Menu

What to Know About Separation Anxiety in Cats

Reviewed by Vanessa Farner, DVM on January 04, 2022

Some cats can experience separation anxiety when they have to spend time apart from their owner. The exact reason why this happens is unknown, but researchers know that changes in routine where cats have to spend more time alone can cause them to experience this separation anxiety. Some cats in particular are more sensitive and attached to their owners. 

Here’s what you need to know about cat separation anxiety.

What Causes Separation Anxiety in Cats?

If you provide constant affection, treats, and playtime every time your cat comes to you, they can grow dependent on you.

If you’ve been spending a lot of time with your cat indoors and you suddenly need to spend more time outside, your cat can struggle with the separation.

What Are the Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Cats?

Symptoms of separation anxiety in cats include:  

  • Excessive vocalization. Your cat will be crying, moaning, or meowing a lot.
  • Not eating or drinking when the owner is away
  • Urinating in inappropriate places. For example, urination can take place on the owner’s bed.
  • Inappropriate defecation. This just simply means that the cat’s stool may be found outside the litterbox.
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive self-grooming
  • Destructive behaviors
  • More excitement than is usual when the owner returns home

There can be differences in the type and frequency of symptoms depending on the gender and breed of the cat. 

How Do I Reduce My Cat’s Separation Anxiety?

There are different things you can do to help make your cat more comfortable when they are alone:  

  • Train your cat to slowly get used to increased periods of time alone. Start by leaving your cat alone for short periods of time. Gradually increase this if you find that your cat continues to stay relaxed. Reward your pet for positive behavior with a treat.
  • Avoid making an announcement of arrivals and exits. If you come in and out without making a fuss, your cat will see that it’s nothing to make a fuss about.
  • Switch on the TV or radio channel to your preferred channels when you’re at home. Keep the same channels switched on when you’re out.
  • Scan your cat’s living areas to see if there are enough distractions to help keep her occupied. Install a perch so she can look out through the window. Leave out toys that she can play with. If your cat is occupied, she will stop looking to her owner for stimulation.
  • It’s a good idea to give your cat her own special place in the house where she can go to relax, unwind, and feel safe.
  • You don’t always have to give your cat your attention when she comes to you. Otherwise, she can become clingy and needy. Instead, sometimes direct her to toys that she can play with or use an interactive toy like a wand. The wand helps train your cat to get used to playing with something that’s not you.
  • It may not be a good idea to get another cat to keep your cat company. Your cat’s anxiety comes from separation from their owner as opposed to not having another cat around. Cats can also be very protective of their space. Their anxiety may actually increase if you bring another cat into the home.
  • If you have other family members at home, have them actively take part in looking after the cat. For example, one family member can feed the cat, while another one plays with her. This will reduce how deeply your cat depends on you for all her needs.
  • Make use of pheromone sprays and plug-ins.  These can help to relax and reassure your cat when she’s anxious.

Once you are home, provide affection to your cat by way of rubs, hugs, and play. If your cat has severe anxiety, your vet may suggest medication. The medication can help the cat relax so they can better cope with their owner’s absence.

Conclusion

Cats can experience separation anxiety for various reasons. If you can’t train your cat to feel less anxious when you are away, contact your vet, an animal behaviorist, or certified animal trainer for advice and support. 

Show Sources

SOURCES: 

J Am Vet Med Assoc: "Separation anxiety syndrome in cats: 136 cases (1991-2000)."

Meow Cat Rescue: "Separation Anxiety."

PDSA: "Vet Q&A: How can I stop my cat getting separation anxiety?"

The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine: "Separation Anxiety."

© 2022 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info