You might think of your cat as an independent creature that can handle anything, but they have nine lives. Cats can develop separation anxiety just like dogs.

Cats are capable of forming deep bonds with their owners that can leave them feeling panicked when you leave, even though they don't express anxiety separation like a slobbery dog. Cats who are newer to their families may have adjusted to their human being being present during the Pandemic. Some cats may have struggled with the change when people ventured out more. The fact that 23 million U.S. households acquired a dog or cat during the Pandemic makes it no surprise that separation anxiety has become a big issue for some cat owners.

If you think your cat has an anxiety separation, you have come to the right place. We spoke to experts and broke down what you need to know.

What is cat separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a stress response in an animal observed when they are separated from a person or other animal that they are very fond of.

If you think cats are less social than dogs, you are not alone.

A study published in Current Biology found that cats and dogs form similar attachment bonds. Sixty-four percent of cats have a secure attachment to their owner, as opposed to an averse one, and there are signs of distress when separated from them.

While your cat may not love you as much as a dog, they do love you. Probably.

A happy cat being stroked behind its ear

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What causes separation anxiety?

The exact cause of separation anxiety is unknown, but it is likely a combination of environmental and hereditary factors. Some cats are more prone to anxiety separation than others, such as kittens who were bottle-fed, or cats that have spent a lot of time in shelters. Cat behavior expert Ramona Marek writes that kittens that don't have an opportunity to form secure attachment or build resilience to stress are not as prepared to handle changes.

Changes to routines can cause anxiety. Your cat has grown accustomed to you being home all the time, so going back to an office or simply leaving more often might cause an adverse reaction.

What are some signs of separation anxiety in cats?

Many of the signs of separation anxiety for cats are similar to those in dogs, but some are specific to felines.

There are some signs of separation anxiety in cats.

  • Destructive behavior.

  • The vocalization is excessive.

  • Inappropriate elimination habits include urinating or defecating outside the litter box.

  • Not drinking or eating when owners are not around.

  • excessive grooming can be a sign of stress.

If your cat shows any of these signs, you should talk to your vet about the underlying medical condition.

A kitten being examined by a veterinarian

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What should you do if your cat has separation anxiety?

Once you and your vet have ruled out any medical issues, you should work with them to come up with a plan.

In the case of severe anxiety separation, prescribed anti-anxiety medication can help, but with a caveat: We always strive to address these issues without medication. Some medications can be beneficial.

Helpful tips to prevent or curb separation anxiety

It's about preparation to prevent anxiety separation. Learning about cat behavior and how to identify the signs of a problem, understanding that there are tools and resources to minimize the likelihood of separation anxiety, and knowing that talking to a veterinarians can empower you to address the problem are some of the things that need to be learned.

1. Enrich their environment 

When it comes to creating the right environment for your cat, a lot of it is about confidence.

She said to provide elevated resting spots and use vertical space to hide your cat. Cats feel safer when they are elevated.

2. Provide mental stimulation while you're home and away

One of the most helpful ways to prevent anxiety separation is to provide your cat with mental stimulation and physical activity when you're at home and away.

Providing your cat with mental stimulation when you leave keeps them occupied and entertained. Katribe suggests puzzles, a scavenger hunt for treats or other rewards, interactive toys, and access to an enclosed yard or patio. There are apps for both tablets and phones. There are apps for cats.

The importance of dedicated playtime is highlighted by both Katribe and Kornreich. Play with a cat-approved toy where they can exercise and carry out their normal behavior. Dedicated time together provides an opportunity to give positive reinforcement for good behavior and strengthen your bond.

A grey cat trying to catch a toy mouse

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3. Address the cues and teach resilience 

When your cat has anxiety separation, certain actions like picking up your keys or putting on your shoes are signs that it is time to freak out. If you can help to minimize the cues, you can reduce the feeling.

When you pick up your keys, you should put them back down and not leave.

If you leave for 30 seconds and then come back, it can help your cat understand that you are not going.

Resources and products to help with separation anxiety

Food puzzles are a great way to provide your cat with mental stimulation and keep them engaged while you are away. Pheromone has been reported to help. They work by emitting a synthetic copy of the facial pheromones your cat uses to mark their territory, which makes them feel more safe and secure.

The Best Friends Animal Society, Cornell Feline Health Center, and the Humane Society all have resources for dealing with separation anxiety for cats. PetMD is a site dedicated to healthcare information from vets.

A cat in a cat tree

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Don't worry, you can get through this 

The vast majority of cases are manageable for cat owners who need to hear it.

He says that tackling separation anxiety with your cat has a silver lining. Sometimes a little bit of adversity can bring people and animals together.