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Feline Separation Anxiety Explained
Separation anxiety is well known and well documented in dogs, but most people assume it’s not a problem that troubles their feline counterparts. Some of the latest research suggests that separation anxiety can also occur in cats.
We tend to think of cats as solitary animals, but in fact, they can be quite social creatures and often form a strong bond with their owner. While it is true that more research needs to be done in this area, some feline behavior problems could be due to separation anxiety.
Look For The Signs.
Most of us don’t like being alone, and a cat who has bonded tightly with its owner is no different. Some of the behavioral problems caused by separation anxiety are the same as in dogs such as excessive meowing or calls, misuse of the litter tray. Cats who are suffering sometimes follow their owners from room to room, fearful of being left alone, or place themselves between owner and door. Others demonstrate over-enthusiastic greetings after even the shortest separation. Less obvious symptoms are not eating when alone or excessive washing, usually in the same spot, often causing a bald spot.
Causes Of Separation Anxiety
Research into the illness in cats is in its infancy, so information is still sketchy, but it is thought that both genetic and environmental factors could be involved. Having a good start in life is very important. Orphaned or early weaned kittens could be more susceptible to the problem. Kittens who stay with their mother longer and are well socialized are less likely to develop the problem.
What Can I Do To Help?
First of all, consult your veterinarian to make sure your cat’s behavior isn’t due to some other underlying health problem. For example, excessive grooming could be due to an allergy, misuse of the litter tray or excessive calling could indicate urinary infection.
Can Separation Anxiety Be Treated?
There are anxiety medications available for cats, we have some of the best ones here, but sometimes simple changes in the daily routine could be the answer. A distraction toy, for example, could help if it is brought out upon departure, giving the cat something else to think about. Commercial food dispensing toys are an excellent choice, but if the cost is a problem, try a toilet roll inner tube pierced with holes, closed at each end, and stuffed with cat treats as a cheap alternative. Alternatively, try hiding gifts around the house to be hunted and found during your absence. However, we have found the feliway plugins to be the cheapest and most effective way to treat anxiety in our cats, especially when we have had a new cat!
Make your cat’s environment exciting and stimulating, particularly if he has no access to an outside space. Cat’s get bored too!! Give him a comfy perch near the window, a climbing tower, lots of toys. Consider leaving the radio on quietly, as long as it’s a station playing gentle music and not heavy metal!