stress in cats indicate a life-threating emergency. If you spot any of the below, please take your cat or kitten to your local emergency veterinary hospital immediately:
- Your kitten hasnt eaten or drunk water all day
- Your kitten or cat hasnt peed normally for over 24 hours
- Your cat is straining and wailing, but cant seem to poop or pee
- Your cats third eyelid is covering their eye
- Your cat is panting or breathing faster than usual
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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.
Understanding Feline Separation Anxiety
When a cat owner returns home to find their cat anxiously awaiting their arrival, an instant ego boost is bound to occur. We might think, They love me! They really, truly love me! but that explanation only goes so far.
Among other possibilities, the various symptoms of feline separation anxiety could be simmering just below the surface. There are many ways to counter the overwhelming symptoms, hopefully resulting in more confidence and control for both you and your cat.
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Common Cat Anxiety Signs And Symptoms
When cats form dysfunctional bonds with their humans, theyll develop behavioral problems. If your cat urinates on your clothes or your bed when youre away, dont assume theyre getting back at you for leaving them alone. They might be trying to self-soothe and help you find your way back to them.
Cats might not trash your entire home to the extent dogs can, but destructive behavior is not uncommon. Felines like to knock things over and scratch doors and furniture.
Other signs and symptoms of feline separation anxiety include:
- Excessive and loud meowing
Your Cat Hides Most Of The Time
While some cats are less social than others, if your cat hides all of the time to the point that it feels like you don’t even have a cat, Fluffy could be anxious, according to PetMD. Typically, research has found that this sign is typically short-lived. However, if you notice that itâs continuing on for a few days, that is your sign you should take your kitty to get checked out by the vet.
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What Causes Cat Stress
The biggest source of stress for cats is often something new in their environment or routine. A move to a new house, a new baby or pet, weird new noises , or even unfamiliar guests in the house may trigger your cat. Some cats may be thrown by a change in your workday routine. Others may show stress if you suddenly move their food dishes, water, or litter to a new place even inside the same house.
Here are some other possible sources of stress:
- Kitty litter that is dirty, in a scary place, or in a too-small box
- Unfamiliar cats, both inside or roaming outside
- Competing for food, water, litter, or rank with other cats
- Incomplete socialization when theyre kittens
- Aging, illness, or pain
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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Cat Anxiety Treatment Options
Once your kitty is diagnosed with separation anxiety, your veterinarian will recommend treatment. Cat anxiety treatment includes behavioral modification, and drugs may be necessary. If the symptoms arent too severe, most vets will start working with you on modifying behavior. Cat behavior modification techniques focus on reducing stress and increasing stimulation.
If you get stuck, you can always seek help from a pet behavior expert. If you’re a Petcube Care member, you can reach out to Vetted’s network of vet techs and specialists via live chat or phone.
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
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Vacation And Separation Anxiety In Cats
Amy Shojai, CABC, is an animal behavior expert and award-winning writer with over 25 years of hands-on experience training and caring for cats and dogs. She has written 27 books on animal care, been named CWA Friskies Writer of the Year, and appeared on Animal Planet as a pet expert.
Vacations are meant to be fun for people, but due to the change in routine, they can unfortunately be a cause of stress for cats and result in behavior problems and separation anxiety. Cat behavior problems can occur during the owner’s absence, while being transported, or when the owner returns. While some cats can cope with traveling, staying in hotels, or being boarded in a kennel, most cats are better off when they stay in their own home with a pet sitter. This, of course, isnt always possible, but thankfully some steps can be taken to lessen your cats stress and the likelihood of behavior problems at vacation time.
How Can You Tell If A Cat Is Lonely
Signs That Your Cat is Lonely Increased sleep. Cats are nocturnal creatures, so its normal for them to sleep away a larch chunk of the daytime hours. Litter box problems. Peeing outside the litter box can either be a health or behavioral problem. Destructive behavior. Aggression. Increased vocalization.
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Behavior Modification To Relieve Cat Anxiety
If you try behavior modification, it will be up to you to put in the time and effort. As with all illnesses, it is best to start treatment early.
You will need to teach your cat some coping skills that can be used in a variety of settings. The goal of behavior modification is to change how your cat feels about a frightening stimulus . This change improves a cats prognosis instead of indefinitely avoiding the stimulus.
Two methods of behavior modification that may be recommended by your vet are desensitization and counterconditioning. Both of these methods require specific timing and the ability to read your cats body language and to notice the earliest signs of fear and stress.
Ask for help from your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist. If behavior modification does not work over the long-term, your veterinarian may want to modify the approach.
Desensitization is the repeated, controlled exposure to the stimulus that usually causes a fearful or anxious response. The key is that you expose your cat to the stimulus at a low level so that your cat does not show any signs of fear or stress.
A popular version involves playing a sound that your cat is afraid of at such a low volume that there is no fear or stress. After playing the sound three or four times at a low volume without a reaction, then you can increase the volume very slightly and repeat the process.
Dont Make A Fuss Of Comings And Goings
This is one of the most important tips when dealing with cat separation anxiety. Where we all love to say goodbye to our furry friends, this really only tends to make us feel better and for your cat, its just a signal that youre leaving them. When you have to leave the house, simply grab your things and head out without any ceremony, this will show your cat that its completely normal and not give them enough time to build up feelings of anxiety.
Thats our guide on how to spot and help ease cat separation anxiety and more generalised anxieties. If your cat is extremely distressed, always seek the opinion of a professional. Take your pet to the vet to rule out any underlying causes and if needed, they should be able to recommend an experienced behaviourist.
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Urinating Outside The Box
One of the most common behavior problems seen in cats when a change occurs in the household is inappropriate elimination, especially urination outside the litter box. Cats may act out with aggression or be fearful toward pet sitters they do not know or in new environments such as boarding facilities. These emotions may cause them to urinate outside their litter box as they try to tell us they are scared or stressed. Since cats like the smell of themselves, the urine marking also helps calm them down by spreading their scent onto items that smell like their owner. Urine is challenging to remove from items like furniture, carpeting, and mattresses, so it is frustrating for people to deal with and clean up.