No one knows exactly why cats can suffer from separation anxiety, defined as the general dislike for being left alone. What is known, however, is that it is triggered when the owner is away, is about to go away, or is separated from him. It can also happen if kitty cat is separated from another pet (not necessarily another cat) that he shares a strong bond with.
Owners can determine if their beloved felines really have separation anxiety by checking for the following signs:
- Extreme attachment to owner such that he follows the owner across rooms.
- Distress as owner prepares to leave home, also called pre-departure anxiety.
- Vocalisation of distress (moaning, meowing, and crying) after owner leaves.
- The affected cat becomes too anxious to consume food when left on his own.
- Inappropriate elimination of faeces and urine. Since anxiety is a source of stress, and stress causes recurrent cystitis to develop, it’s important for owners to check for the development of the disorder for as long as separation anxiety is still an issue with their pets. Owners can check for recurrent cystitis by checking if the cat urinates too little and too often, and if he urinates outside the litter tray.
- Vomiting when the owner is away.
- Excessive grooming. What begins as displacement behaviour eventually leads to compulsive grooming if left unchecked.
- Demonstration of destructive behaviour among certain afflicted cats. Door edges are clawed and scratched as a way of trying to escape confinement.
- Excessive greeting behaviour.
How should owners deal with feline separation anxiety?
To ensure that kitty’s behaviour isn’t because of underlying physical issues, an owner’s best course of action is to first seek a veterinarian’s opinion. If no medical issues are found, enriching the environment of the cat should help minimise the severity of the problem.
Ways to Enrich a Cat’s Environment:
- Positioning climbing frames in such a way that kitty can see what the outside world looks like.
- Scratching posts
- Bird feeders that are visible from one window that kitty can access.
- Mobile toys that have catnip.
- Placing that day’s kibble ration inside a food toy.
- Leaving the TV or radio on.
- Environmental pheromone therapy products can help in reducing anxiety, particularly when used along with any natural supplement that’s available in the market.
Owners can also make sure that the time surrounding departure is not that stressful for their pet cats by changing their normal routine. One change that should work is ignoring kitty before leaving and upon coming home. The removal of attention causes stress. Therefore, full focus on kitty by the owner as long as the latter is present actually causes the problem to worsen instead of helping to make the feline feel secure.
If none of the above work, or if the anxiety persists, owners should consult with the veterinarian again. Special medication for his condition or behavioural therapy may be recommended for kitty cat, depending on what the veterinarian thinks is more appropriate. For the latter solution, the owner may be referred to an animal behaviourist he knows can handle that pet’s case.