You may hear about separation anxiety more often with dogs than with cats, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a feline problem. Cats may not be able to bark or howl while their owners are away, but they certainly can display other symptoms of anxiety.
Signs of separation anxiety in cats include elimination outside of the litter box, excessive vocalization, vomiting, weight loss, excessive grooming, and clawing at things around the house. If your cat experiences separation anxiety, he or she may cling to you or go into hiding when you’re about to leave. If you think your cat suffers from anxiety, here’s how to help:
1.) Make a vet appointment: This is the first step if your cat is displaying symptoms of anxiety. Urination outside of the litter box, vomiting, weight loss, and vocalization can all be symptoms of medical conditions, so it’s important to make sure your cat is in good health before assuming separation anxiety is to blame. Also, a vet may have some tips for dealing with your cat’s anxiety, and in extreme cases, may prescribe medication.
2.) Start small: If possible, it’s best to expose your cat to short absences before leaving for hours at a time. If you’ve just brought a new cat into your home or you’re starting a behavior modification program with a cat that’s displaying symptoms of anxiety, begin with a walk around the block. Then, you can graduate to a quick errand, and eventually, longer outings.
3.) Keep your cat occupied: Make sure your feline companion has a variety of cat toys to keep busy with while you’re away. Also, make sure there are areas around your home where your cat can perch and observe the outside world. Some cats may appreciate the sound of a television or radio while alone as well.
4.) Don’t make goodbyes a big deal: If you get emotional when saying goodbye, your cat might pick up on those emotions. Also, cats start to notice cues that you’re leaving, like putting on your shoes or grabbing your keys. Keep your departure cues to a minimum (maybe put your shoes on out of sight from your cat) and don’t draw out your morning goodbye.
5.) Think calm: Some cats may benefit from a pheromone product like Feliway. You may also consider leaving something that smells like you (a shirt or a blanket) in an area that your cat likes to hangout for extra comfort.