Have You Ever Asked, “Can Cats Have Separation Anxiety?”

Though we think of cats as very independent creatures, they certainly can have feelings of panic and stress when you leave them home alone. Can cats have separation anxiety? Yes, they can.

Though we realize cats are endowed with much in the way of instinctual behavior, once the cat has become domesticated, this hardwired knowledge can become pushed to the background. The cat is now used to all his basic survival needs being met by his human, so he fixates on that person as being his defender and protector.

Thus, when his human disappears for long periods of time, kitty becomes frightened that those basic needs will no longer be met. Other factors can cause separation anxiety in cats as well. It depends on their upbringing and their past experience.

What Causes Separation Anxiety In Cats?

Perhaps your cat left his mother too soon, and bonded with you in her place. Other reasons for anxiety may include the following:

1) Lack of social bonds with other pets or family members.

2) A mother cat’s absence can make a kitten more susceptible to becoming too dependent on their human.

3) Change in the at-home routine (such as a move or an extended vacation.)

Cat hiding under suitcase cover

4) Insufficient stimulation, and kitty becomes bored. If a cat has ever been an outdoor cat, boredom may become a bigger problem, as kitty doesn’t have the stimulus that outdoor life might give him.

5) Insufficient exercise

6) Genetic factors (high-strung cats or purebreds such as Siamese or Burmese become more susceptible.

7) Depression

8) Being dropped off at a shelter and never seeing his human again

What Are Signs You Might See Of This Condition

How can you tell if your cat may be experiencing separation anxiety? Check out this list of possible symptoms and see how many of them apply to your cat.

1) Excessive meowing

How can you tell if your cat has this symptom, if you go to work during the day? I read one story about a woman who left a tape recorder on when she left for work one day. When she got home, she listened to it, and heard her cat crying and yowling for a long, long time. Kitty must have finally cried herself to sleep.

2) Bolting food or not eating at all

Perhaps kitty feels you will leave again and this may constitute her last meal. She’d better eat it quickly before you take it away.

3) Excessive grooming (called alopecia)

My Pogo, who spent 7 1/2 months in the shelter after his family took him there, showed his separation anxiety in this way: He pulled all the fur off his stomach and in tracks down his legs. His hair all grew back after I brought him home and convinced him he would always stay with me.

4) Not using the litter box; urinating or defecating on the owner’s clothing or bedding (The reason has something to do with mixing his scent with yours…the cat somehow believes the scent may call you back)

5) Destroying things with his claws

6) Always trying for more attention

7) Hiding

Cat under bed
It’s safe under the bed

There may be some physical condition behind some of these. For example, a skin disorder may cause excessive grooming; a UTI or a bowel disorder might cause the house soiling.

Take your kitty to the vet and have a physical exam performed, as well as perhaps a routine blood and urine test. If a physical disorder causes any of these symptoms, it needs treatment.

Possible Ways To Minimize Anxiety

Try some of these ways to minimize your kitty’s separation anxiety:

1) Leave a radio or TV on to your usual station.

2) Don’t advertise your departure. Put your keys in your pocket when the cat doesn’t see you.

3) Create a safe spot or hideout for kitty to use in your absence. You might include a large, closed cardboard box with a cat-sized door cut in it and a garment with your smell laid inside for him to snooze on.

4) Leave plenty of toys or challenges for your kitty to enjoy while you are gone. Perhaps a puzzle feeder would make a good addition to help stave off boredom.

Cat with toy collection

5) Give kitty a perch where she can see outside and watch birds or squirrels.

6) Perhaps provide an aroma diffuser or pheromones to help calm your cat. Ask your vet for suggestions.

If your cat’s behavior has changed, you must first check with your vet to make sure kitty doesn’t have some physical condition or illness that causes the change.

You follow the best procedure when you inquire of the vet first to make sure something else might cause kitty’s problems. Often a vet might advise use of pheromones or calming treats before he will prescribe a medication. However, through his examination, he can determine if kitty has some other physical problem that the vet can help resolve.

Definition Of Separation Anxiety In Cats

By definition, separation anxiety in cats comes from the dislike of or discomfort with solitude. By becoming domesticated, the cat now puts all his dependence on you to take care of him. If you have a cat with this condition, please understand that kitty is not acting this way out of spite or anger.

Such anxiety does not stem from loving a cat too much or spoiling it. The cat misses having you there, and getting another cat will not solve the problem. Also, do not punish the cat, as such treatment will only make matters worse.

Do not confine the cat to a single place, as this action will also make kitty feel worse. In the long run, such an action will not help to solve the problem.

Spend quality time with your cat when you are home. Give kitty plenty of attention; play games; interaction proves beneficial.

If you bring home a kitty from the shelter, the cat may already have some signs of separation anxiety, as his owner may have left him there for reasons the cat does not understand. With attention and love, you can help erase these old fears.

Cat crying loudly

Pogo, when he first came to live with me, had many symptoms of separation anxiety, but as he settled in and we bonded, they all dispersed. Pogo was a lucky cat, as I’m retired and spend a great deal of time at home, working on my website. Pogo loved having me nearby and could ask for attention whenever he wanted.

Now, what about cats who have been abandoned? The next post will cover the abandonment issue, which becomes a bit more extreme than simple separation anxiety. In either case, kitty suffers, but when you abandon him, you will seriously limit his chances of survival.

Do try to understand your cat, and do try to limit factors which upset him. If you have a job and have to go to work, try to find ways to make your absence less painful for your fur baby.

Here are some stress-relieving products for cats that might prove helpful:

Relaxivet Pheromone Calming Spray for cats
Reduces anxiety during travel, fireworks, thunder, vet visits, etc.
by Ekoprom
Comfort Zone 2-pack cat calming pheromone collar
by Central Garden & Pet
Price: $25.99

References I used for this post:


2 thoughts on “Have You Ever Asked, “Can Cats Have Separation Anxiety?””

    • They are most likely not going to experience separation anxiety, as your absense does not change their regular routine. I’m sure they still welcome you and are glad to see you, but they undoubtedly are not as dependent on you as a cat who lives indoors all the time.


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