Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety In Cats
While they are completely different animals in the minds of some, cats and dogs share many traits. As companion animals, they have been through a process of domestication which has led to various challenges to cohabitation with humans. When they develop separation anxiety, their behavior will change in various ways. These include:
- Exaggerated vocalization and crying.
- Defecation and vomiting in inappropriate places or where they know the guardian will be upset the most. These may include expensive rugs, personal items and the bed.
- Destructive actions such as biting people in the home, scratching furniture or knocking things off shelves.
- Excessive hygiene and self-grooming. A cat with these types of problems will lick themselves too much, to the point of creating a bald spot . The cat licks away their fur down to the skin and creates wounds. These can become infected and offer secondary problems.
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.
Causes Of Cat Separation Anxiety
The reason why a cat has separation anxiety can be very difficult to determine. In many cases, the problem will be resolved without ever finding out the exact reason. This is particularly the case with cats adopted from a shelter, the reason being that it is often more difficult to know their history. When we look at the causes of cat separation anxiety we can see why:
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Using Natural Pheromone Sprays For Feline Anxiety
Pheromones can be a great way to combat cat anxiety. They are natural chemicals released by cats in response to certain emotions or stimuli. Other cats can smell these pheromones and understand them as messages. Happy or relaxed cats will release positive pheromones, whereas an anxious or territorial cat may release correspondingly negative pheromones to warn other cats in the vicinity.
Pheromone sprays and diffusers work by mimicking the positive, or happy cat pheromones, and can help to calm stressed or anxious cats by reassuring them that all is well in the nearby environment. You can use sprays on bedding, scratching posts, and other common areas, and you can plug the pheromone diffusers into wall outlets around your home and near the litter box.
Feliway is a popular brand that we recommend at Small Door. Feliway offers a number of pheromone types Feliway Original is useful for calming environmental change stressors, while Feliway Multicat is suitable for calming social conflict issues in multi-cat households.
There are also other calming aids you can try, including pheromone-diffusing collars.
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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Treating Separation Anxiety With Behavior Change
Here, were talking about your behavior. The goal is to make your absence seem like no big deal. Making a fuss over your pet when you leave or arrive home only makes matters worse. If you treat it like its routine, your pet will learn to do the same.
Try to figure out when your pet starts to show signs of anxiety and turn that into a low-key activity. If its when you pick up your handbag, for example, practice picking it up and putting it back down several times over a few hours. Similarly, get dressed or put on your shoes earlier than usual but stay home instead of leaving right away. Try starting your cars engine and then turning it off and walking back inside.
Next, practice short absences. When youre at home, make it a point to spend some time in another room. In addition, leave the house long enough to run an errand or two, then gradually increase the time that youre away so that being gone for a full day becomes part of the family routine.
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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Over Excitement When You Get Home
Conversely, your cat will obviously know when you return home. It is normal for a cat to come and investigate when the door opens and somebody walks in. If you have a close bond with your cat, it is also normal for them to respond positively to your return. If they get overexcited, wont leave you alone, and are showing other signs, pay attention.
Signs Of Anxiety In Cats
While the symptoms of separation anxiety may differ from cat to cat, there are often some common symptoms that are displayed.
Cats suffering from separation anxiety might start around the house, which is a common sign of stress. However be aware, a cat could be displaying this behaviour for a different reason. For example, something in the environment might have startled the cat or upset her.
You might notice that your cat constantly wants attention and meows if youre not giving her enough. This may be a sign of over-dependence and may mean that your cat is distressed when you are not at home. Stressed cats can also sometimes over groom, or under groom.
With any concerns about anxiety in a cat, you should first seek veterinary advice to rule out any underlying health problems in your pet. For example, if your cat suddenly starts urinating in the home, it could be because of a urinary infection . If your vet cannot find anything physically wrong with your cat, then theyre likely to refer you to a qualified pet behaviourist.
