Do cats suffer from separation anxiety?
We think of cats as independent creatures who thrive best when they are alone, that is not true! Here's how to recognise if your cat suffers from separation anxiety.
Cat separation anxiety | Does your cat suffer from it?
It is easy to think that cats are naturally more independent than dogs, and therefore do not suffer from separation anxiety, as many dogs do. If you think of feral felines such as tigers and pumas, then you are right. They don't suffer from separation anxiety. However, many domesticated house cats have an entirely different stance to sudden solidarity.
Cat separation anxiety | What are the signs?
There are few scientific articles on the matter; however, the current accumulated research suggests that separation anxiety amongst domesticated cats does occur. A study published in 2015 indicates that because cats are social creatures, they establish bonds with their owners. When the owner is in absence, the cat may become distressed. The distress displayed is similar to the expressed dismay from dogs suffering from separation anxiety.
Many cats express playful and exploratory behaviours in the presence of their owners. However, when in the absence of their favourite human, these behaviours tend to diminish. Such a transition in behaviour suggests that the owner gives the cat security and stability.
The study published in 2015, reported that when cats were left alone, they expressed destructive behaviour, excessive vocalisation, agitation, depression-apathy, aggressiveness, defecation in inappropriate places and inappropriate elimination. The last refers to urinating and defecating in places it should not.
The most common places where inappropriate elimination occurred was in the 'owners bedroom floor and bed, below furniture in the living room, next to floor drains, carpets, sofas, plant vases, owner's clothes and the kitchen sink'.
None of the mentioned symptoms are behaviours a cat owner wants their cat to express. It can be perceivable as both sad and annoying. People who have cats that become destructive when left alone have a bigger risk of getting rid of their cat, especially if they don't recognise it as separation anxiety but simply an unmannered cat. This shows the importance of awareness around the topic.
However, few owners wish to get rid of their pets and are willing to go great lengths to keep their feline, if possible. So, can anything be done about separation anxiety?
Cat separation anxiety | Treatment?
Because there are few studies regarding separation anxiety among cats, there are even fewer about the treatment. However, several experienced cat behaviourists have touched on the subject. Though it might not be officially scientific advice, their experiences are just as valuable as scientific research when resources are limited.
One highly recognised cat behaviourist is the American superstar, Cat Daddy aka Jackson Galaxy. He posted a series of tips on his YouTube channel.
- Play with your cat before you leave. Grant the cat some bonding time to ramp him down a little. Then calm the cat down properly with its meal just before you go.
- Or, feed him half the meal before you leave, and leave the rest in a puzzle toy to keep it occupied for a while. It might forget you're not there.
- Jacksons prime tip is not to say anything before you leave. Don't make a big deal out of it.
- Another tip of his is to make your own cat TV. Place some bird trays outside your living room window, and this will stimulate the cats' instincts for hours. It won't even notice you are gone.
- Get another cat. A common tip for owners of highly social cats is to get another cat to keep each other company. This might be the best way, but we understand if you smell double trouble