As pet sitters, we know that the stereotype of cats as aloof loners really misses the mark with most cats. In fact, a recent study showed that cats living with humans have similar attachment styles to pet parents as dogs and children do. A majority (64%) of the cats evaluated were described as securely attached to their humans. In addition, these cats showed less stress when near their caregivers.
Consider having one of our professional cat sitters visit for one or two daily dedicated play sessions when you return to work. This can help alleviate stress for those cats who are distressed by solitude and can enjoy the company of and attention from someone other than their owner.
So it’s not surprising that cats can suffer from separation anxiety, particularly orphaned kitties who were bottle-fed or those who were separated from their mother too young. Interestingly, female cats are diagnosed with separation anxiety more often than male cats.
A change in the cat’s routine often triggers separation anxiety or causes it to get worse. A common scenario is when pet parents travel. Pet parents who have worked from home during the pandemic might also find their cat behaving differently once they start leaving the house for work each day.
Signs of Separation Anxiety Can Include:
- Over-attachment to the pet parent, following them from room-to-room and seeking constant contact.
- Distress as the pet parent prepares to depart (pre-departure anxiety).
- Abnormally enthusiastic greeting upon the pet parent’s return.
- Excessive meowing and crying.
- Excessive self-grooming (more common in female cats).
- Destructive behavior (more common in male cats).
- Anorexia – the cat is often too anxious to eat when left alone.
- Elimination outside the litter box, often in the form of urine marking, though fecal marking might also occur. In one study, three-quarters of the cats that peed outside the litter box did so exclusively on the pet parent’s bed. This often means that your cat is seeking to mix their scent with yours, or that they believe they are helping you find your way home.
Anxious behaviors are not the result of disobedience or spite. They are distress responses. If you punish your cat, they will become even more upset and the problem could get much worse.
Strategies to Minimize Your Cat’s Separation Anxiety Can Include:
- Making the time surrounding your departure less stressful for the cat, and providing a stimulating environment:
- Put on your coat or take out your keys (cues that tell your cat you are ready to leave) at times other than departure so they become indifferent to the cues.
- Keep arrivals and departures low key–no “Mommy’s going to work now” or “Daddy’s home!”.
- Start with shorter absences first.
- Leave the radio or TV on a station that is often on when you’re home.
- Provide toys and/or puzzles for playtime while you are gone, and/or hide food in toys that make kitty work for it.
- Provide a perch where your cat can see their favorite views.
How Can Chicago Pet Sitters Help?
Chicago Pet Sitters offers cat sitting services in many of Chicago’s neighborhoods. Consider having one of our professional cat sitters come by for one or two daily dedicated play sessions when you return to work. This can help alleviate stress for those cats who are distressed by solitude and can enjoy the company of and attention from someone other than their owner.
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