It’s time we talked about our clingy cat companions!

Do cats get separation anxiety, too?

Many people don’t realize that, just like dogs, cats can also suffer from separation anxiety.

Felines are actually highly social animals who have the ability to form strong bonds with their guardians and other critters, according to an article on feline separation anxiety in CatHealth.com. Cats who were orphaned or weaned too early may be more prone to separation anxiety, based on a report by Pam Johnson-Bennett for CatBehaviorAssociates.com.

How can I tell if my cat has separation anxiety?

Because feline separation anxiety is more subtle than its canine counterpart, cases can go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years! If you suspect your kitty may have separation anxiety, keep an eye out for these symptoms:

  • Eliminating outside the litter box or on your bed or clothes
  • Over-grooming (This is like the cat version of biting one’s fingernails.)
  • Loss of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Destructive behavior, such as knocking things off tables and countertops, and scratching the door.
  • Excessive meowing (This doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s a sure sign of separation (anxiety).

But first, rule out other issues

Some symptoms can be due to underlying medical issues. For example, over-grooming may be caused by skin allergies or parasites, and eliminating outside the litter box may be due to lower urinary tract disease. Visit your cat’s vet first to rule out other problems.

What not to do

Getting another cat won’t help. Your cat wants your company, and having to compete for your attention can make things worse.

Fur-tunately, there are a number of things you can do so your cat doesn’t miss you so much when you leave them at home.

  • Practice leaving to eliminate triggers. Do what you normally do when you’re about to head out, such as picking up your keys and putting on your shoes, without actually leaving, several times a day.
  • Greet your cat calmly and casually. Ignore them for a few minutes before you leave and when you first get home. The goal is to make your comings and goings unexciting.
  • Don’t reinforce needy behavior. Avoid giving your cat attention when they’re meowing or pawing. Reward them with food or attention when they’re acting the way you want them to act.
  • Enrich your cat’s environment. Make their surroundings as interesting and inspiring as possible. Cat trees, intriguing toys, and scratching posts are purr-fect. A perch by the window with a bird feeder outside makes for great entertainment, too.

This appeared in Animal Scene’s November 2018 issue.