Do You Suffer from Separation Anxiety When You Have to Leave Your Cat?

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Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a well-documented psychological condition in which an individual experiences excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from those to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment. And while we usually think of separation anxiety in terms of pets being stressed about being separated from their guardians, I think it exists in reverse, too. For most of my adult life, I’ve felt anxious about traveling – and I actually like to travel. I’m not afraid of flying, and I enjoy a change of scenery, whether it’s visiting friends in familiar places, or whether it’s traveling to someplace I’ve never been before.

But traveling means leaving my cats behind – and that’s something I’m never completely comfortable with. And I’m pretty sure that many of you feel the same way.

I have the best cat sitter on the planet. Renée comes to visit Allegra and Ruby twice a day, and she doesn’t just feed them and scoop their litter boxes. She plays with them and gives them plenty of love and attention. She texts me after each visit to let me know how they are. So obviously, there’s absolutely no reason for me to worry about the girls, right? But I still do.

People who don’t understand what it’s like to love a cat may accuse me of having a co-dependent relationship with my cats. And maybe I do. I miss my girls when I’m not home, but more than that, I worry about them being without human company for such long stretches of time in between Renée’s visits, because they’re so used to having me around all day, every day.

I know that they probably sleep most of the day and night when I’m not home. They probably chase each other through the house for a few minutes, and they probably spend some time watching the goings on outside the windows. They probably don’t spend a lot, if any, time worrying about when I’m going to come home.

I’ve learned to cope better with being gone. Knowing that the girls are in such good hands with Renée is a huge help. I try to let go of my need to be in control of the universe, and trust that they will be fine. And I connect with them energetically several times a day, sending them love and letting them know that I’ll be home soon.

I won’t let my separation anxiety stop me from traveling, but I rarely go away for more than three or four days at a time. I can’t remember the last time I’ve taken a real vacation of a week or more, the way I used to before I had cats. And while it sounds tempting at times to do that, I know I’d just be too anxious about being away from my girls to really enjoy it.

So tell me: do you experience separation anxiety when you have to leave your cats? How do you handle it?

 

132 Comments on Do You Suffer from Separation Anxiety When You Have to Leave Your Cat?

  1. Leigh - The Paw Sitter LLC
    August 7, 2017 at 7:17 pm (2 weeks ago)

    As a professional pet sitter I can tell you your cat will be fine. Many times people tell me I won’t see the cat, but I do and the cat is very friendly and loving. Sometimes cats hide from me for a day or two, but I report back to the owner that I did see the cat and he/she is eating fine and litter box usage is normal.

    Just please get at least one pet sitting visit per day, and your cat would much rather stay home than be boarded outside its comfortable home. I have some clients who request 2-3 visits per day for their cat, and we accommodate!

    Reply
    • Rozanne
      August 9, 2017 at 3:10 am (2 weeks ago)

      Hi, im also very anxious about leaving my cat. Even when i just go out for the day. I love her to bits but she is a very playful and social cat and needs allot of attention.extrovert to the full! She loves playing and think she gets bored because she doesnt have a friend to play with when i’m at work.So i think she suffers alot more than i think because she mews allot for attention to play. I find myself so isolated because my cat lets me know and demands attention. I play with her ad much as i can and ahe has toys. I dont know if i worry too much or is she really okay..?

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        August 9, 2017 at 5:14 am (2 weeks ago)

        Based on your description, she may do well with a companion of similar temperament, Rozanne.

        Reply
  2. Sandra
    July 26, 2017 at 3:38 pm (4 weeks ago)

    Wow…This is exactly what I am feeling! I have a 13 month old cat – I got him when he was 4 months old and he has become very important to me. I also suffer from adult separation anxiety when I travel. Tomorrow, I am leaving on a trip for a week and I am a mess – anxious about leaving the family(grown son and elderly parents) and even more anxious about leaving the kitty! I don’t know how to manage the stress and anxiety it is causing me and I also don’t know if I am going to be able to leave tomorrow morning – I know that I will force myself to do it, but will I spend the whole week pining over the cat and the family? The only time my anxieties crop up are when I have to leave overnight…sure, I miss the cat when I go out, or go to work, but it does not feel the same as leaving him for a week. Does anyone out there, following this discussion have any experience with separation anxiety in adults?

