Separation anxiety isn’t just a dog problem. Cats suffer from separation anxiety, too. Despite cats’ reputation for independence and strength, they can develop a fear of being alone. This leads to intense stress and nervousness when their owner is away. Understanding the causes and signs of cat anxiety can help you better care for your cat and help them overcome this issue.
😰 What Exactly Is Feline Separation Anxiety?
Anxiety is a state of stress induced by the anticipation of danger or a threat. While your leaving cat alone isn’t truly dangerous for your cat, this doesn’t mean your kitty isn’t anticipating a danger. While irrational, the fear your cat feels is very physically and psychologically real. Cats with anxiety will feel their hearts race, their thoughts race, and a feeling of dread. All of which are not fun.
⚠️ Signs of Cat Anxiety
Cats with separation anxiety do not demonstrate the same symptoms as dogs with the same condition. The most common signs that a cat is suffering from separation anxiety include:
- Tail flicking or holding tail close to the body
- Avoiding eye contact
- Dilated pupils
- Increased breathing rate
- Eliminating outside of the litter box
- Excessive grooming: paw licking and grooming to the point of bald spots
- Loud vocalizations: mewing, crying out, meowing, chittering
- Reluctance to eat or drink while you’re away
- Throwing up, sometimes with fur in the vomit
- Destructive behavior like shredding furniture or excessive claw sharpening
- An over-the-top greeting when you get home
Causes of Cat Separation Anxiety
The cause of cat separation anxiety remains pretty mysterious, but most studies suggest that some cats have a greater genetic disposition for anxiety and a cat’s environment plays a role. Cats that only have their owners as their sole source of socialization are more likely to struggle with separation anxiety, as well.
Most cats experience the conditions that lead to anxiety during kittenhood. This supports the theory that cats weaned too early or orphaned experience early life trauma that leads to a greater likelihood for anxiety. But the effects of this trauma often do not surface until the cat has reached the age 5 months of age to one-year-old.
Other times, anxieties will surface after a traumatic experience or a significant change in a cat’s life like a move or loss of a feline friend. Dementia can also be linked to increased anxiety due to confusion.
🌝 How to Help Your Cat Feel Calm and Overcome Separation Anxiety
The first step to helping your cat feel better is to bring them to the vet. The same symptoms of separation anxiety could be a sign that your cat has another underlying medical condition. Your vet can rule out other health issues and properly diagnose your kitty. Additionally, your vet can help you decide if medication or supplements can assist your cat in overcoming their fear.
Once you talk to your vet, you can make some changes to your home and your routine that can be calming for your kitty.
The first technique you may want to try is counter-conditioning. Identify which of your actions trigger your cat’s anxiety. Start from where your cat begins to show signs of anxiety. Engage in the behavior (like grabbing your keys), but instead of leaving, return to normal household activities. This helps your cat build a new connection with the action, slowly resolving the anxiety.
When you do need to leave, give your cat some tasty treats before you go. Putting them in a cat puzzle can help distract from your departure.
You can also reduce the severity of your cat’s stress by providing your kitty with plenty of mental stimulation and exercise throughout the day. New toys are a great way to enrich your cat’s playtime. A cat perch can also be a great way to get your cat’s brain active as she watches birds, squirrels, and other critters.
Separation anxiety doesn’t clear up on its own. In fact, it often worsens with time. So, don’t delay helping your cat overcome velcro-kitty-syndrome.
💕Provide Plenty of Playtime, Love, and Patience and Make Separation Anxiety a Thing of the Past💕Your cat’s separation anxiety is not your fault. You can help your cat feel calmer and win the battle with stress, nervousness, and panic when left alone. Work with behavior modification through counter-conditioning, your vet, and giving your cat extra stimulation.
— Meow for now —