For most cats, being left alone is a stressful experience. This is particularly true if the cat is not accustomed to being alone. This is why it is important to start with short periods of time when your cat is left alone, gradually increasing the time as your cat becomes comfortable.
That said, the majority of cats with separation anxiety can be helped with a behavior modification program that can be implemented at home.
Many cats who are anxious in their home environments.
It is our goal to help cats be able to enjoy their time in their home environment, so that they do not develop anxiety when they are left alone.
“Anxiety can be caused by mild changes in the home environment such as being left alone at home for longer periods of time,” says Dr. Robynne Van Pelt, ACVB, Diplomate ABVT, chair of the ACVB’s Board of Directors, and associate professor at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “It can also be caused by severe changes such as moving to a new home, being left alone for longer periods of time, being isolated, or being separated from family members.”
Fortunately, cat anxiety can be treated, and it’s important to identify the type of anxiety before deciding on a treatment plan. Some anxiety can be attributed to boredom or low energy levels, and these symptoms can be treated with behavioral modification and exercise. But if your cat’s anxiety is severe or debilitating, it might be symptoms of a medical condition. Cats with separation anxiety, for example, can be helped by training and medication, but cats with severe separation anxiety might need to be prescribed medication to keep them calm and relaxed while they’re away from home.
To help you identify and treat your cat’s anxiety, we’ve outlined some of the most common types in cats, and the signs that help you recognize them.
Signs: Destruction of your stuff, excessive vocalization, accidents in the house, trying to escape, etc.
Treatment: First, try to identify the reason for the anxiety. Is your cat left alone for longer periods of time? Is there a change in routine? Is there a new person, pet, or activity in the home? Once you’ve identified the reason, work with your vet to develop a treatment plan. In the meantime, you can try to make the environment fun for your cat by leaving them with a toy or treat when you leave the house. Or, you could try a Thundershirt, which has been shown to be very effective in helping cats with anxiety issues.
Signs: Chewing, digging, barking, etc.
Treatment: Boredom can be a contributing factor to some forms of anxiety. If your cat is anxious because they’re bored, try to increase their activity level. Try taking them for longer walks, playing with them more, or giving them more things to do. If you’re having a hard time finding ways to increase your cat’s activity level, you can also try to provide them with a more stimulating environment by using pet-friendly enrichment toys or automatic treat dispensers.
Signs: Lameness, movement problems, etc.
Treatment: Your cat might feel anxious because of pain in their body. Seek the advice of your vet if you suspect that your cat has any pain.
When you see your cat suffering from anxiety, try to understand the root-cause. A cat in pain is a cat in need of help. By observing this anxiety you can attempt to make changes that help your cat and will lead them to having a more pleasant and stress-free existence.