    Reply
    • Missy
      July 26, 2017 at 6:51 pm (4 weeks ago)

      Yes, I am feeling exactly like this. I’m not afraid to say it either…I think I’m extremely attached to my cat. She’s 14 months old. She’s going to stay with a sitter…my daughter’s friend. We will be gone for 10 days so I feel like maybe it is a long time. She’s never stayed there before and I’m about to clean out her litter pan, gather her food bowls and everything she’ll need including a shirt of mine and her bed and toys. She sleeps in a ceramic bowl on my bathroom counter. I’m going to take that to the sitter too. It’s rough and that’s all I can think about but I have to get some last minute things for the trip so I’m going right after I drop her off today. That way I will be distracted. I think the worse thing on my mind is that she’ll miss me and maybe try to leave his house and get lost. So that would be the worst thing to happen but I’m counting on him to take good care of her and we’ll keep in touch. I think the best thing for us to do is when we feel anxious about it maybe change our way of thinking and think and focus on something else. Finish packing, do your nails, etc… good luck and just to let you know you’re not alone and neither am I.

      Reply
  3. Joyce
    July 14, 2017 at 2:51 pm (1 month ago)

    We have an extremely shy female kitty who is 12 yrs old. We have tried taking her with us on weekends, and also tried leaving her home in her own familiar surrounding with a professional cat sitter. We knew that no matter what we do, she suffers. We found that she gets so stressed out that she has been now diagnosed with idiopathic cystitis. The obvious issue is that she has eye issues which one gets really red (virus).

    We were told by the vet that it’s from stress. This is just 2 nights trying to go away. If we go away on vacation for longer periods, we take her with us. No matter what, after the return back, the adjustment period is always the same. She suffers.

    We have tried Feliway plugins, spray, Scaredy Cat drops, brought all of her familiar items with extra tlc.

    We want to go down the beach on weekends yet we are tied to staying put. Our professional cat sitter has attempted to tell us to keep her in “her” room which we did. When we arrived back, our female cat was stuck to me like glue. It took over a month to get her back to her “norm” plus no weekend get aways! She is extremely sensitive to change. Our other female cat was so opposite!

    What do you do? Have no idea. Most definitely torn in leaving her on weekends. It’s like she senses just the thought process… :o(

    Reply
  4. Julie
    July 9, 2017 at 2:19 am (1 month ago)

    Thanks so much. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders I have separation anxiety from my bunnies when I’m away from him for too long

    Reply
  5. Carla
    March 24, 2017 at 7:59 pm (5 months ago)

    I am so glad I found this article after trawling the internet for people who feel like I do – and here you all are! I go away in 2 weeks time for 9 days to visit my family. I have a fur baby who is so attached to me, and me to him. He follows me from room to room, cries when I leave for work, follows me to the bus stop, follows me to walk the dog, tries to jump in my car… when I return he’s ALWAYS waiting on the doorstep for me. He is as loyal as a dog, this is why I get upset when people say cats are selfish, disloyal and temperamental – mine isn’t! If I’m out late in the evenings he will sleep on the porch waiting for me. If I’m watching TV later than usual at night he will be restless walking from me to the stairs and back again, urging me to go up stairs with him to bed! I can’t stand to leave him because I know how upset he gets being away from me. It’s so hard. I’ve been looking for tips on making it easier on him but I don’t think there is much solution to the problem! We have a full house here and he will be well looked after with someone in the house 24/7, but I know to him it’s not the same. And I can’t bare how grumpy he will be with me when I get back.
    Love to all you lovely cat owners out there xxx

    Reply
    • Fran Van Heest
      May 20, 2017 at 8:58 am (3 months ago)

      Carla, I have a male cat just like yours. I truly believe he thinks I am HIS human. When I worked, he waited for me by the door. My husband was home and witnessed this. Now that I am retired, he follows me from room to room. We would love to travel more, but each time we go (leaving short term with a in-home sitters that love him), I return to a very anxiety ridden cat that meows at me for days. And my time away is full of mixed feelings. Anyone else?

