What Is Cat Separation Anxiety
When compared with dogs, separation anxiety in cats is rareat least in terms of diagnosing it. If a change in schedule is sudden or youre unable to ease your kitty into the new routine, pay attention to the possible signs of cat separation anxiety, including:
- Excessive vocalization
- Eliminating in inappropriate places
- Not eating or drinking while you are away
- Excessive self-grooming
- Eating too fast
Guide To Separation Anxiety In Cats After Coronavirus Lockdown
Cats are typically very independent animals. Due to the current Covid-19 lockdown, your cat may have become increasingly attached to you and when the restrictions lift and life returns to normal, the sudden increase in separation might be confusing and disorientating for your cat. Whether youre leaving them alone for just a few hours or for longer periods, it can be a difficult time for the both of you. Although separation anxiety is rare in cats, it is useful to be aware of this potential problem. APBC clinical animal behaviourist Inga MacKellar has advice on this issue.
Kitty Refuses To Use The Litter Box
When a house trained cat starts doing her business everywhere except in the litter box, the first things that come to mind are litter box aversion and substrate aversion. However, in most cases, the actual culprit is separation anxiety. Interestingly, cats with separation anxiety tend to make mistakes around the door and near the owners personal belongings .
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About Separation Anxiety In Cats
For many people, the idea about separation anxiety in cats seems crazy. After all arent cats supposed to be loners? Well, you may be in for a surprise after reading this post. Contrary to popular belief, its not only dogs that pine if left alone for periods of time.
Keep reading as I share with you what causes separation anxiety in cats and how you can tell if your feline friend is suffering. Plus, tips to help calm your kitty while youre away.
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
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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.
About PDSA Vets
We’ve put together advice from our veterinary team across PDSA.
Keep Your Routine Normal
Keep your home environment and routine as normal as possible before you go away. This can be hard with all the excitement of going on holiday, but consider your feline friend. Cats dont like changes, so only ever board your cat as a last resort. A kind neighbour popping in twice a day to feed your kitty is far better than taking her out of familiar surroundings.
A pet camera can be a great device for when you go away. Many are very affordable and allow you to see your cats activities in real time. Some even allow you to talk to your pet! Hearing your voice can provide reassurance, and youll know if the pet sitter is dong her job!
If youre going out for the day you could leave music playing. Some cats find soft classical soothing. You can actually get calming music for cats thats designed to ease stress. Some even contain certain sounds that felines find very soothing.
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Dont Ignore The Signs
While some of the signs of cat separation anxiety may be subtle, once spotted it is imperative you act swiftly.
Without intervention, this type of anxiety can be extremely debilitating for felines and may well result in a trip to the vets.
Exercise is a fantastic way of counteracting separation anxiety while also improving a cats physical and mental wellbeing.
If youre looking for advice on how to coax your feline out of a slump brought on by stress, then read our How To Encourage A Lazy Cat To Play & Be Active article.
If their separation anxiety continues to worsen, or you believe the signs are symptomatic of something more serious, you should seek professional advice straight away.
Kitty Is Extra Aggressive
If your cat is aggressive for no known reason, anxiety might be behind kitty’s behavior. “A well-behaved pet wouldnât go repeatedly berserk on you without a solid motive, so try to discover the root of the problem and fix it for them,” iHeart Cats advised on its website. What’s more, “boredom can result inanxiety for a cat that needs attention, and taking out their frustrations on your belongings is one way they can express their discontent to you.”
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What To Avoid When Managing Cat Separation Anxiety
If you are researching separation anxiety relief methods in cats, you have probably come across different advice. However, not all of them are efficient. In fact, some can make things worse. Here is what you must not do:
- Get another cat there is a popular misconception that getting an additional cat will make the old one feel less lonely and anxious. The truth is getting a new cat is too stressful and can aggravate the stress pressure on the already nervous cat.
- Punish the cat punishment is never the answer as yelling and hitting cannot solve emotional disorders. They can only aggravate things and make the treatment longer.
- Practice confinement in an attempt to limit the damage, some owners may feel the need to confine their cats. Incarceration makes the anxiety worse and does not help in the long run.
How To Help Prevent Separation Anxiety In Your Kitten
To prevent our kitties from going on to develop this behavioural disorder, there are a number of things that we can do, such as:
- Sourcing them from a happy home where you know they have been well socialised. They should never be re-homed earlier than nine weeks. It is a red flag if you are offered a kitten younger than this.
- Giving your cat lots to do. Encourage your cat to play with laser pointers, wind-up mice and pole toys. Cat trees and scratching posts are a great addition to any home. They provide an opportunity to exhibit natural feline behaviours.
