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Cat Separation Anxiety: What You Need to KnowBy: Alyssa Little
Cats are independent creatures. It may be no surprise to see your kitten or adult cat enjoying some quiet time alone in the window. Our pets make wonderful companions and there is nothing like spending quality time with our furry friends. While your cat may like more alone time than your dog, it is easy to forget that they may still get separation anxiety when you’re away from home.
Naturally, pets get accustomed to you being around the house. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic created a work-from-home or hybrid working environment. But once home quarantine orders ease, you may start spending more time away from home. And you may find yourself asking, how is my cat going to handle me being away after so much time together?
We sat down with Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Sarah Nold to learn more about cat separation anxiety and tips for helping prevent it in the future.
What is cat separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety can occur in cats for a variety of reasons. In fact, something as simple as a change in a schedule can stress your pet.
“Whenever your cat has a sudden change in behavior, especially if nothing has changed recently in the home, you should start with having your veterinarian examine your cat to rule out illness as the underlying cause,” says Nold. “Separation anxiety is used to describe various problems that occur when your cat is left alone. Separation anxiety is less common in cats than dogs, likely because cats are innately solitary.”
If you notice changes in your cat, talk with your veterinarian. Consider keeping a journal to track changes and activities. This will help your veterinarian determine the best course of action for your furry friend.
Signs of cat separation anxiety
Cats are mysterious. They may not always let you know what they’re feeling, thinking or when they’re sick. Nold pointed out signals your cat may be sending that something more may be going on:
- Attention seeking behavior like the destruction of carpet or furniture
- Behavior changes that differ or change when you’re home versus when you’re gone
Every cat is unique and may react differently to change. But by giving them time to adjust to schedule changes, as they have become used to your companionship every day, you can help alleviate their stress. Keep in mind, they may not show all signs of stress if they have separation anxiety as each situation is unique, so it’s best to track any behavioral changes.
Tips on helping your cat
Whenever there are changes to your cat’s schedule or environment, you want to try to eliminate any additional stressors in your home. For instance, Nold identifies nearby construction work, loud noises, and outdoor animals as stressors that may affect their behavior. “You can try modifying what is in your control like closing the curtains so that your cat can’t see outdoors. Also, white noise may help lesson other intrusive noises,” states Nold.
Best practices to help prevent separation anxiety
Enrichment is a wonderful way to help stimulate your cat. Also, it may help keep them busy when you’re away from home. Try incorporating more cat-friendly spaces to encourage play, interaction, and stimulation. Consider adding cat furniture, objects, and other items that may distract but also enrich your home. Nold identified several cat-enrichment items to include in your home:
- Scratch mat
- Cat trees or cat condos
- Cat ladders
- Cat toys, like a cat mouse or DIY homemade toys
- Food dispensing toys
In addition, your veterinarian is a great resource and can personalize your cat’s treatment plan based on what they need. For example, “talk to your veterinarian about other treatment options, which may include a pheromone diffuser or prescription medication,” states Nold.
Further, by incorporating more enrichment it gives you the opportunity to interact and bond with your best friend.
It may take time for your best friend
Your cat’s stress level may depend on a number of changes in their environment. Just know that it may take time for your cat to start feeling well again, and that is okay. But by talking to your veterinarian, watching your cat’s behavior, and staying on their treatment plan, your best friend may be ready to play in no time at all!
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This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.