Feline Separation Anxiety

lonely_catLaura was at her wits’ end with her cat Coco, a 6-year-old Siamese mix. Ever since Laura’s work schedule had picked up last fall, Coco had begun urinating on her bed. It would happen a few times a week. Laura had thoroughly laundered all the bedding and applied a pet odor remover. When this didn’t help, she put down plastic sheeting atop the bed, added a second litter pan nearby, and kept it impeccably clean. All to no avail.

Coco had always been a very friendly cat, but now she was sticking to Laura like glue. Meowing, rubbing against her legs, waking her in the early morning, and constantly getting underfoot. It was impossible for Laura to get anything done without Coco kneading, pawing, or depositing herself right in the middle of whatever she was doing.

Coco had a classic case of feline separation anxiety syndrome (SAS).

What Is Separation Anxiety in Cats?

Separation anxiety is a well-recognized behavior syndrome in dogs, but many people don’t realize that cats can experience it, too. Conventional wisdom says that cats are too independent and apathetic to fret over a person’s comings and goings. Not so. In fact, cats are highly social creatures with the ability to form deep attachments to humans and other animals. For some felines, this attachment becomes excessive and dysfunctional. When a treasured human is absent, these kitties can suffer true distress, and that comes often out as inappropriate behavior.

Diagnosis of Feline Separation Anxiety (SAS)

Feline separation anxiety usually presents more subtly than it does in dogs and therefore may go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years. The typical dog with SAS will bark, whine, pace, howl, and become overtly destructive in the home. It’s hard to miss. While cats with SAS may be more demanding and needy, they’re equally apt to internalize their stress by becoming withdrawn, not eating, and literally pulling their hair out. The signs of SAS in cats can overlap with a wide range of health and behavior problems such as urinary tract disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and other causes of inappropriate urination. Therefore, is essential to consult with your veterinarian if your cat shows these signs. He or she will perform a full exam along with appropriate lab tests to rule out physical problems. A precise behavioral history is also essential to determine exactly what’s going in.

Common Signs of SAS in Cats

Signs of separation anxiety in cats may include those below.

It’s worthwhile to note that SAS may be more common in certain feline breeds, those with more humanlike temperaments such as Siamese and Burmese. Inadequate early socialization (such as in orphaned, feral, or shelter kittens) may also yield dysfunctional social attachments in adulthood. Beware of behavior changes in your cat following a family vacation, a change in work schedule (as in Coco’s case), the arrival of a new baby, or the death of another pet because this can be a red flag for SAS.

Treatment of Feline Separation Anxiety

As with dogs, treatment for SAS kitties relies on behavior modification, environmental enrichment, and often, medication.

Here are some things you can do at home:

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