      Reply
    • Tanya
      May 26, 2017 at 2:51 pm (3 months ago)

      i would get another cat for him. so he has a friend. I have multiple cats so mine dont get lonely. I still have anxiety when i leave them tho. I love my babies.

      Reply
  6. Kris
    January 7, 2017 at 10:53 pm (8 months ago)

    I haven’t been on a real vacation in the ten years since I inherited my pets. Now that I have only one cat; and no dog, I decided I would take advantage of my winter off from my seasonal job to travel. So I booked a two-week trip to Thailand (other side of the planet!), and now that there are only a few days before my departure date I absolutely dread the thought of leaving. The top concern now is my (formerly feral) elderly cat’s health has suddenly become questionable (great timing!). It’s too expensive to change the return date, so I’m stuck with not going at all or going for a short trip somewhere closer. The stress has fully enveloped my mind and I’m having a near out-of-body experience at the thought of everything that could go wrong! This is my only chance to take a much needed vacation, and the first time I’ve thought to allow it in 10 years. The thought of not going is extremely stressful! The thought of only a 5-7 day trip is extremely stressful! And the thought of going through with my original trip is absolutely terrifying!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 8, 2017 at 6:00 am (8 months ago)

      I can completely understand your stress, Kris. I wish I had an answer for you.

      Reply
  7. Bridy
    December 29, 2016 at 10:54 am (8 months ago)

    My husband and I vacation about 2 times a year and for the few weeks prior to going away – I am dreading leaving my babies alone. I have a had time getting a consistent pet sitter – I think if I knew I had someone they know – I would be better. I”m getting worse as they are getting older. My younger one (8 yrs) tends to spray on the furniture when we leave – so we have to wrap all the furniture in plastic. I have used the diffuser-but it does not work for him. My older cat (15) needs to have a little more care. We are leaving for an overnight trip this weekend – and I am sick with worry. This spring we have a 10 day trip – don’t even want to think about that yet! I have always come back home and they have been fine. Its my issue – I am too attached to them (never had children of my own) . Vacation is supposed to relieve stress…works the opposite with me! Hugs to all fur baby mama’s !

    Reply
  8. Holly
    December 22, 2016 at 9:31 am (8 months ago)

    This is my first time leaving my cat. She’s four months old and even though my friend will checking in on her and playing with her every day I’m still not happy about leaving for so long.

    Reply
  9. Fred
    December 21, 2016 at 10:31 pm (8 months ago)

    My black cat, Todd, was born feral. It took many months of patience to tame him. He is now 7 years old. He is still afraid of every human except me, and will run and hide if a stranger comes near the house. Two years ago, I took him with me to Florida to stay with me in a rented home for a month. He was a very good car passenger, but we had issues when staying in the motels at night. Also in the Florida home, he stayed under the bed almost all the time. At night, he would go out on the lanai, but he was not satisfied unless I was there with him. He wanted outdoors desperately. He usually spends the night outside at home during the warmer months. He even got away from me one day but thankfully returned to the house that night. I hardly slept any night we were there, and had anxiety during each day. I finally cut the vacation short and packed him up and came home after three weeks. It was a stressful situation all in all, and I will never take him on a trip like that again. I now restrict my travel to one night away from home. I would really like to travel more, but he is so afraid of anyone else, I can’t leave him with a sitter.

