Cats are known for being independent, antisocial creatures… but they can actually get pretty attached to their loved ones.
Do you have a classic case of “velcro cat?” Your cat’s clingy, needy behavior could be due to separation anxiety. Keep reading to learn more about cat separation anxiety and how to address it.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety in cats can vary in severity, but ultimately the concept is the same: feeling scared or anxious when separated from a loved one.
The exact cause of feline separation anxiety can vary from one cat to another. Some common causes of separation anxiety in cats include:
Sex—female cats are more likely to experience separation anxiety compared to their male counterparts.
Living strictly indoors.
Being the only pet in the home (and relying solely on owners for companionship).
A history of abandonment, being orphaned, or weaned too early.
Drastic changes in routine (here’s to you, summer vacation).
Boredom, with no proper outlet to keep that excess energy from turning into stress.
Various health issues.
Signs of Separation Anxiety in Cats
Some cats with separation anxiety are relatively content for the most part, until they see that their owner is getting ready to leave the house. Others can be more consistently clingy, following their owner around the house to make sure they’re in the same room as often as possible.
Signs of cat separation anxiety include:
Excessive vocalizing—whining, meowing, or crying.
Eating too fast.
Going outside the litter box… and maybe in your bed, shoes, or other not-so-ideal areas.
Destructive behavior such as scratching and knocking things over.
Vomiting and/or hairballs.
Sulking or hiding upon realizing that you’re about to leave.
- Acting a bit TOO excited to see you when you get home (not to mention extra clinginess).
Keep in mind that some of these signs may also be signs of underlying health issues. If you notice any changes in your cat’s behavior or appearance, it’s always a good idea to go to the vet to rule out anything serious.
8 Tips for Managing Your Cat’s Separation Anxiety
When your kitty experiences separation anxiety, she’s acting out as a result of stress. Never punish your cat for bad behavior that occurs as a result of panic, as this can only exacerbate the situation.
Instead, try some of our favorite tips for managing separation anxiety in cats.
Tip #1: Keep a Consistent Routine.
Cats are creatures of habit. While you don’t necessarily need to plan your entire schedule around your kitty’s preferences, it’s helpful if you can create and maintain a consistent routine as closely as possible.
Tip #2: Turn on the TV.
If your home is generally pretty noisy, it may help your kitty if you turn on the TV or some music while you’re gone, especially if complete silence would be a big shock. Just test it out beforehand to make sure the sounds are actually calming, and not contributing to her stress.
We love turning on videos for our cats, too. A simple online search will yield tons of mesmerizing, hours-long videos for your kitty to watch—squirrels, birds, fish, and more!
Tip #3: Keep Arrivals and Departures Low Key.
It can be tempting to make a big scene out of saying your hellos and goodbyes, but try to resist the urge. We’re all excited about seeing our pets after a long day, but keeping those arrivals and departures as quiet as possible will teach your kitty that they’re no big deal.
Tip #4: Adjust the Association.
Try counterconditioning, a form of behavior modification that will change your cat’s negative associations into something more positive.
For example: if your kitty tends to get stressed when she notices you grabbing your keys, try some experiments. Pick up the keys, give your cat a treat, and then put the keys down and continue about your day at home.
You can also try carrying your keys around the house until your cat is desensitized to them.
Tip #5: Prepare Your Kitty.
As much as you may want to stay home and cuddle your kitty 24/7, there are times when you simple have to be apart. Some cats find a predictable leaving routine to be helpful.
Give plenty of cues—grabbing your keys, putting on your shoes, taking your bag off its hook—before you leave so your cat has time to adjust to the idea of you leaving.
Tip #6: Provide a Safe Space.
Give your cat an enriching safe space with plenty of interactive activities so she has something to keep her distracted from your absence.
This could be a cat tree, window perch, cozy nook, or even a favorite box; you’ll also want her to have plenty of toys, puzzles, and scratchers to keep her busy and entertained.
Tip #7: Offer Plenty of Quality Time.
While you can’t be close to your cat 100% of the time, it’s important to give her lots of cuddles and quality time when you are home.
This doesn’t mean you should drop whatever you’re doing anytime your cat asks for attention—in fact, we don’t recommend rewarding attention-seeking behaviors. Instead, schedule a few 15-minute chunks of time to play with your cat.
Teach her when and where you’ll pet her, too. It’s not a great time while you’re working at your desk or heading out the door, but watching TV on your couch? A purrfect time for cat cuddles.
Tip #8: Adopt a Second Cat.
Now, we’re not saying that adopting another cat is the solution to all of your separation anxiety woes. Bringing home a second kitty is certainly not a decision that should be made lightly.
While it may help your kitty to have a playmate when you’re gone, you’ll need to be very intentional about your decision. For those who haven’t yet adopted their first cat, bonded pairs may be a good idea; otherwise, look for a confident, well-socialized cat. Before you leave the cats home alone together, be sure to monitor their behavior to make sure they do in fact get along.
Help your cat live her best nine lives with PetHonesty’s Daily Essentials Cat 3-Pack. This pack includes the best-selling:
- Digestive Probiotics+ Powder for Cats
- Lysine-Immune Health+ Powder for Cats
- Alaskan Salmon Oil for Cats
With a boosted digestive system and increased immune health (and hopefully, less separation anxiety), your kitty will be looking and feeling her best!