While many animal experts are discussing what effect the changes in lockdown will have on dogs who have got used to their humans being around all the time, what about cats? How will they cope when they’re suddenly left home alone?
Posted: 29 August 2020
Separation anxiety is a condition commonly known in canines, but what about cats? Our feline companions have a reputation for being aloof, independent, or even antisocial – although there are many cat guardians who would firmly disagree with this sweeping generalisation. And, new research suggests that some cats are extremely attached to their human guardians and find it difficult to cope when they are absent.
A recent study by Daiana de Souza Machado and colleagues, from the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil – the first questionnaire survey to identify possible separation-related problems in cats – found 13.5% of all sampled cats displayed potential issues during their owner's absence.
The data from the survey showed that 30 out of the 232 sampled cats met at least one of the criteria for separation-related problems, with destructive behaviour most frequently reported (present in 20 of the 30 cats). The other behaviours or mental states identified were: Excessive vocalisation (19 out of 30 cats), inappropriate urination (18 cats), depression/apathy (16 cats), aggressiveness (11 cats), agitation/anxiety (11 cats) and inappropriate toileting (7 cats).
Veterinarian Dr Krista A Sirois explains it like this: “Separation anxiety is an unwelcome condition that can be a result of excessive attachment. Research supports the fact that cats can develop separation anxiety syndrome, and they show many of the same signs that are seen in dogs.”
Dr Sirois advises: “Some factors could predispose a cat to developing separation anxiety, while other causes are environmental.” She outlines the following key factors:
If you’re worried that your cat is showing signs of separation anxiety, what should you do?
Feline charity Cats Protection advises: “The first step in dealing with a behavioural problem is to ensure that the cat undergoes a full health-check by a vet. This is needed to specifically rule out any underlying medical conditions that could have led to the behaviour. Any changes in the cat’s normal behaviour need to be discussed with the vet, even if it does not seem directly relevant to the behavioural problem at hand. If the vet ascertains that the problem is behavioural, then they may wish to send the cat to see a qualified behaviourist."
Cats Protection recommends contacting the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors and the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour to find a local qualified behaviourist. These behaviourists see behaviour cases when these cases have been referred to them by a vet.
Dr Sirois advises thinking about ways you can keep your cat busy while you’re gone, which can help decrease anxiety. Here are some ideas to try:
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Sources: sciencedaily.com, petmd.com, cats.org.uk