Our feline friends may put on a good front, but for the most part they enjoy having us around. We are a source of food, shelter, companionship, and enrichment. 

While cats may not be as obvious as dogs when it comes to their fears and anxieties, separation anxiety in cats is a very real problem. The Pet Experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital know how to help you identify if your cat is suffering and help if needed.

Recognizing Separation Anxiety in Cats

Separation anxiety is well recognized in our canine patients. Separation anxiety in cats is a real thing, though, too. 

Separation anxiety in either species is a stress response triggered when the pet is separated from a companion whom they are strongly bonded to, be it human or otherwise. This response can range from mild to severe and can manifest in different ways including:

  • Excessive vocalizations
  • Urinating or defecating outside of the litter box
  • Decreased appetite or eating quickly
  • Destructive behaviors such as knocking things over or scratching items
  • Overgrooming
  • Acting overly excited upon return of the companion

Any cat can experience separation anxiety, but those who have been orphaned or weaned early appear to be more likely to suffer. As pet owners, we can also set cats up to experience separation anxiety when we are their sole source of interaction and enrichment. 

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

If you feel that your cat may be experiencing separation anxiety, the first thing to do is to give us a call. It is important for us to rule out underlying medical issues which potentially could lie at the heart of the symptoms. 

Once a diagnosis of separation anxiety in cats is made, though, behavior modification is in order. This definitely requires a little work on your end to help minimize any stress associated with the departure of your cat’s favorite companion.

The point is that you don’t need to stay home forever for the sake of your cat. You need to teach your cat to be confident and engaged without you. Start by:

  • Working a 10-15 minute play session into your cat’s daily routine
  • Don’t engage with your cat immediately before leaving; it’s best that they are calm and relaxed when you depart
  • Enrich your cat’s environment with puzzle feeders, interactive toys, and treat dispensers
  • Don’t make a big production when you leave or return
  • Rotate favorite toys
  • Add vertical space for your cat to access
  • Use calming items like pheromones, calm music, or a personal object like a t-shirt
  • Try to keep your cat’s day to day activities as consistent as possible

Some cats may need a little extra help in the form of medications as well, but behavior modification is central to helping these anxious patients. 

Our cats may sometimes act as if they don’t need us, but we know that the feline species is capable of producing very strong bonds with humans. We owe it to them to recognize signs of anxiety and stress and help them accordingly.