- Engaging their brain. Cats are clever critters who love a new challenge. Stimulate their brain by hiding treats around the home for them to find or by giving them their meals in a feeder puzzle.
- Allowing outdoor access when possible. Cats who go outside are more easily able to express their natural behaviours and to get their daily exercise.
- For some, a pheromone releasing plug-in such as Feliway can help to keep them calm and content.
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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.
How Do Vets Determine The Cause Of Cat Anxiety
Your veterinarian will first want to rule out other conditions that might be contributing to your cat’s behavior, such as pain or thyroid disease.
This consists of a thorough physical exam, blood tests, and urine tests. Additional tests may be recommended depending on your cats results.
A thorough history is an essential part of establishing a diagnosis, and any videos you have of the behavior are also helpful. These will provide clues to the stimuli and situations that cause your cat to be anxious, if there is no medical cause found.
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S To Avoid For Separation Anxiety In Cats
There are many suggestions out there for how to help separation anxiety in cats, but not all of them are accurate. Some of the most common management suggestions you might find are getting an additional cat, punishment, and confinement.
Heres why you should not use these responses if your cat is suffering from separation anxiety.
Remain Calm And Confident
Youre the pack leader so your kitten is likely to follow your lead. If you take a long time to say goodbye to your kitten before you leave for the day, youre likely to spur those feelings of separation anxiety in her. Instead, keep your goodbyes short and sweet. If you cant resist a longer goodbye, say goodbye with lots of petting and praise about 10 to 20 minutes before you leave. Then, you can leave without feeling guilty!
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What You Can Do To Help Kittens With Separation Anxiety
Ensure that you provide a safe environment, lots of love, and enough playtime for your new family member. Its always good to check with a vet and get some extra tips and tricks. The core of cat separation anxiety is low self-confidence and a high dependence on others. You need to let your kitty be a hunter and encourage them to do things on their own.
When you get a new kitten, you can set up a safe, quiet room where they cant hurt themselves. Put their food, water and litter boxes in the room and leave them alone there for short periods of time. As your little buddy gets comfortable, you can increase their alone time. Later on, build up to leaving them alone as you go to work.
How Covid Can Worsen Separation Anxiety Or Even Trigger It
Unless youre a key worker, chances are youve been spending a lot more time at home lately. This means more time with your pets, especially if you have the luxury of working from home.
However, if like many you have to return to the work place this means leaving your cat after three or four months of being together. You may have developed a close bond during this time, and suddenly being apart may cause your kitty to feel anxious.
It can take a while for cats to adjust to a new routine. Theyre creatures of habit with a dislike of change. Of course, as Ive mentioned before, every cat is different. You may find your feline friend isnt bothered by your absence just as long as you feed her on your return!
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What Is Separation Anxiety
What does separation anxiety look like?
Signs in cats include:
- Excessive vocalization
- Not eating or drinking while owner is away
- Eliminating in inappropriate places
- Vomiting, food or hair often are contained in the vomit.
- Excessive self-grooming
- Exuberant greetings when the owner returns home
Signs in dogs include:
- Panting, pacing, licking their lips, cowering
- Reluctance to eat
What should I do if I think my pet has separation anxiety?
Schedule an appointment with us. Signs of separation anxiety can also be signs of medical issues so we will also perform a thorough physical exam at your pets appointment. During your visit, we can also discuss anti-anxiety options, behavior techniques and tools and other options to help your pet.
Pets with good mental and physical health have long, rich and enjoyable lives, and we are dedicated to their overall well-being and grateful for your trust in their lifelong care.
To help make the transition back to work easier, we have provided some tips:
Why Do Cats Get Separation Anxiety
While it is true that many cats are lone rangers that quite enjoy their own space, this is not true for every individual. There are certain contributing factors that can make it more likely for a cat to become affected. These include:
- Certain breeds, for example, are much more reliant on humans and this is especially true of Burmese and Siamese cats.
- Early life. Those who were weaned or re-homed early can lack confidence and independence.
- Lack of stimulation. This is especially the case for indoor cats who require plenty of both mental and physical stimulation within the home to stave off boredom.
- Clingy parents! Some owners may not realise that they are actually making the problem worse when constantly reassuring their cat and spending all of their time around them.
Signs of separation anxiety can be quite subtle in felines. They may include vocalising, refusing to eat, grooming excessively or toileting outside of their litter tray. These cats typically follow their owner from room to room and are depressed when their owner goes away on holiday.
TOP TIP: Some owners mistakenly believe that a cat who pees on their bed or carpet when theyre out is punishing them, when in reality, there is no malice behind their action. They may be feeling anxious, or they may have a urinary issue. In any case, it is best to seek veterinary advice.
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