Home alone - managing separation anxiety

Cats have a reputation for independence, so it may come as a surprise that some develop problems when left alone.

Many cats suffer from separation anxiety, a condition more commonly recognised in dogs but one that also affects cats. Felines most likely to develop separation anxiety are orphaned kittens or those weaned too early. The stress and grief caused by losing an owner to death or divorce also can trigger separation anxiety, especially in older cats.

Anxiety related behaviour

Cats with separation anxiety often follow a favorite person everywhere. When that person leaves, whether running an errand or travelling for business, the cat may:

  • Misbehave or sulk
  • Become depressed
  • Cry or wander
  • Refuse to eat
  • Go to the toilet outside the litter box
  • Spray urine on the person's bed or clothing
  • Vomit
  • Groom compulsively
  • Exhibit other destructive behaviors, such as scratching furniture

Separation anxiety is not often completely cured, but it can be managed with attention, diversion or medication.

ENRICH YOUR CAT'S ALONE TIME

Often, the best way to alleviate separation anxiety is to teach your cat to entertain themselves.

  • Put toys throughout the house. Rotate them frequently so there's always something new.
  • Put kibbles in a play treat ball, so they has to bat it around to get the food.
  • Leave the television on. Tune it to a channel such as Discovery, so your cat can see and hear nature programs that feature birds and other small animals. Or play a video made just for cats.
  • Position a cat tree in front of a window so they can see outdoors.
  • Install a bird feeder outside a window so your cat can watch the live entertainment.
  • Tune the radio to calming classical music or a station that's often on when you're home.