Emotional Lives of Cats: Separation Anxiety

05/27/12 - by TheCatCoach

Cats can become depressed and/or develop unwanted behaviors when they are separated from bonded companions. Their cat-parents may be on vacation or spending long hours every day away from home. College, a new job, divorce as well as other life changing events that take people away from their homes can cause cats anxiety and depression. Being separated for an extended time from a bonded-someone can be problematic for sensitive cats, resulting in unwanted and sometimes destructive behaviors.

There is a large range of behaviors associated with separation anxiety. These include litter box aversion, destructive chewing, over-grooming and other OCD behaviors. Aggressions, hiding and lethargy can also indicate that cats are experiencing separation anxiety. And, cats aren’t the only ones affected—cat parents often become frustrated and stressed by their cats’ behaviors.  Unfortunately, this can weaken the relationship between people and their cats—causing more stress and escalating the behaviors.

There is hope!

The good news is that these troubled cats can be helped to feel secure in their world through specific activities and changes to the environment.

  • Scent. A special companion’s scent can help cats feel they haven’t been abandoned. An article of clothing worn by the cat’s person can be placed on the cat’s favorite sleeping area, just before the person leaves for the day. This also works for travelers. Before the favored human leaves for an extended time, articles of clothing with their scent on them should be placed in separate, sealed plastic bags—one for each day spent away. Every day, the cat sitter places a fresh article of scent-laced clothing where the cat sleeps.
  • Sound. A favored person’s voice can help calm cats when they are left alone for an extended time. Weird and crazy as it may sound, some people call their cats every day and leave messages on their voice recorders for them. This of course, only works with land lines and answering machines. Digital recordings can also be made, played by the cat sitter, or timed to self-activate at specific times on a computer. A radio tuned to a talk program or a soft classical music station can also help calm cats.
  • Environmental enrichment. Providing cats with mental and physical stimulation can reduce stress and anxiety. Interactive toys such as ball and tract toys, puzzle boxes and treat balls can keep your cat engaged and focused.  Cats also need vertical territory—tall cat trees, shelves and window perches to climb and nap on. Vertical territory, when placed next to secure windows keeps cats entertained with the goings-on in the neighborhood.
  • A friend. Some people think that adopting another cat will help resolve their cats’ separation anxieties. Sometimes bringing a new cat friend home can ease the situation but it can also horribly backfire—causing the resident cat to become more stressed and unhappy. Every cat is an individual, with his and her own distinct personality and likes and dislikes. Some cats do well and thrive with a new cat buddy, others do not. Cats who have a history of enjoying the company of other cats are more likely to adjust to a new addition after they are gradually introduced to each other.

This is a brief list. There are many other force-free methods and activities that can help relieve cat’s stress and anxieties. Depending on the situation, the people and the cats, some of these suggestions are more effective than others.  A good, certified, science-based cat behaviorist can help formulate a plan that will reduce and eliminate stress and anxieties.



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One comment on “Emotional Lives of Cats: Separation Anxiety”

  1. Nice post. Iwas checking constantly thi blog and I'm inspired!
    Extremwly helpful info particularly the remaining section 🙂 I handle such information a lot.

    I was looking for this particuar informaation for a long time.
    Thanks and good luck.

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