Does My Cat Have Separation Anxiety?
Is your kitty being a bit of a socialite? Our furry pals all have their own personalities and if your cat is a very sociable creature then they might miss you when you're out!
We all love a kitty with a friendly personality but if it becomes clear that they are experiencing stress when you leave home then your cat could be experiencing a fear of being left alone. Depending on your kitty's personality they might be ok with a bit of alone time, but struggle with longer periods apart or they might get nervous every time you leave. There are a few stress-related behaviours that can manifest if your cuddly kitty has difficulty being without you.
3 Signs Your Kitty Is Experiencing Separation Anxiety
1. Does Your Kitty Urinate Outside The Litter Box?
While stress from being alone isn't the only cause of peeing outside the litter box, (and you should always get your kitty checked out by the vet if they are doing this regularly), there are some key signs to watch out for.
Have you noticed that your cat is often urinating on items that smell a lot like you, such as your clothing or bedding? If so, this could be a sign that your cat has separation-related issues and this is a symptom of their stress.
2. Vocal Expression When You're Getting Ready To Leave
You may notice that your kitty's stress starts when he picks up on your departure cues, such as putting on your shoes or packing a suitcase. Your pet may show stress by vocalising more than usual or keeping very close by you - or even by withdrawing completely and hiding.
Also, if your pawsome pal appears worried when you arrive home or there is evidence of unwanted behaviours (such as peeing, scratching or overgrooming) that have only occurred while you were away, this may suggest that they're stressed and anxious when you are not at home.
3. Is Your Kitty Showing Other Destructive Behaviours?
If your kitty is acting a bit out of sorts and there's a change in their appetite (gain or loss), illness or throwing up, scratching or excessive self-grooming, this is likely a sign that your kitty is stressed. As always, you should visit your vet to check that your kitty doesn't have any medical conditions, and when this is ruled out, consider how you can help them feel calmer when left at home alone. After all, it's inevitable that you will have to leave the house sometimes and helping your kitty feel comfortable on their own is key to their happiness, confidence, and reducing destructive behaviours.
How To Help Your Kitty Feel Secure When You're Out
Consider How To Keep Your Kitty Occupied
While your cat may find it uncomfortable when you're not at home, it's also likely that they're feeling stressed due to a lack of stimulation while you're out. Frequent social interaction such as stroking and play sessions are extremely important as they help you bond with your furry friend and build trust. This also helps prevent your kitty from being bored or anxious so these interactions can reduce kitty stress.
If you're out all day then consider if you have a friend, cat sitter or neighbour who can call in and check on your kitty for playtime or to change your kitty's toys. You could also consider leaving the radio on, or playing some calming classical music to help your kitty feel less alone.
Make sure that you leave your kitty with plenty of toys to hold their attention - food puzzles with high-value treats inside are a great way to keep your cat occupied for hours as well as helping them to exercise. You could even create a little food hunt for your kitty, hiding small pieces of food around the house, such as on perches, to encourage your cat to be active while you're out.
Start Off With Small Absences and Build These Up
It's important to prepare your cat for their alone time slowly; start with small absences while you're still at home, by leaving the room and coming back - then build this up slowly. Cats are very fond of routine so quick changes can make it much harder for them to adjust. If you have a long holiday or absence planned then try and set aside some time to help your cat adjust as easily as possible, getting them gradually used to alone time.
Keep Arrivals And Departures Low Key
When you are leaving or arriving home, try not to make a fuss of your cat. Obviously, you'll miss them but making it into a big deal can confuse your kitty and make them more anxious for your departure next time!
Try to keep coming and going non-emotional, quiet and short - just a wave or brief acknowledgment is all that is needed. When you return, only greet your cat once they stop seeking attention (for example when the vocalisation stops) and only give them some attention when they are calm.
Create A Calm Spot For Your Kitty
Make sure that your kitty has somewhere they can go to feel safe; incorporate a kitty relaxation area in your home for them to go and sleep or perch and watch what's going on. Cats enjoy a high vantage point, so consider adding perches, cat trees, and cat-friendly shelving to give them the best environment. Some cats also like to hide away occasionally as this is comforting, so provide them with a safe, relaxing area such as a cardboard box with blankets inside.
When you're going out, also ensure that your cat has plenty of water (cats will often prefer this if it is flowing water, like a cat drinking fountain), as well as a food bowl, litter box and scratching post. All of these should be kept in different locations and there should be at least one resource per cat in your home.
Keeping Your Kitty Calm Will Help Their Separation Anxiety
If you think that your kitty is experiencing stress when you leave then don't panic; you can help them by providing enough stimulation while you're out, creating a stress-free space for them and ensuring they have everything they need.
You can also consider using a FELIWAY OPTIMUM diffuser to help keep a cat calm and reduce any stress or worry that your kitty might be experiencing. This provides a calming, happy environment which helps your kitty to cope with any changes or disruptions to their normal routine or environment, such as longer absences.
Use the diffuser in the room where your cat is most likely to spend their time. If you're using this before a vacation, use it one week before your holiday to provide a calm environment for your departure and during your leave. Use continually if you're out every day for work, and this will help your kitty feel more secure and reassured.