As pet owners, we all enjoy having a strong bond with our companion animals. This emotional connection is healthy, but for some animals, even a brief separation from their owner (or from another pet) can be stress-inducing. Termed “separation anxiety,” this stress can lead to other more severe health problems, so it’s important to know the warning signs and how to react appropriately.
What Are the Signs of Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety occurs when a cat is parted from its owner (or “favorite person”). This stress reaction may affect your pet when you go out on errands or leave for work. Some cats even experience this stress when separated from a companion animal with which they’ve bonded. The episodes of anxiety continue until the cat is reunited with its owner/companion.
Cats that experience separation anxiety may demonstrate behavioral changes, including:
- Vocalizing: meowing or crying as you prepare to leave home
- Eating disorders: some cats with separation anxiety will refuse food until their owner returns, while others eat too quickly when their owner returns
- Inappropriate defecation or urination: cats often show their stress or displeasure by eliminating wastes in inappropriate places
- Overgrooming: a stressed cat will often persistently groom a specific area on its body, which can result in fur loss or “hot spots” of dermal irritation or inflammation
- Destructive behavior: a stressed cat is often more likely to destroy property (such as upholstery or drapes)
You may also notice that your cat is especially exuberant when you return home. Some anxiety-prone cats will follow their owners around the house or demonstrate other signs of emotional neediness.
Health Problems Related to Anxiety in Cats
Prolonged periods of daily stress can affect other aspects of your pet’s health. For example, stress in cats has been linked to an increased incidence of cystitis (small growths that can occur in the urinary tract and can eventually block urine flow).
Other potential health disorders resulting from anxiety include:
- Skin disorders (from overgrooming)
- Digestive disorders (undereating, overeating, stress vomiting)
- Nutritional problems (if your cat undereats while you’re away)
What Can You Do to Manage Your Cat’s Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is common, and once you spot the warning signs, there are several things you can try to improve your cat’s mood and reduce its stress level.
- Give your cat a perch: some cats experience less anxiety when they can perch in a favorite window and view the world outside
- Try a scratching post: distracting your cat with a scratching post to work off some of that stress energy
- Engage your pet with creative toys: cats love games, so why not use a creative plaything, like a toy stuffed with treats or catnip?
- Provide ambient sound: leaving the television or radio on while you’re away from home can give your cat the feeling that someone’s home, or will be soon.
When to See Your Vet
If your cat experiences significant separation anxiety that is resistant to the simple interventions above, schedule an appointment with your vet. This can both help rule out any underlying health issues, and help your vet get a better idea of your cat’s overall health.
There are treatments your vet can suggest, such as medications to reduce stress and even alternative approaches such as aromatherapy (using natural scents to reduce your pet’s stress in the home).
At Figo, we understand how important your pet’s health is to you. That’s why we offer a broad range of pet health insurance options, one to suit every budget! Get a quote today and discover how peace of mind feels.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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