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Separation Anxiety in Cats

quote from georgia spca

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Practice coming and going. If your cat starts to get tense whenever he hears you pick up your keys or if he sees you reach for your purse or coat, then practice doing those things several times a day without actually leaving. Pick up your keys and put them back down. Do this multiple times. Later in the day, walk to the door and then back. Do that several times. Now, put the two together – pick up your keys, walk to the door and then back. Later in the day, put on your coat and then take it off and then add all three together – putting on your coat, getting your keys and walking to the door. Work up to actually  walking out the door and then immediately returning. Each time you walk back into the room, greet your cat casually or engage in a little play session. Vary the times you do these training sessions throughout the day or evening. Gradually increase the time spent outside of the home.

If there are particular objects that trigger the anxiety such as your keys, your purse, your brief case – then carry those around the house for a while each day so they are no longer an anxiety trigger.

black cat looking out window

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

TV and Music

YouTube has countless videos that are cat-specific in terms of interest. Look for videos that showcase prey such as birds, mice or insects. There are also cat entertainment DVDs on the market. You can have one playing when you’re set to walk out the door.  For music, use a classical or soft music station. Just having the music in the background may help serve as a buffer for any outside noises that might trigger kitty’s anxiety.

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There are also cat-specific music downloads and CDs such as Through a Cat’s Ear. This is a special music CD or download designed to create a feeling of calm. It’s available online.

If Medication is Needed

There are some cases where anti-anxiety medication may also be needed in conjunction with behavior modification. Your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist will advise the client based on the specifics of the cat’s case. If medication is prescribed, it MUST be used alongside appropriate behavior modification and is not to be viewed as a substitute for doing the behavior work needed to relieve the cat’s anxiety.

Need More Information?

If you’ve noticed a change in your cat’s behavior or you think he may be experiencing separation anxiety, contact your veterinarian so a thorough examination can be done. If your veterinarian does diagnose separation anxiety, you may be referred to a certified behavior professional.

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