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Separation Anxiety in Cats

separation anxiety in cats

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You’re probably very familiar with the fact that dogs can suffer from separation anxiety but you may not have realized cats can go through this as well. Many people have an inaccurate image of cats being solitary creatures who don’t need companionship but they actually are social and do form very strong bonds to their human family members and animal companions.

Causes of Separation Anxiety

Cats who were orphaned may be more prone to separation anxiety. Too-early weaning may also be a factor. It’s my opinion that how you’ve set up your cat’s environment plays a role as well. If your cat has no other activities and ways to build confidence without being attached to you at the hip, then that increases the chance of separation anxiety. I believe many cat parents also reinforce the separation anxiety by rewarding the cat for clingy, needy behavior.

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Your cat may go along just fine and have no problem with you coming and going on a daily basis but then something, such as a change in work schedule, a vacation, a divorce, etc, could trigger separation anxiety.

Signs of Separation Anxiety in Cats

When the cat parent leaves, the cat may exhibit excessive meowing. Elimination outside of the litter box may also occur. The cat may urinate or defecate on the cat parent’s bed or on clothing belonging to that human family member. It’s easy to misread this behavior as one of spite but it’s really a way for kitty to self-soothe by mixing his scent with yours. It’s also a way that the cat attempts to help you “find” your way home. Think of it as the feline version of dropping bread crumbs along the path.

separation anxiety in cats

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

Other signs may include excessive self-grooming, eating too fast or not eating at all when the cat parent isn’t present.

Treating Separation Anxiety

Before labeling your cat as having separation anxiety, it’s important he be examined by the veterinarian. The behavior being displayed may have an underlying medical cause. For example, elimination outside of the litter box may be due to lower urinary tract disease or have some other medical cause. Excessive grooming may be the result of external parasites, skin allergies, irritation, etc. Eating too fast or a lack of appetite may also be caused by an underlying medical condition. Don’t skip this very important step of visiting your veterinarian.

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