Every cat has its own personality, and some are more social and outgoing than others. In most cases, cat owners don’t notice when their feline is sad or depressed, but when a typically social cat becomes reserved and quiet, you should be concerned.
Cats are known to be very independent. Thus many people don’t believe it’s possible for them to be sad or to get separation anxiety. Cats are not fond of change, so a recent change in your routine or schedule can make her feel abandoned, and when you are away from home, the anxiety becomes full throttle.
Do Cats Get Separation Anxiety?
Yes, cats can absolutely suffer from separation anxiety. Ideally, you wouldn’t give up your feline friend for rehoming or intentionally abandon them, but many reasons can cause the separation of cats and their owners. These feline friends have such a strong connection with their owners that a slight change causes separation anxiety.
Cats become lonely and depressed at the event of separation from their owners. This can be due to death or rehoming, and even due to a schedule change of the owner. Cats are not as destructive as dogs when they are sad or depressed, so their separation anxiety might go unnoticed for a while.
Cats need attention, playtime, and an environment that stimulates them to be happy and healthy. A cat that is separated from the owner and rehomed is intimidated by the rehoming process, and as they miss their previous owners, they become sad.
How Does Separation Affect a Cat?
Every cat behaves differently in the event of separation. At first, most cats don’t realize what exactly is happening, especially because separation and rehoming is a quick process and a quick change.
When you take a cat away from the cat’s territory, she gets frightened because they are away from home, so you can expect some odd behavior and anxiety. Separation anxiety means that cats dislike solitude, so when separated from another companion pet they have a strong bond with, they can get sad too.
A cat with separation anxiety insists on being with the owner all the time. They follow their owners around compulsively and demand persistent attention. You can notice signs of separation anxiety when you are about to leave the house as the cat gets distressed. Cats begin sulking and hiding and loudly vocalizing their displeasure.
When left alone at home, cats with separation anxiety may engage in destructive behavior such as refusing to eat or use the litter box. Certain specific events, changes in routine and environment, and certain objects trigger separation anxiety in cats.
Common Cat Anxiety Signs and Symptoms
Although it isn’t possible for cats to express themselves when they are sad or depressed, there are some signs and symptoms and destructive behavior issues that show the cat is sad. Most people interpret any common signs of anxiety in cats as bad behavior, so it’s important to pay attention to when these changes start to figure out the best way to calm your pet.
Cats form dysfunctional bonds with their owners very fast, which is what causes behavioral problems in these felines. When cats are suffering from anxiety, they exhibit some destructive behavior they didn’t have before. These behaviors can be clawing at curtains or scratching furniture.
Cats with anxiety also start portraying some compulsive behavior that repeats over and over. When this happens for some time, there is a likelihood of the cat causing unintentional damage to themselves or their environment.
Such compulsive behavior can be repetitive grooming, which causes bald patches on the cat. Cats might not be as destructive as dogs are when they are sad, but they show some destructive behavior, such as knocking things over and scratching doors at times.
Other signs and symptoms of anxiety in cats are inclusive, if but not limited to; changes in mood and aggression, hiding, increased vocalization characterized by excessive and loud meows, increased lethargy, change in weight or appetite, vomiting, and failure to use the litter tray among others. Isolation, house soiling, and clinginess are also signs of depression in cats.
Other signs of feline separation anxiety are;
- Over attachment to the owner which causes pre-departure anxiety
- Inappropriate elimination of body waste
- Anorexia which makes the cat afraid to eat when left alone
- Excessive self-grooming that progresses from displacement behavior to compulsive self-grooming
- Exuberant greeting behavior
Understand Cat Separation Anxiety Causes
The causes of anxiety in cats are similar to what makes humans sad and anxious, and they vary from health, to genetic, to environmental issues. Different things can cause a cat to have separation anxiety, such as big changes in environment or routine and events leading to rehoming. When you introduce a new person to the human family, you trigger a feeling of anxiety in the cat.
