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. Valerie 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, gives them plenty of love and attention, and sometimes, she even hangs out and watches television with them. She calls or texts me after each visit to let me know that the girls are doing well.
During a recent trip, a blizzard was forecast for our area. I was sitting by a pool in Florida, worrying about whether Valerie would be able to get to my girls. I know they’re not going to starve if they miss a meal, but I hated the thought of them being all alone for more than 12 hours at a time. Valerie, bless her heart, made a third visit the night before the storm to give the girls a midnight snack (which they thought was pretty cool!) She had a friend with a four-wheel drive car on standby for the next day, and managed to get to my house for both breakfast and dinner visits.
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 Valerie’s visit, 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 Valerie 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?