It may sound a little far-fetched, but one day your feline may start exhibiting cat separation anxiety symptoms. Separation anxiety is something we have all experienced at some point in our lives. It could have been your first day of school or your first day of college away from the familiarity of your home. The point is, that feelings of anxiety are pretty common.
However, it’s not only humans that can get separation anxiety. Your beloved pets can also feel anxious and upset by your temporary absence. Even cats, who we like to think of as aloof, independent creatures, can experience anxiety.
If it turns out your cat is suffering from separation anxiety, there are numerous ways you can manage it. By reading this article, you’ll know the signs, why it develops, and what to do about it.
What are the top ten cat separation anxiety symptoms?
There are quite a few anxiety symptoms your cat could display. However, there are around 10 that are most commonly seen in felines suffering from separation anxiety. Once you’ve learned them, you’ll be able to easily pick up on the signs when or if your cat starts to develop anxiety.
The first five symptoms are in the physical category. These are:
1. Loud and/or frequent meowing
2. Toileting outside the litter box
4. Frequent licking or grooming
5. Not eating or drinking
It’s fairly easy to figure out if your cat is doing any of these things. You will notice it with your own two eyes at some point. However, you may run into problems with the last five symptoms. These aren’t as obvious and really require you to pay attention. These signs are:
1. Hiding from you or others
2. Not wanting to play or interact
3. Displaying destructive behaviors, such as scratching at furniture
5. Displaying clingy behavior before you leave and after you return home
In order to pick up on these more subtle signs of anxiety, you will need to observe your cat closely. As the owner, you know your cat better than anyone else, so you are in the best position to notice any worrying behavior changes. However, if you don’t pick up on these signs, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad cat owner or anything. Cats are notorious for hiding their problems from their owners so even the most perceptive person could miss these things.
Why do cats get separation anxiety?
So, you now know how to spot separation anxiety in cats, but you may be wondering why they even get it in the first place. There are a variety of factors that can influence the likelihood of your cat developing separation anxiety. So, let’s run through them now:
Gender: Separation anxiety is more commonly diagnosed in female cats. It may also develop in cats that only have you for company in the home. Now, before you run out to get your cat a new feline companion, note that not all cats will get along! Just be aware that separation anxiety can happen if this is the environment your cat lives in.
A sudden change in routine: Cats are creatures of habit, so any change in their normal schedule can cause some upset! Rearranging furniture, adding a new pet to the home, or being left alone with a stranger when you go on vacation, are all possible causes. Naturally, you can’t be with your cat 24:7, but some felines would probably prefer it that way!
Traumatic experiences: If your cat was abandoned, weaned too young, or not socialized properly as a kitten, they could be more prone to developing separation anxiety. Similarly, if your cat has experienced any sort of trauma in its lifetime (especially during kittenhood) then it could cause behavioral issues to develop later in life.
Genetics: Some cat breeds are known to be more prone to developing cat anxiety than others. It tends to occur most often in affectionate and interactive breeds because it is a character trait that has been encouraged through the breeding process. Siamese cats, Burmese, and Abyssinians are all prone to separation anxiety.
The truth is, there is not one simple cause for cat anxiety. It is more likely to develop because of a combination of different factors. However, no matter the cause or reason for it, there are ways you can help your cat manage their separation anxiety.
How can you manage separation anxiety in cats?
It can feel daunting when you realize that your cat has separation anxiety. But fear not, because there are things you can do to help them in the long run. While they may not completely erase the separation anxiety, simple management techniques can minimize it to the point where it no longer affects your kitty’s daily life.
Prepare your cat if you are planning to leave: You can do this by letting them interact with your suitcase and coats daily. Get your cat used to the things they associate with you leaving. So, when you do put on your shoes or grab your keys, it is less likely to trigger that anxiety.
Create a comfortable environment: Before you leave, ensure your cat has a comfy and inviting space. Leave some treats around the house for your cat to find, open the blinds so they can look outside, and have a variety of toys around so your cat doesn’t get bored. You can also turn on some quiet music or leave the television on at a low volume because the background noise might help your cat feel less anxious.
If none of these work, there’s always the option of medication. Sometimes, we humans need a little bit of help to cope with our anxieties and cats are no different. It is important to note that medication is usually the last resort, but it’s an option that exists.
To get medication for your cat, you obviously need to talk to a vet first. They’ll want to know if you’ve tried other methods and may suggest something you haven’t even thought of yet. If you both agree that medication is worth a try, your vet can go through the different types as well as their side effects and dosage levels.
Please expect some trial and error with the medication method because some medicines that work for one cat may not work for another. You can always check out a list of common cat anxiety medications, so you know what options are available.
By now, I hope you’ve realized that all is not lost if your cat is showing any of the common signs of separation anxiety. You have solutions and management options to choose from, which will minimize the pesky anxiety that has been afflicting your beloved furbaby.
The best thing you can do is talk to a vet if you are concerned. They will advise you on the appropriate course of action.
It won’t happen overnight, but by following these steps, the cat separation anxiety symptoms should fade over time.