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How To Ease Your Cat Into A New Routine
If you have the luxury of anticipating an upheaval in your schedule, give this some forethought: Easing your cat into a new routine is the most surefire way of preventing an extreme reaction to change .
For instance, if you know you will be returning to work soon, you can begin to leave your cat for extended periods of time a week or two beforehand. Begin by leaving the house for a few hours, a few days a week. Place toys and treats around the house for your cat to discover. If you use Feliway, a natural calming pheromone, spray some just before you go.
Eventually you can transition to leaving for an entire day . And here is where youll want to firmly establish another routine: Take time to bond with your cat every day. This one-on-one time is enjoyable and important for your kitty, as it will give them something to expect and look forward to. Special attention can be paid in a variety of ways, whether its grooming, chatting, playing, or simply snuggling.
How To Treat Separation Anxiety In Cats
This article was co-authored by Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital. Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital is a team of four veterinarians based in Austin, Texas. Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital offers medical assessments, dentistry, ultrasonography, flea control, radiology, and cardiology services to dogs, cats, and pocket pets. Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital is Austins first Fear Free Certified Practice and was awarded “1st Runner Up in Culture” by the 2020 Best of the Best Austin Official Choice Awards. Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital’s veterinarians are members of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Veterinary Medical Association.There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 14,540 times.
Cats have earned a reputation for being independent, almost to the point of having little interest in human interaction. However, cats are actually social creatures that enjoy forming close bonds with their owners and other household pets.XResearch source Because of this close attachment, cats commonly develop separation anxiety when left alone by their owners.XResearch source Cats with separation anxiety experience extreme distress. If your cat has separation anxiety, several treatment strategies are available to help your cat feel less anxious.
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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.
How Can I Stop My Cat Getting Separation Anxiety When My Routine Changes
To help stop your cat from becoming anxious when your routine changes again, we want to teach them to remain calm. When you are home and they are lying quietly , gently throw them their favourite treat. If they can stay relaxed when you move, try to leave them alone for a short time by going to another room or out in the garden. When you go back in, reward them with a yummy treat if they remain quiet and calm. If they perform any behaviour that you dont like , it is very important not to punish them as this can make their anxiety worse.
You can use puzzle toys to keep your cat focused and entertained on something that does not involve you. If they have become more clingy and appear to be following you around, use some of these activities to distract them.
To help manage their anxiety, try to create a predictable routine . Provide them with different choices of toys to play with and hiding places, but it’s important to not have too many as this might be overwhelming.
If you believe your cat is unhappy when left alone, call your vet and they can conduct a medical assessment and refer you to an accredited behaviourist if they find no medical cause.
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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.
Resources And Products To Help With Separation Anxiety
As mentioned above, food puzzles are a great way to provide your cat with mental stimulation and keep them engaged while you’re away. Pheromone diffusers have also been reported to help, says Kornreich. They work by emitting a synthetic copy of the facial pheromones your cat uses to mark their territory, thus making them feel more safe and secure.
Organizations like the Best Friends Animal Society, Cornell Feline Health Center, the ASPCA, and the Humane Society have a wealth of resources dedicated to cat care and dealing with separation anxiety. Also, PetMD is a site dedicated to healthcare information from vetted veterinary professionals.
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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.
Cat Separation Anxiety: What You Need To Know
Cats are independent creatures. It may be no surprise to see your kitten or adult cat enjoying some quiet time alone in the window. Our pets make wonderful companions and there is nothing like spending quality time with our furry friends. While your cat may like more alone time than your dog, it is easy to forget that they may still get separation anxiety when youre away from home.
Naturally, pets get accustomed to you being around the house. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic created a work-from-home or hybrid working environment. But once home quarantine orders ease, you may start spending more time away from home. And you may find yourself asking, how is my cat going to handle me being away after so much time together?
We sat down with Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Sarah Nold to learn more about cat separation anxiety and tips for helping prevent it in the future.
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