Kittens that are separated from their mothers and siblings at a young age are prone to separation anxiety. Separation of these felines from their feline family before they are eight weeks old, or if the kitten is orphaned, causes anxiety. These kittens are not able to socialize well, as socialization occurs between three to nine weeks old.
The trigger of a historic traumatic memory
Triggering of a historic trauma also causes anxiety in cats. Adopted cats from a shelter are more susceptible to anxiety because many situations cause them to revisit a traumatic moment, triggering anxiety. When you get a cat from a shelter, try as much as possible to know about their background. It helps to know how best to make the car relaxed and happy in the new home.
Genetics of the cat
Genetics can also play a role in a cat’s separation anxiety. High-strung cats, Siamese, and Burmese cats are more prone to the condition, so it isn’t much you can do if your cat is of these genetics. If this is the cause of anxiety in your cat, you can provide mental stimulation and enough exercises to help the cat relax.
It is not always that your cat is suffering from anxiety, so before you make your diagnosis, consider the probability of actual health issues. Sick cats can get anxious or exhibit destructive behavior like those with separation anxiety. Depending on the symptoms your cat is showing, your vet will advise you on what to look out for to better take care of your family pet.
Such health issues that cause anxiety in an adult cat are allergies, skin issues, parasites, urinary tract infections, and hyperthyroidism.
Rehoming of cats also causes anxiety. When a cat is rehomed many times or abused at a young age, there is a likelihood that they develop anxiety. Any changes in the environment and routine of your feline friend could lead to anxiety; it doesn’t have to be something as grand as moving to a new home.
Change or lack of stimulation
If you don’t give your cat enough playtime, he will get bored easily and end up very attached to you. When there are major changes in the life of a cat or the pet owner, such as death or a family member or another pet, a change in work schedule, or even a vacation, the cat gets sad.
Cats are excellent at reading and picking their owner’s emotions, so the more anxious you are, the better chance your kitty will become a depressed cat.
Cat anxiety treatment options
Once the veterinarian has diagnosed a depressed cat or separation anxiety issues, he will recommend treatment options to manage the condition. These options vary from behavior modification tactics to the administration of drugs.
Cats’ behavior modification techniques are used on cats whose symptoms are too severe. Playing with cats twice or thrice a day ensures they have enough playtime. You can use various toys and treats to help your cat satisfies the prey drive in him, and if the kitty begins playing alone, you should encourage it.
During playtime, do not encourage any destructive behavior or clinging but rather use petting and treats to make it more enjoyable. Good body language and providing your cat with a safe and stimulating environment is key to the treatment of separation anxiety and depression.
High places give cats a sense of safety, so consider getting your kitty a cat tree to watch birds from or even a vertical scratching post. Scratching posts will help keep your furniture and doors intact and scratch-free, as well as allow your pet their territory to stretch and scratch.
When you are leaving your cat alone for a long time, use puzzle feeders, pet cameras, and toys to keep the cat busy enough till you get back. If there isn’t a puzzle feeder in your home, consider hiding around food and treats for the cat to find. It will be as entertaining as it will be engaging, so it’s not a difficult time for the cat to be sad or depressed.
Desensitizing anxiety triggers is also vital in the treatment of anxiety in cats with separation anxiety. These are the things that signal your cat when you are about to leave the house and make them anxious. Such triggers can be your keys, jacket, briefcase, shoes, or your purse.
You can desensitize your cat to these triggers by preparing to leave the house without really getting out to stop the cat from freaking out and entering panic mode every time. The aim is to make your feline friend at ease and less stressed about you leaving.
Cat anxiety that is due to genetic or health issues requires a medical approach treatment. In this case, your veterinarian is the one to determine if your cat requires a drug prescription to get rid of anxiety. Medicines used to treat cat depression can be used to treat cat anxiety if the behavioral modification doesn’t work and if the vet recommends it.
