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Separation Anxiety in Cats

Once your cat is diagnosed with separation anxiety, behavior modification techniques can be used to reduce his stress and increase stimulation in your absence.

Increase the environmental enrichment. If you want your cat to feel satisfied, entertained and secure when you aren’t around then the environment in which he lives has to inspire that. Read my article on environmental enrichment to learn how to spruce up his indoor surroundings. Incorporate puzzle feeders, playtime, elevated areas, hideaways and more to encourage him to find ways to trigger and satisfy his prey-drive. The more enriched and secure the environment is, the better your cat will feel when he’s by himself. If you know your cat is a real foodie and loves the puzzle feeders, then save them for when you won’t be home during the day. That way, they’ll become very special treats for your cat during your absence.

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

A cat tree is a great piece of real estate for a cat and it serves as a place to nap, play, climb, scratch and if placed near a window will provide a front row seat to the birds outside. As long as there’s no  threat of other cats coming into the yard, consider putting a bird feeder outdoors so your cat will have some first-rate entertainment while perched on his cat tree.

Inspire confidence when you interact with your cat. Don’t reward your cat with attention when he’s meowing and being insistent. Instead, reward him with petting, treats, praise and attention when he’s acting the way you WANT him to act. Reward him when he’s quiet. Reward him when he does something to entertain himself. Reward the behavior you want to see again and don’t reinforce the unwanted behavior.

Engage your cat in interactive play sessions on a daily basis. Twice a day would actually be even better. Interactive playtime allows your cat to simply enjoy being the mighty hunter. For a cat, being able to engage the prey drive and enjoy a successful capture is the ultimate in joy and satisfaction.

Don’t make a big production about leaving. If you anticipate your cat is going to suffer from separation anxiety, you’ll just make it worse if you overdo the goodbye process. Your cat will think you’re leaving for a month instead of just 8 hours. Make your goodbyes very casual. Cats easily pick up on the emotions of their human family members. If you’re upset then your cat may get upset.

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