How to Tackle Separation Anxiety in Cats

By Amy McCready, Animal rights journalist. Updated: June 29, 2017
How to Tackle Separation Anxiety in Cats

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We know that cats are independent creatures. Yet, studies from experts in feline behavior have suggested that cats can suffer from separation anxiety when left alone. And although it is not known for sure what can cause it, some say that it may be due to genetic and environmental factors.

Cats with separation anxiety often cry when you leave them and once you do, they will urinate and defecate in inappropriate places - like your bed!

If your cat is behaving strangely and you think they may be suffering from separation anxiety, keep reading. AnimalWised will help you tackle separation anxiety in cats, the causes and their possible solutions.

You may also be interested in: Using the Kong to treat separation anxiety

What is separation anxiety?

As the name suggests, the cat suffers from anxiety every time they are separated from their human friend or someone they have bonded with. A cat that insists on being with you all day, who follows you everywhere, is an animal that may be suffering from this psychological condition.

This reaction is activated from the moment the person prepares to leave the house. Do not forget that cats are observant creatures and very intelligent. If they spot you getting ready leave the cat can be put in a bad mood or stand between the person and the door. Upon returning, you may be faced with rejection from your cat, who will show their disgust towards you. Or, on the contrary, they may act too effusive.

How to Tackle Separation Anxiety in Cats - What is separation anxiety?

Symptoms & their behavior

Cats and dogs, though they may not seem so, are similar in many ways. Some of the types of behavior generated by separation anxiety in cats are the same as those occurring in dogs:

  • Vocalization and exaggerated crying.
  • Defecation and vomiting in inappropriate places or where you - the owner - value the most. Such as, expensive carpets, personal items (shoes and bags) and in bed.
  • Destructive actions like biting and destroying household furniture.
  • Hygiene and excessive care. A cat with these types of problems will lick them-self too much, to the point of creating a bald spot (this is a rare sign but it could happen). We are talking about acral granuloma by licking, a health problem that must be treated as soon as possible.
How to Tackle Separation Anxiety in Cats - Symptoms & their behavior

How to help your cat overcome separation anxiety

Cats do not have a great time when they suffer from this type of anxiety. The good news is that there are things we can try to help them have a better and quieter time alone.

1- Research has shown that music has natural sedative properties - especially if they are instrumental pieces such as harp and piano. A while before leaving, put this kind of music on. Your cat will associate this with your presence so when you leave they will feel they have company. They may even take a music-induced nap!

2- Put some catnip or some of your cat's favorite toys in your bag and let their curiosity flourish. Your cat will begin to associate the bag with positive emotions and not with your absence. Turn your bag into a small play space.

How to Tackle Separation Anxiety in Cats - How to help your cat overcome separation anxiety

3- Each time you leave this triggers your cat. From now on, you must use certain techniques to convince them you will never leave. Thus, reducing your anxiety when you do leave. These techniques work to help you keep track of their emotions. Pick up the house or car keys at least 10 times a day, and then place them back in their place. Inside the house, carry your bag in your arm for an hour or more.

4- Repeatedly make false exits by opening the door, going outside and then returning. Try this exercise as many times as necessary until your cat completely ignores you. Then extend your time and go from one minute to five minutes before returning. This gradual increase will help build tolerance and will also teach them that no matter how long you leave home, you will always return.

How to Tackle Separation Anxiety in Cats -

5 - Cats are extremely curious creatures and their sense of search is highly developed. Choose treats that they like a lot and that have a strong smell and before leaving, sprinkle all over the house. Put them in strategic places, so they are not as easy to access. This "treasure hunt" will divert their attention for a while and amuse them at the same time. In addition, these types of exercises usually relax them naturally.

6- The substitution of attention, sometimes, is of the best techniques. Ask another family member or friend to interact and play with your cat during this time (before and after you leave). If your cat is a feline that appreciates pampering, a good round of cuddles will calm them. And at the same time, it will make them feel cared for and not abandoned.

How to Tackle Separation Anxiety in Cats -

7 - Intelligence toys are a great way to get your cat to forget you are gone for a while. Some examples available on the market are the kong or the different boards with hidden snacks. This type of toy is very suitable for cats suffering from separation anxiety.

8 - Spend quality time with your cat by playing, petting or offering them treats. Although the problem lies in their anxiety around not being close to you, feeling loved will help them understand that you will not abandon them. Then they will feel secure.

9 - Follow a specific schedule, that is, create a daily routine that gives you and your cat confidence. For this the ideal is to follow a schedule of meals, hygiene or games. Try to create activities in which include your cat. This is one of the best ways to treat anxiety.

10 - Do not punish them for the damage they did, but reward them whenever they do well. Remember that punishment causes stress and discomfort, which can aggravate separation anxiety. It is better to use positive reinforcement, patience and affection.

If you would like to read more articles similar to How to Tackle Separation Anxiety in Cats, we recommend that you visit our Behavior Problems section.

How to Tackle Separation Anxiety in Cats -

If you want to read similar articles to How to Tackle Separation Anxiety in Cats, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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