    Reply
  10. Euouae
    December 18, 2016 at 5:50 am (8 months ago)

    I have this problem too. I’ven’t been away for even one night since I adopted these two. Just thought of going away makes me cry. I’m considering going away for Christmas weekend. I still live at home, so for the cats nothing would change, except that I won’t be there. The rest of the family will still be there.
    But these two wait for me when I get home from work. The one follows me everywhere. I’m so afraid of what might happen! My first kitty was hit by a car, so he came home half paralyzed. He had to drag himself back, crying for me. I try not to imagine what would’ve happened had I not been home that day! :'(

    Reply
  11. Melissa
    November 3, 2016 at 11:25 am (10 months ago)

    I am so glad I found this article. I have an 11 year old silver persian named Oliver and I’m about to head on a vacation tomorrow morning. I’m sitting here in bed crying while he sleeping under the comforter. I hate having to leave him. I take at least 2 vacations a year, gone typically a full week. When I do travel, he goes to my parents house, and he gets stressed and pissed off to the point you can’t touch him for 24 hours until he’s comfortable. I know he will be in good hands but obviously no know takes as good care of him as I do. I’m just glad there are others out there who feel the sam way I do because everyone else thinks I’m crazy….

    Reply
  12. Gini
    October 23, 2016 at 4:50 am (10 months ago)

    I could’ve written this article. You even refer to your cats as “my girls” as I do. I’m obsessed with mine and miss them BEFORE I even leave and so badly when I’m gone that it never feels worth it to go away – even to Aruba!

    Thank you for writing this! This is definitely being bookmarked.

    Reply
  13. Makucheen
    October 17, 2016 at 8:25 am (10 months ago)

    You’re not alone. I feel just about the same. I have 4 adults cats. 2 tortoishell, an orange tabby and a black cat. One of the tortie is extremely intelligent and passionate and there was an incident one time when we fostered too many cats at a time, she fell sick because she was stress and depressed because she got less attention from me. She is not just a cat, she is my baby. She was there when I fell into depression after my 2nd miscarriage. Many people don’t understand the connection and bond I have with my cats and they see them just as cats, solely motivated by foods and petting. While it is more than that. I quit my desk job 3 years ago, and a year later I adopted 2 cats. Now I feel reluctant to go back to desk-bound job because I feel I can’t leave my cats at home for 12-14 hours a day. If I do, I can confirm that my tortie will fall sick because stress.

    Reply
  14. ism
    September 29, 2016 at 8:35 pm (11 months ago)

    I wish I can text or call my cat when I’m away.

    Reply
    • Robyn
      September 30, 2016 at 8:36 am (11 months ago)

      I wish they knew how to Skype!

      Reply
    • ann
      October 9, 2016 at 6:08 pm (11 months ago)

      I am just glad to see people having such a deep love for their pets!!

      Reply
  15. Marie
    August 17, 2016 at 10:59 pm (1 year ago)

    Wow ! So glad I found this site ! Here I am the night before a trip and can’t sleep thinking of leaving my one year old cat.. I have someone coming 3x a day but this is the first alone at night! I will be ok in the day but the though of him alone at night for 2 nights is so upsetting ! Glad I am alone but how do I get over this and try yo enjoy myself ?

    Reply
  16. Gab
    August 13, 2016 at 11:13 pm (1 year ago)

    I’ve never left my Luna bug for more then 2 days. I’m going away for vacation for two weeks I’m an emotional wreck! She’s been by my side since she was 6 weeks old and she’s now 2 and a half. I know I’m leaving her in good hands with my bestfriendad but at the same time I’m scared to leave her :'( especially when all she does is go on the luggage and falls asleep. It breaks my heart 🙁 not ready for this trip

    Reply
  17. Ann
    August 11, 2016 at 9:38 pm (1 year ago)

    I am so stressed over trying to leave my cat for vacation for anything over two days… She is 18 years old now with Graves’ disease (hyperthyroid)… She was a feral kitten when I got her and quickly became my fur baby… My only baby!! She is extremely timid and territorial and we are indeed so closely bonded. Other than me, she will only let my husband pick her up so I’m afraid to try to let anyone else care for her or much less try to board her. She is so easily stressed with strangers. She has to have transdermal (in the ear gel) once daily and continues to have vomiting problems and weight loss needing special home cooked wet foods…My husband wants me to leave her for a ten day vacation and I am so afraid the stress will kill her… If I don’t go he will be so angry!!