An assortment of mobile cat toys enhanced with catnip and environmental pheromone therapy like Feliway helps in the management of anxiety in cats. When combined with a natural supplement, Feliway is very effective in reducing cat anxiety.
Do cats have emotions?
It is very easy for many people, including cat owners, to assume that cats don’t feel and experience the same emotions as humans do. Just as humans evolved to be emotional using facial expressions, cats also have a way of communicating what they feel to others.
Cats are descendants of the solitary wild cats who are very notorious. Hence a cat’s display of emotions is meant to drive away from the threat. Cats display emotions like fear or anger by hissing or clawing, and sometimes through happy purrs.
Cats may not have the same mindset as humans do, but their emotions are very real and complex, and they are responsible for cats’ behavior. Emotions such as fear, anxiety, and sadness influence most of your cat’s reflexive reactions and snap decisions.
Cats live in the moment, so they are swayed more by their intuitive feelings, and they tend to react based on those feelings. In regards to emotions of love, cats associate positive things from their owners with good experiences.
This means that your cat may associate your smile with affectionate and happy things like head rubs, and mealtimes which will give the cat more security to play with you and even love you. When something bad happens or when you take away something from a cat, there is a chance that the cat will get sad.
Cats are contented when you assure them of safety and when playing, so if there is separation from the owner or if you take away their toys, they may end up in depression. Cats can display feelings of jealousy too, but these feelings are more about the cat’s territorial instincts when there is competition for a rare resource.
Negative behaviors like aggression are believed to be a result of frustration. Cats learn with practice and experience, so when they want something from you, they will try to ask for it in a way that previously made them successful. If she doesn’t get any results or if you misinterpret the request, she lashes out due to frustration.
Do Cats Mourn?
Cats react to changes in life like humans do. When a cat loses her companion, regardless of whether it’s a human or a fellow feline, she grieves and changes her behavior during mourning. Cats are known not to be too fond of change, and the greatest change they can undergo is the loss of a companion through death or disappearance. If your cat has recently experienced a loss, the following signs indicate that she is in mourning;
Looking for the lost companion
Cats will attempt to search for their lost owner or feline friend. When a cat is mourning, she stands staring outside the window as if waiting for the lost friend to come back. Cats can also go to places where they used to spend most of the time with their dead or disappeared companions o investigate.
Change in energy level
A recently bereaved cat is in a search for an emotional balance, so she might become either too lazy or profoundly hyper when mourning. Play gentle music to help your cat get her energy levels stable.
They become needier
When faced with a loss, some cats cling to familiar things and people. The cat may insist on staying on your lap all day and going everywhere with you, and when you try to leave, she gets depressed. Depression causes them to lose interest in the things that used to excite them before, and they don’t even enjoy playing games anymore.
Depressed cats tend to stare more into space instead of jumping around and scratching things as normal cats do. You won’t find them looking at birds or doing the things they used to enjoy doing with their lost friend.
Change in vocalization
When a cat is searching for a lost friend, they may try to call out using increased vocalization. Cats dealing with loss and grief experience changes in vocalization in that cats that were previously talkative become silent, and those that were silent may become talkative in an attempt to find the lost companion.
Change in appetite
Cats in mourning experience changes in their appetite where they have a loss of appetite. This is very dangerous for cats because failure to eat for a long time causes hepatic lipidosis, which is fatal.
After a big loss, cats need love and support just like humans do. They can withdraw and stay under the bed, preferring to be alone, which is not usual for cats. As a pet owner and cat lovers, we should recognize these changes in daily behavior when there is a loss of a central individual or pet in the cat’s life and the accompanying bond.
You can help your cat deal with grief and loss by spending time with her and engaging in playtime activities to divert the cat’s attention from the pain of loss. Consider replacing a lost pet if that is the root of the anxiety. If your cat enjoys company, invite some people over who enjoy playing with her.
Cats may not understand death as something permanent, so they may wait patiently for the return of their lost companion. Still, there are some speculations that some cats react to the grief shown by the family members at home as they deal with the loss of a member.