Many people have been spending a lot more time with their pets during the pandemic, and they got used to their presence being there most, if not all of the time. Or maybe you just recently got a cat and are pretty nervous about going back to work, or school. It doesn’t matter what situation you find yourself in, as you may not realize how stressful it can be to leave a lovable pet home alone.
The change in routine that happens can lead to confusion in the best case, and at worst, it can cause cat separation anxiety.
Can cats have separation anxiety ?
Yes, it is completely possible. And unlike dogs, you’ll find that cats are less likely to be diagnosed with separation anxiety, even though some cats do show signs of it with their humans.
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It is possible to treat cat separation anxiety with anti – anxiety medication that is prescribed by your veterinarian, however, there are a few other treatments that you could try first before resorting to the anxiety medication. Here are a few ways to alleviate your cat’s separation anxiety.
Cats require a routine
You have to keep in mind that you are not the only creature of habit in your home. Cats follow a routine just like us humans, the difference being that when we break those routines, we do it for completely normal and even sometimes happy reasons, but our cats can’t understand that their lives are only momentarily turned over.
Cats feel like you taking a vacation is just abandoning them, the same goes for when you are starting school or work even. It’s because they don’t understand the fact that you are only gone for a short amount of time and will be coming back. Cat separation anxiety can even present itself in some long-standing feline family members.
Sometimes we even take the wrong message. For example, have you ever come home from a trip, only to find some cat poo on top of your bed? Most people will take this as their cat acting out but they could not be more wrong. This behavior is a way of self-soothing to cats by mixing your scent with theirs.
Every cat parent has to consider the potentially traumatizing perceptions that many animals experience before changing their schedules out of seemingly nowhere. If there only was a way to explain this to cats…
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How you can ease your cat into a new routine
If you are the type of person that has the privilege of anticipating a change of events in your schedule, give this some thought, as easing your cat into a new routine is one of the most surefire ways of preventing an oncoming extreme reaction to change, like separation anxiety.
For example, if you know you will soon be returning from work, you can start by leaving your cat for extended periods of time a week or two before that. Leave the house for a couple of hours, a few days a week. Make sure to conveniently place toys and treats for your cat to find, and if you use any kind of calming pheromones, spray some before you leave.
With time you can transition to leaving for an entire day at a time, while, of course, being mindful of your cat having access to fresh water and food. Here is the final step where you will want to strictly establish another routine – take time out of your day to bond with the cat. Not only is this time spent together enjoyable for your cat, but it is also important as it will give them something to expect and look forward to. This special one-on-one time can be done in a few ways, whether it be grooming, playing, chatting, or simply cuddling.
Signs of separation anxiety in cats
You may have had to change your daily schedule abruptly, or simply not have any means or time to ease your kitty into the new routine, if that is the case, pay close attention to the possible signs of cat separation anxiety such as:
- not eating or drinking anything while you are away
- excessively vocalizing, such as meowing, crying, or moaning
- excessive self grooming
- defecating or urinating in inappropriate places
- eating too fast (Why is My Cat Always Hungry ?)
- vomiting with hair or food often found in the vomit
- destructive behavior
- enthusiastically greeting you when you return home
If you have noticed your cat showing any of the above listed signs, then it is best that you take them to the vet to rule out any medical problems.
How to deal with your cat’s separation anxiety
Feline separation anxiety can often lead to health issues or some behavioral problems for your cat. Always consult with your vet first about ways to help your cat get rid of some stress, including some short or long term anti – anxiety medications
However, before you resort to medication, try out some or all of these tactics that are suggested by a cat behaviorist:
- Try acting casual about leaving home, or in other words, don’t put an emphasis on saying goodbye. Your cat will feel upset if you feel the same.
- Find the trigger objects. If your cat has separation anxiety then they may have some particular objects that trigger it, such as your bag or keys for example. If so, carry those things around the house for a while daily, so that your cat will no longer associate those objects with their anxiety.
- Practice coming and going out of the house. Try walking out the door, and then immediately returning, and every time you walk back into the room, casually greet your cat or start playing with them. It is important that you vary the times that you do these training sessions throughout the day or evening. Slowly increase the time you spend outside of the home.
- Provide your cat with environmental enrichment. This includes perches so that your cat can look outside, or cat trees and cat shelves so it can play or nap on, along with other elevated areas or hideaways.
- Try using puzzle feeders. Puzzle feeders provide mental stimulation for the cat whilst you are away.
- Reward your cat for its good behavior that you would like repeated with treats, praise, pets, or attention. It is important that you do not reinforce unwanted behavior such as meowing and being insistent.
- Engage in play more often and on a daily basis so that your cat can be stimulated. One great toy is a laser pointer.
- Leave out old clothes or bedding as a reminder of yourself and your scent.
- Leave your TV or radio on its usual station.
- Use natural calming pheromones. You can spray it in any room that your cat spends most of its time in, or any spot where your cat has exhibited destructive behavior, such as scratching, or even urinating while you are away.
Cat separation anxiety can, in most cases, almost always be alleviated with a mix of behavior modification, such as the tactics listed above, and medication. Patience is key, so as long as you have that and love and understanding for your feline friend, then you are on your way to help its anxiety. After all, they are only reacting in this way because they love you and love being around you.
What can cause separation anxiety in cats ?
Separation anxiety is usually caused by a change of routine in the cat’s life, so try to ease your cat into a new routine instead of suddenly altering their daily schedule?
What to do to stop your cat from crying when left alone ?
You can help your cat with separation anxiety by giving it a lot of environmental enrichment, such as cat perches, shelves, and puzzle feeders. Natural calming pheromone sprays also come in handy in these situations.
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