While dogs are known to be more attached to their owners, cats are believed to love their freedom and space. Experts, however, say not all cats are the same and for some of your feline friends, your absence can be difficult to cope with. Much like dogs, cats too can suffer from separation anxiety. Especially as people are now resuming offices as the work from home model is slowly taking backseat, cats are feeling uncomfortable as their pet parents are not seen for long hours and they are left home alone. You know your cat better and if there is any change in their behaviour or any signs of anxiety, you must consult a vet or a pet behaviourist. (Also read: Common cat illnesses pet parents should be aware of)
“Many human beings have a wrong perception that cats aren’t as loving or attached to them as dogs. Like their canine counterparts, cats also face separation anxieties, especially as many pet parents have resumed working from offices,” says Dr Dilip Sonune, Director of Veterianry Services, Wiggles.
The signs of separation anxiety can be noticed while you are leaving in their body language, the sounds they make and also in form of surprise pooping. They could eat less, look untidy or get violent.
“So, what are the telltale signs of a cat facing separation anxiety? Firstly, they’ll show it. When you’re going out, they’ll either try to hide or barricade the door with their bodies. Secondly, they’ll be vocal about it. Listen for extreme meows after leaving the house. Thirdly, cats will drop signs. So, if you find a surprise poop in your shoe or anywhere outside the litter box, know that your cat is feeling stressed. Other signs include anorexia (no appetite), superfluous grooming, vomiting (sometimes), and tearing apart the house by scratching the furniture you most sit on,” says Dr Sonune.
How to help a cat deal with separation anxiety
It is important to support your fluffy friend while they are dealing with loneliness alone and feel scared when you aren’t around. From distracting their mind from your absence to leaving them treats or toys, there are many ways to do that.
“One way to start is to keep your trips low-key. Don’t announce your exit, and don’t be overly affectionate upon returning so that your cat learns to treat this as normal behavior, and that their human will return. Next, keep plenty of toys like puzzles infused with food to take their minds off your absence,” says Dr Sonune.
“You can also create a spot in the house that is exclusively theirs that will act as a safe space when they feel stressed or lonely. When cats are alone, the silence must be scary, so turn on some calming music or just leave the TV switched on. White noise may help here. Finally, you could create a place high up for them, like a perch or a cat tree, preferably near a window. This doubles as a safe space and also provides entertainment for the cats. The movement of birds or squirrels will surely keep them occupied,” he adds.
All cats are unique and have their own personalities. Some may even enjoy solitude. Keeping your cat’s individuality in mind, the sooner you diagnose separation anxieties, the better. Make sure you see the signs where your cat might be letting you know that they’re feeling lonely. Have plenty of playtime with your cat with feather toys and games to make your bond strong, concludes Dr Sonune.