Updated: Jun 7, 2021
After more than a year of cuddling in your lap while you worked from home, your cat may not be ready for “alone time” when you depart for a post-pandemic vacation. Separation anxiety in cats is more common than most people think. Learn the signs of cat anxiety and the strategies that can help your cat cope while you’re away from home.
Cats DO Get Separation Anxiety
Calm under pressure. Aloof. Self-sufficient. Independent. Sounds like most cats, right? With those personality traits, anxiousness typically isn’t something that comes to mind when people talk about cats. Yet, it is not uncommon for cats to experience stress and show signs of anxiety. Now, consider that your cat has spent the pandemic year adapting to your perpetual presence at home. Consequently, even the most self-reliant feline is vulnerable to separation anxiety when you’re not around.
Defining Cat Separation Anxiety
A lot of undesirable behaviors displayed by a cat get labeled as separation anxiety when in fact, those behaviors have nothing to do with anxiety. For example, just because your cat has shredded a hole in your favorite area rug doesn’t mean she was anxious. Kitty may just have been having a good time!
Animal behaviorists and veterinarians look at the context of behaviors and the pattern of behavior in a cat before they label it. By definition, separation anxiety is an emotional response triggered by separation from the person or the companion pet with whom a cat has bonded. Distress due to separation anxiety ranges from mild to severe. Often, the mild signs of separation anxiety are missed or misunderstood by cat owners. The crucial piece of information is: when do these behaviors occur. If the behavior problems occur exclusively when the favorite, bonded individual is absent, that is a strong indication that your cat is experiencing separation anxiety. Usually, these behaviors occur within minutes of being apart, do not remit, and escalate over time.
How Does a Cat Show Anxiety?
Cats can show separation anxiety in a few different ways:
Changes in eating pattern (not eating, overeating, eating too quickly)
Elimination in inappropriate places around the home
Vomiting, food or hair often are contained in the vomit
Frantic, exuberant, excited behavior that is not typical upon the owner’s return
Destructiveness, such as shredding curtains or furniture or knocking over objects
Going on Vacation: Prepare Your Cat & Prevent Separation Anxiety
This past year we have learned to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are now getting ready for our first vacation in over a year. You might once have thought nothing of setting out the refillable food and water dishes and leaving your feline friend to take care of herself. For your cat, however, things may not be so easy when you take a long departure from home. It’s quite easy to prepare your cat now, rather than come home to a tragedy.
The following tips can help you prepare your cat for remaining at home while you are traveling. If, during these “test runs,” you notice signs of anxiety, reach out to your vet for advice.
1. Make Incremental Trips Outside the Home
If you’ve only left your cat alone long enough to go to the grocery store, start extending the amount of time you are out of the house. A few weeks before vacation, spend varying lengths of time outside the home. You want to work up to being away from the house for a full day or even better, overnight. Upon your return each time, note your cat’s behavior.
2. Make Departure and Separation Easier for Your Cat
Leave the music playing while you are home and when you go out
Don’t make a big fuss about leaving. Just go quietly.
Minimize departure cues: how you jingle your keys, where you put on your shoes
Create a nook for your cat that serves as their safe space
Provide lots of toys / puzzles to keep them busy
Channel prey instincts by hiding food in toys
Try an aromatherapy diffuser to provide a calming scent for your cat (Check with your vet first as some essential oils are poisonous to cats. Keep out of reach of kitty!)
If these strategies are not successful and your cat’s separation behaviors are concerning, speak with your vet.
Wilmington’s Best Cat Sitters, at Your Service
Many people prefer not to board their cats as a cost savings among other reasons. For example, boarding a cat away from your home can be as anxiety provoking as leaving the cat home alone. A cat sitting service is a loving, compassionate solution for your cat’s care while you are away.
Kitten Sittin’ is a highly regarded, local cat sitting service. All of our employees are direct hires, not independent contractors. This means your cat can develop a relationship with a trusted animal caregiver while you are away. Your cat will receive the attention and affection he’ll miss from you while you are on vacation. Contact us today and see for yourself why Delaware cat owners count on us for taking care of their kitties!
Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Indoor Pet Initiative. “Separation Anxiety.”
“They’re Not Loners: Cats can have Separation Anxiety, too.” retrieved from FreeFreeHappyHomes.com