Picture this: You’re packing for a long-awaited vacation, only to find that your cat has jumped into your suitcase and won’t get out of it. Or worse, he’s decided to use it as a litter box!
The old myth that cats are
solitary creatures who crave
nothing more than to be
left alone still persists.
But the reality is that cats
are very social creatures,
and they often form
strong bonds with their
owners. Your cat could
be so attached to you
that being away from you
triggers extreme nervousness
and some troubling behaviors. In
other words: separation anxiety.
We all know that children suffer from
this syndrome, as do dogs. But it
does happen in the feline world, too.
As the sensitive creatures they
are, a cat’s expressions of angst can
happen in both subtle and not so
subtle ways. While it might feel
like your cat is punishing you for
leaving, his behavior is meant to
self-soothe, bringing him comfort
while you’re away from him. Signs
your cat has some separation issues
can include: following you around
the house and getting distressed
if he can’t be near you; hiding
from other people; using excessive
vocalization when you leave the
house; and greeting you overexuberantly when you get home.
In more severe cases, your cat
Why cats have
could be urinating outside the box
or defecating on clothing or bed-
ding while you’re gone; scratching
on doors or window frames when
he’s alone; getting anxious to the
point of vomiting when you’re away;
and overgooming or refusing to eat
when you’re not there.
It’s common for cats who were either
orphaned as kittens or weaned too
early to develop unusually strong
attachments to their humans. If your
cat has only been exposed to one or
two people, he’ll probably feel nervous while home alone, especially if
it’s for a prolonged period.
Likewise, a cat who has no
stimulation at home, apart from
interaction with his human, could
also have problems separating. Kitty
might be so bored and lonely that
he feels stressed when home alone
with no distractions. I’ve conducted
more than a few behavior sessions in
homes where you would never know
a cat lived there. No cat trees, no
toys, or no window perches equal no
fun for a cat.
Health concerns, however, could
be the true cause of your cat’s
actions and not separation anxiety. A
trip to your veterinarian to rule out a
physical cause for your cat’s behavior
is a good first step in getting to the
bottom of his actions.
How to Keep Your Cat
Happy When You’re
A NEW CATTITUDE BY RITA REIMERS, CAT BEHAVIORIST