It is good when our cats show us a little affection and make us feel wanted. But separation anxiety in cats can mean misery for both you and your pet.
Many people think of cats as rather solitary animals that are quite content with their own company and only require the services of their human to provide food and other comforts.
Those of us that share our home with a cat, or cats, may have a different opinion.
Cats are all individual and some certainly can be a little on the aloof side preferring to keep themselves to themselves.
Many others though are very attached to their human companion. These cats are not happy unless they are in the same room as their human and often follow them around the house.
Modern life dictates that we cannot always be at home with our cat, most of us need to leave the house each day. Some cats with separation anxiety, react rather badly to being apart from their human.
Why do some cats and not others display distress when left alone? It is far from certain what the causes of the anxiety are.
It is believed that kittens who are orphaned, or weaned too early, or have been traumatized at some point in their lives, may be slightly more liable to develop the condition.
But these are by no means the only cats that do.
Some cats don’t show too much in the way of annoyance when you are preparing to leave, other than perhaps become somewhat sullen.
Other cats start playing up in a variety of ways as soon as they realize you are about to separate yourself from them.
Either way, according to animal behavior experts, it is in the first little while of your absence that a feline with separation issues will react the most.
It seems it makes little difference to the cat whether you are away for a half hour, two hours or away all day.
Once you are gone the separation anxiety really kicks in and the unwanted behavior starts, perhaps crying or yowling, scratching up walls or furniture, frantic over grooming, or the peeing and pooping outside the box.
Often the peeing will be done on the human’s bed or something else that has the scent of the human on it.
Oh what! A cat that pees on her human’s bed must be really upset and getting her own back for being left alone. Well actually the experts say this is not the case, cats do not have a concept of revenge.
They do this because they find it comforting to mix their scent with that of their human.
They also believe, strange as it may seem, it helps the human find their way home.
If your cat displays separation anxiousness obviously you will want to see if there is anything you can do about it. But before you do, it would be a good idea to have your cat checked by the veterinarian.
This is especially so if your cat is peeing and pooping outside the box as this could be caused by a number of medical issues.
Whether we realize it or not, we give our cats clues that we are about to leave the house and cats do pick up on these signals.
Freshening yourself up, picking up a bag, picking up keys, putting on a coat, what else do you do that tells your cat that you are about to leave the house?
You can actually reduce the effect of these signals so that they do not cause your cat so much anxiety.
Try picking up your keys, for example, many times during the day when you are not going anywhere.
Pick them up, carry them for a bit and put them down again, all within sight of your cat.
Brush your hair, put on your coat but stay home. If you habitually close windows and go round your home locking doors before you leave, do that several times a day too.
Does it all sound silly? It shouldn’t, doing these things will help remove the association in your cat’s mind of the actions, and being left alone.
If your cat is used to a long goodbye from you, you make a fuss of her and perhaps sound upset that you are leaving her, change that to a casual “see you later”.
It will help in letting your cat know there is nothing to worry about; you are leaving the house but will be back.
Leave out some interactive toys for your cat to amuse herself with while you are away. Try hiding a few healthy treats around the place for her to seek out.
Leave soothing music playing softly, or try one of those videos especially made for cats, some felines will sit watching them contentedly.
Does your cat have anywhere to perch and look out of the window?
If her condo, for example, is placed so she can climb up and view the goings on in the outside world, it may help to keep her calm.
Try leaving a towel that you have used or an item of clothing you have been wearing in a place were your cat lounges. The traces of your scent may help to relax her.
A Feliway Diffuser may help to keep your cat more relaxed, it does not work with all cats but is worth trying.
Playing with a cat is always good, an extra session each day might just help to reduce the effects of separation anxiety.
Some cats display separation anxiety when separated from another animal.
It has also been observed that cats that are the only cat of the house are more likely to be distressed when their human leaves the house.
Would adopting another cat help the situation? It is possible that it might help but also very possible that it may make matters worse.
I have to say that I believe the only reason to adopt another cat is because you want to, and are fully prepared for all the responsibility it entails.
Introducing a new cat to your existing cat takes time and patience, and sometime the pair will never end up buddies.
Let’s assume though that the pairing does go well, now you have two cats that will be company for each other at times of the day you are out. Your separation anxiety problem is solved - or is it?
Don’t forget your cat gets stressed because she misses you. She may enjoy life with her new feline chum but still fret when you are not there.
What if her fretfulness rubs off on the new cat? You now have to cope with two cats that freak out when you are not at home for them.
Wouldn’t it be better to tackle the root cause of your cat’s anxiety before adopting another cat?
If the above behavior modification tips do not help (after trying them long enough for them to have affect on your cat,) your veterinarian may prescribe a course of medication.
Please remember to have your cat checked before trying anxiety behavior modification if the behavior includes urination and or defecation outside the box, just in case there is a medical cause.
A version of this article first appeared in Feline Rules the free online ezine for all things cat.
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