Are you concerned that your cat has separation anxiety? I’ve put together seven suggestions that will help her feel better.
I think my cat has separation anxiety, Thomasina. What can I do? She gets so anxious and depressed when I leave the house.
— Feeling Guilty
Hey, Feeling Guilty!
If your cat has separation anxiety, there are ways to help, so don’t feel guilty. After all, sometimes you really do have to leave the house!
Signs That Your Cat Has Separation Anxiety
I had separation anxiety when I first got here and our human went away for a few days. It was awful. I was so sad and scared. I hid in a closet the whole time she was gone because I just didn’t feel like dealing with our cat sitter (I love her now!) or the other cats.
Hiding is one sign your cat has separation anxiety. Or she might become very clingy and meow a lot or even yowl.
Other signs of separation anxiety in cats include eating too fast or not eating at all, not using the litter box and over-grooming so much the cat creates bald spots.
These can be signs of other issues, too, so it would be a good idea for your cat to see the vet, especially is she’s not eating.
Oh, and if your cat urinates (how’s that for being delicate. I chose another word, but my human typist changed it) on your bed or clothes, she’s not being spiteful! She’s just trying to reassure herself by mingling her scent with yours.
Cat behaviorists suggest “desensitizing” (What the heck does that mean?? The human typist strikes again) the cat by picking up your keys or putting on your shoes but not going anywhere or opening the door or even starting your car, turning it off and then going right back in the house.
But cat behaviorists are not cats, and I think that would be confusing. And I can’t imagine anything more upsetting than having our human suddenly disappear with no warning.
These are my suggestions for saying goodbye to a cat with separation anxiety.
- As you’re leaving, say goodbye to your cat, tell her you love her and let her know when you’ll be back. Be cheerful and upbeat. We understand what our humans are saying to us and pick up on your thoughts. If you’re not anxious about leaving her, chances are she won’t be anxious either. And if you say you’ll be back in a few hours, she might not know what a few hours are. But she’ll hear “I’ll be back,” and that will reassure her.
- Toss a handful of treats on the floor as you’re heading out the door. That will give her something to do right after you leave.
- Get her some treat balls, too. They’ll keep her busy while you’re gone. Pick them up when you get home, so they’ll seem special the next day. You can do the same thing with really potent catnip toys. not the kind you buy in pet supply stores.
- Leave something that smells like you on your bed or where she sleeps. Your bathrobe or the towel you’ve just used will work. Your scent will be reassuring to her.
- Leave some blinds and curtains open so she can see outside. There’s nothing more boring and stressful than being locked into a dark house with no view of the world beyond those four walls. To make her life more interesting, put some bird feeders outside the windows. And think about getting her a floor-to-ceiling cat tree to climb. Put it near a window. Window perches work, too.
- Put a radio or the TV on so she’ll have some company. The best radio stations for cats are classical music, soft jazz and quiet talk. Most of us find the shopping channels really entertaining. And the Golf Channel is usually quiet and outdoorsy. Don’t put Animal Planet on for her! It can be very violent and scary. None of us want to watch a big cat catching and eating a smaller animal! You can also get videos made just for cats.
- Rescue Remedy or calming treats could take the edge off her anxiety. Give her some right before you leave.
Creating A Leaving Home Routine
Cats are creatures of habit, and it’s really important for you to establish a “leaving home” routine with your cat. Doing exactly the same thing every day may seem boring to you, but it’s reassuring to us. And don’t make a big fuss over her before you leave. Give her a quick pet, say goodbye, toss some treats on the floor and head out the door, no matter how much she’s protesting. She’ll be fine. And if you stick to your routine, she’ll learn what to expect and will keep herself occupied until you get home.
I hope this helps, Feeling Guilty. If you’ll excuse me, I need to get going now. It’s a beautiful day, and the woods are beckoning. Fortunately, our human doesn’t have separation anxiety, so I don’t have to worry about her while I’m outside!