If your kitty sinks into depression because you’re gone for long stretches of the day due to work, school, or travel — or she shadows you closely upon your return home — they may be suffering from cat separation anxiety, a condition that can negatively impact their overall health and quality of life.
Below, we unpack the signs and symptoms of this condition, the environmental cues that trigger it, and tricks for mitigating and managing problems associated with cat separation anxiety.
Signs and symptoms of cat separation anxiety
Symptoms of cat separation distress manifest themselves in numerous fashions, some more harmful and pronounced than others, and can lead to unwanted behaviors such as:
- defecating and urinating outside of the litter box
- unbroken chains of meowing and related vocalizations
- destructive scratching and/or chewing
- loss of appetite (or its opposite, wolfing food down greedily in bursts)
- excessive self-grooming
- overly-exuberant greetings
But because these signs can be mild and indicative of or confused for other common cat ailments (excessive grooming, for instance, has been tied to food allergies and skin parasites), experts stress that only a veterinarian can properly diagnose cat separation anxiety in your four-legged BFF.
For this reason, veterinarians recommend a full and complete physical examination, which can include blood tests, a chemistry profile, urinalysis, thyroid testing, and a blood pressure check. Only after this step has been completed, can you and your pet’s doctor map out a course of treatment.
What is separation anxiety in the cat?
in cats, Separation anxiety is a dislike of solitude which is commonly seen in cat behaviour. Signs of separation anxiety in cats may occur when the cat is separated from his owner or another companion pet with which he has a strong bond. … When the owner returns, the cat may show an abnormally enthusiastic greeting.
If your cat cries a lot when left alone, you can use cat pheromone products. Spray some artificial pheromones around the house, and your kitty will be less anxious. Music and DVDs suitable for cats will help your pet relax or stay entertained. This will also silence outside noises.
Causes of anxiety in cats.
Just as the signs and symptoms of cat separation anxiety can be difficult to identify, so too can the root causes.
While some animal behavioralists claim that orphaned kittens and those weaned prematurely from their mother are more prone to the disease because they have fears of abandonment and haven’t been fully socialized, others pin the problem on environmental factors (such as daylight savings time and an increase or decrease in exposure to the sun), changes to a daily routine, and simple boredom that can be traced back to a lack of physical, mental, and emotional enrichment.
Management techniques for cat separation anxiety.
The good news is that small changes in a cat’s life, diet, and daily routine can make a big difference in curbing how strongly they suffer from the effects of cat separation anxiety.
From simple things like providing additional toys to more serious remedies like anti-anxiety medications, there’s a spectrum of treatments that can ease the grip of cat separation anxiety.
The most recommended tools and solutions include:
Adding a second (or third) cat to the mix! Nothing eases the burden of loneliness like another snuggle buddy to pal around with.
- Incorporating puzzle feeders, elevated areas, hideaways (tunnels), and cat trees into your home to alleviate boredom and hone their hunting and stalking instincts. Bonus points if these afford window views where kitty can gaze outside and chirps at birds and other critters.
- Daily playtime sessions that tire kitty out with some much-needed exercise. From expensive to homemade, toys like loose string, flashlight beams, and bouncy balls can keep kitty alert, active, and engaged.
- Rewarding cats with pets, treats, and praise when they’re quiet and at ease, not when they’re acting needy.
- Desensitizing kitty to your coming and going. Keys, jackets, overnight bags — all are cues that they start to associate with your departures. Carrying these items around the house where your cats can see and smell them will undo some of that anxiety, especially if you don’t actually leave. Likewise, tossing some catnip in your briefcase and then letting them sit in it will also help break the negative connotation your cats have with these objects. At the same time, when you do return, make a fuss about seeing them but not too much of one.
- If finances permit, hire a cat sitter or recruit a friend or family member to chill with them.
- Some people compensate for their daily absence with video (DVDs of birds, squirrels, and butterflies, for instance, will keep them glued to the TV) and music (classical —especially that played on a harp — or soft rock).
- Anti-anxiety meds probably constitute the most serious remedy to cat separation anxiety, but they’re best used sparingly and in combination with the tips outlined above. As these would be prescribed by your pet’s vet, that’s a conversation you’ll need to have with them.
Cat Anxiety Treatment
Let your vet determine if cat anxiety medication is necessary to ease the symptoms. Never give medication without consulting a vet and always give the prescribed dose. Felines are sensitive to some types of drugs, and every cat is different so you can do more harm than good.
If genetic factors are causing the anxiety, your vet is more likely to prescribe drugs. They may also do it if behavior modification isn’t working or the symptoms are too severe. There are meds such as diazepam, lorazepam, and alprazolam that you can give your cat when anxiety is about to appear. Other medications include antidepressants, serotonin agonists, buspirone, and benzodiazepines. Some of these are used to treat cat depression as the two conditions often occur together.
Leave the decision up to your vet and follow their orders. Your primary focus should still be on managing stress and behavior. All drugs can have mild to severe side effects so don’t experiment on your own.
- Related publications:
cats get anxious when you leave
Some single indoor-housed cats become anxious when left alone for long periods of time. These cats appear to be unusually sensitive to their surroundings and may be very attached to their owners. Here are some signs of “separation anxiety” in cats: Excessive vocalization (crying, moaning, meowing)