    Reply
  18. Ariel
    July 19, 2016 at 12:02 am (1 year ago)

    I’m about to leave my sweet girl Monet alone for 3-4 days. I’m already getting anxiety over it. I’d love to go on vacation, but I hate leaving her even just for the day. I have left her alone over night a handful of times before, and was gone the majority of the day before and after before I got back.

    She’s such a sweetheart, affectionate, always wants love, always at my feet, sleeps on my pillow next to me. I’d have a friend visit her daily for food and love, but I’m seriously afraid of psychologically harming her by being away for longer than usual.

    Reply
  19. Bree
    July 5, 2016 at 10:45 am (1 year ago)

    As my fur babies get older – I get more and more anxiety when we go away (which is about 2x a year) My older one(15) is needing more attention now and my younger on (8) is my baby and always sprays all over when we go away – even tho we have someone over 2 times a day. They are always ok when we get home (stressed-but they start getting better in a few days). I know they are being well taken care of – but its never as good as I would do (in my mind!) I don’t want to rob my husband of a good vacation so Im trying to get a handle on my anxiety and stress when I leave them. I also take care of my 85 yr old father and help out with my inlaws-so vacations are a must for my mental health.

    Reply
  20. Emme
    June 27, 2016 at 9:26 pm (1 year ago)

    I’m struggling with this right now, too–my little golden shadow Niles is super-affectionate towards me (follows me around, does homework with me, sleeps with me, cries when I’m not home) but not to the rest of my family. We’re going up north for five days or so, and we’ll have guests there with us, and I’m worried that the extra activity will stress him out. But then again, I don’t want to leave him at home alone with just my dad for company! Dad would be nice to Niles, of course, but Niles isn’t too interested in anyone who isn’t me. I’ve never been longer than one or two days without Niles, so I’m worried about leaving him behind. I know we’d miss each other.

    Reply
  21. Annie
    May 13, 2016 at 4:47 am (1 year ago)

    Ahgg! I’m currently dealing with this 🙁 I’m planning a trip back home, and given that it’s only for 5-6 days I don’t want to cause undue stress to my cat. But now I’m struggling to splurge on a more expensive flight to be home sooner and miss out on time with friends and family, just to get home sooner to my cat. It’s a really hard decision. Even though my cat will stay home with my relatives, one of which who is home more often than not so she will have company, but she greets me every single night and misses me so I can’t imagine how she’ll be with 6 days of me gone!!! 🙁

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 13, 2016 at 5:52 am (1 year ago)

      It sounds like your cat is going to be fine, Annie – but I understand that it’s a hard decision!

      Reply
  22. liz
    May 5, 2016 at 7:20 pm (1 year ago)

    Should I give my cat away if I don’t do my errands because I never want her to be alone? It is important that you give me an answer please.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 6, 2016 at 5:42 am (1 year ago)

      I’m not sure whether you’re asking whether you don’t want to leave your cat to run errands because you worry that she’ll be lonely, or because you feel that you can’t leave her because you’re so attached to her. If it’s the first, I doubt that just being away for errands will be a problem for your cat (and if you feel that it is, you could always consider getting her a feline companion.) If it’s the latter, I would encourage you to seek counseling. While many cat guardians suffer from some separation anxiety when they have to leave their cats, not even wanting to leave your cats to run errands would be cause for concern in my opinion. I’m also concerned that “giving your cat away” would even be an option.

      Reply
  23. Sarah
    May 5, 2016 at 4:04 am (1 year ago)

    My husband and I are going out of town for a week, and it will be our first time being away from our furbaby, Moonlight, for such a long period of time. Our vet is going to board/care for her while we are gone. I know she will be in good hands, but we both already miss her so much. I’m also worried for her, being away from us. Glad to see other people understand. Some people think I’m crazy for loving my cat so much, but for pet owners, often, they are like people. I have an incredibly strong bond to her, and hope I can still enjoy my trip despite being sad over not having her :/

    Reply

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