Cats that cry when you leave probably have separation anxiety. Single indoor cats can become anxious when they are left all alone for long periods of time. These cats are unusually sensitive to their surroundings and can become very attached to their owners. When the owner is about to leave through the front door, these cats will cry because they know you are about to disappear for the next few hours and they think you are neglecting them.
If you have a cat that cries when you leave and you want to know more about how to handle this behavior, keep on reading.
Why does my cat cry when I leave?
Your cat cries when you leave because it has separation anxiety. Many people do not know this because, unlike dogs, cats tend not to make a show of it. Dogs will whine, bark, cry, and even become destructive when they are left alone.
Cats can also become very attached to their owners and are depressed and lonely when they are left alone. But most cats are not as obvious with their separation anxiety until it is severe.
Most people think cats prefer isolation and that they do not need social interaction. This is not true. Cats need just as much time and attention as dogs do to maintain a happy and healthy life.
How do I know if my cat has separation anxiety?
When cats have dysfunctional relationships with their humans, they can develop behavioral problems. Remember that when your cat does something destructive in your home after being left for several hours, do not look at it as though your cat is getting back at or punishing you for leaving them. Their actions are their way of soothing themselves from the stress your absence has caused them.
Here are the signs of separation anxiety in cats:
- Loud and excessive meowing
- Defecating or urinating outside their litter box, sometimes on your clothes or bed
- Scratching doors and windows
- Vomiting despite being physiologically fine
- Refusing to eat their food when you are not around
- Overgrooming to self-soothe, even to the point of obvious hair loss
- Becoming destructive when they are home alone
- Becoming aggressive towards people other than their owners
- Greeting you very excitedly when you come home
- Becoming very clingy and never letting you out of their sight
- Isolating themselves for hours even if you are home
Possible Causes for Cat Separation Anxiety
Cat was orphaned or weaned too early.
Cats that were orphaned or taken away from their mothers too soon are often susceptible to developing separation anxiety in adulthood. These cats also form unusually strong attachments with their owners because they see you as their mother– you take care of their needs. Being separated from their mother at such a tender developmental age may create lifelong feelings of abandonment.
Cat is not properly socialized.
Cats that spent most of their lives in shelters with very minimal human interaction may show personality deficits. In the same way, a kitten that was not played with or exposed to people will not have many opportunities to bond with and trust humans. When these cats are finally adopted and do bond with their owner, they may become distressed when their human leaves the house.
Lack of stimuli.
When your cat depends on you for its stimulation, such as playtime, this may also cause separation anxiety. Cats get bored and sad when they are all alone, and this can quickly turn into stress. Make sure you leave them with interactive toys, window perches, and cat trees so that they have fun things to do to keep them occupied whenever you have to step out of the house.
Major changes in routine.
Changes to your routine or your cat’s can also trigger anxiety. For example, let’s say your employer has allowed you to work from home for the last six months. After the six months, they want you to start working in the office again. Your cat has gotten used to you being in the house for six months, so when you all of a sudden disappear for eight hours a day, it will become anxious.
Other triggers include moving houses, a new baby, going on a vacation, or the death of another pet or family member.
What can I do to make it easier for my cat with separation anxiety?
1. Environmental stimulation
Provide your cat with fun things to do when it is alone. Build it a cat tree to climb and sit up on to look down on the entire room. Give it cat toys with catnip or hide its favorite treats all over the house so it has something to do to keep busy.
Place bird feeders in the trees outside your windows so it can bird watch and be entertained. If you can afford to and have the time, get another cat- it will do wonders for a single cat to have another kitty in the house.
2. Behavior modification
When a cat suffers from separation anxiety, it can feel anxious simply because of the actions you are doing or the things you are holding. This is because they have learned to associate the actions and objects with you leaving the house. Actions like packing your suitcase, wearing your coat, or grabbing your car keys could trigger anxiety.
You can desensitize your cat by making the actions an everyday thing rather than only doing them when you are about to leave. Try leaving your suitcase out even if you are not traveling anytime soon. Leave your coat on when you are inside the house. As soon as these triggers lose their power over your cat, they will not become as anxious when they see those actions.
Give your cat a treat when you leave the house, but do not give your cat long, drawn-out, melodramatic goodbyes.
3. Leave the television or radio on
You can leave the radio on when you leave the house so your cat will not feel so alone. Leaving the TV on a channel showing birds or small animals can also keep your cat entertained.
4. Expose them to other people
If your cat has little exposure to other people, they can become fearful of strangers. Have a few of your friends come over from time to time to play with your cat. Let them give your cat some treats. It may take a few sessions before your cat becomes completely comfortable with other people, so be patient. Getting your cat used to other people can give you the option of leaving your cat with other caregivers if you need to go on a trip.
Your cat cries when you leave because it could be suffering from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety in cats is caused by the cat being weaned too early, being orphaned, a lack of stimuli when they are alone, not being properly socialized, or a major change in the household. Ease your cat’s anxiety by providing your cat with toys and entertainment when you are out, trying behavior modification, and exposing them to other people.
Image: istockphoto.com / marieclaudelemay