Last Updated on: January 25, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Although separation anxiety is often associated with dogs, it’s also a problem that can occur in cats. Knowing how to deal with separation anxiety in cats can be difficult, and it can become frustrating to manage this issue. To help simplify things for you and your cat, we’ve put together some of the best ways to manage separation anxiety.
First, we will go over how to help cats manage separation anxiety, and then we will look at how we as humans can manage the anxiety that can occur when we are away from our felines.
How to Manage Your Cat’s Separation Anxiety
1. Provide a Nice View
Enjoyable perches that provide your kitty with a nice view, like window perches, can help decrease separation anxiety by keeping them entertained with something they enjoy. Allowing your cat to watch the birds or even the comings and goings of your neighborhood can help your cat stay distracted from your absence, making it easier on them when you’re gone. Secure catios can have a similar impact, although it’s important to make a catio that is secure enough to keep your cat safe and that allows them to come and go between indoors and outdoors.
2. Try a Pheromone Diffuser
Pheromone diffusers are a commercial product that release pheromones that will help soothe and comfort your cat. Oftentimes, these pheromones are similar to the pheromones associated with nursing mother cats. These diffusers can be a little bit pricey, but they’re a lifesaver that many people, including vets, swear by. Pheromone diffusers can also help your cat adjust to changes in the home and help grumpy cats get along with each other. Make sure to select a plug that is near the areas where your cat spends the most time to provide them an extra sense of safety and security while you’re out.
3. Set a Soundtrack
There are many sounds that your cat might find enjoyable, from birds to classical music to TV shows you frequently watch. Try to identify sounds that are soothing to your cat and play them when you’re going to be out. It can be especially beneficial if the sounds are similar to sounds that occur when you’re home, like specific TV or radio stations. There are a variety of options for soundtracks that can be enjoyable for your cat, with many free soundtracks available through YouTube channels and even Alexa devices.
4. Come and Go Quietly
Try not to make a big deal about your comings and goings from the home. Most of us are guilty of announcing to our pets that we’re leaving, and even more of us are guilty of making a big deal about coming back into the house. For cats with separation anxiety, though, this can exacerbate their anxiety by causing a greater sense of importance when you come and go. For anxious cats, it’s best to not intentionally announce our departures and arrivals, instead keeping the moments before and after calm and low key.
5. Help Your Cat Burn Excess Energy
A cat full of excess energy is far more likely to experience anxiety than a cat that is well exercised. Spend time every day playing with your cat to help them burn any excess energy they may have. This doesn’t just burn energy, but also builds a sense of trust between the two of you. This will help your cat feel safe when you leave because they trust that you’re going to come back. It’s likely that you know what types of games and toys your cat likes the best that also burns the most energy.
6. Provide Safe Spaces
Your cat needs spaces throughout your home that feel safe and comfortable for them. These spaces should be away from other pets, as well as allow them to get away from small children and visitors that may make them uncomfortable. Most cats enjoy places that are high up and allow them to keep an eye on things, but a variety of spots at different levels can work well. Your cat may feel extra safe and comfortable if you put one of your shirts that still has your scent on it in their favorite spots so they can still feel close to you when you’re out of the house.
7. Provide Toys and Puzzles
Toys and puzzles aren’t just beneficial when you’re home to play with your cat. Provide your cat with a rotation of toys to keep things fun and interesting. Puzzle toys with treats and kibble in them are a great way to encourage your cat to play, even when you aren’t home. You can also hide your cat’s kibble throughout your home in small containers, like cupcake liners. This encourages your cat’s natural hunting instincts and keeps them busy when you’re not home.
8. Spread Out the Cues of You Leaving
Not only should you avoid making a big deal when you’re walking out the door, you should also avoid doing every step of leaving at once. For example, you might normally put on your shoes, grab your lunch bag, pick up your keys, and then leave. If you can break these steps up and spread them across a longer period of time, it can distract your cat from you getting ready to leave and help the process of you leaving the home feel more natural and comfortable. If every step of you leaving happens quickly, it can be overwhelming and stressful for your kitty.
9. Try a Pet Sitter
If your cat has separation anxiety that doesn’t seem to be resolved through the other ideas, then consider hiring a pet sitter to stop in when you’re out of the house. This can be especially beneficial if you’re gone for long stretches of time, like if you work a job that requires 10 or 12 hours of work per day. A pet sitter can come by and play with your cat and ensure that they have everything they need and are comfortable. Just make sure to walk your pet sitter through the steps you have already implemented to manage your cat’s separation anxiety so they can continue with the positive conditioning.
How to Manage Your Anxiety When Away from Your Cat
Your cat might not be the only one experiencing anxiety when the two of you are apart. It’s not uncommon for people to have anxiety when away from their pets, especially if you’re going out of town or your cat is going to be boarding or hospitalized for multiple days. Your anxiety likely won’t lead you to scratch the furniture or pee on the floor, but it can lead to unpleasant thoughts of worry and sensations of racing thoughts and a racing heart. How can you best manage your own anxiety when you’re away from your cat?
- Trust the Environment Your Cat is in
If your cat is staying with a pet sitter, meet them ahead of time and take time for them to get to know your cat and you to get to know them. If your cat is staying with a boarding facility or vet clinic, make sure you’ve toured the facility and feel comfortable with the workers and environment. Check in on them as often as you feel is necessary. Nobody is going to be upset with you for checking in on your kitty!
- Try Meditation
Meditation is a great way to manage acute and long-term anxiety. It helps to slow racing thoughts and relax the body. Regularly making time for meditation has shown the ability to help build tolerance to anxiety and reduce negative reactions to stressful situations. Guided meditations are available everywhere, including on YouTube and apps, making them available to you anywhere at any time.
- Work on Deep Breathing
Like meditation, deep breathing exercises can help relax your body and your mind. Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your body’s physiological responses to stress. This helps relax your muscles, slow your heart rate and breathing, and redirect and slow your racing thoughts.
- Stay Active
If you’re sitting at home or in a hotel room doing nothing but thinking of and worrying about your cat, you’re going to continue to feel more and more anxious. Not only is this unproductive, but it’s unhealthy for your body and wellbeing. Keep yourself busy when you’re away from your cat, whether it’s through exercise or going on outings on vacation.
- Focus on Nutritious Food and Drinks
Heavy, greasy foods, sugary foods, caffeine, and alcohol can all lead to feeling pretty icky. These foods also provide minimal nutrients to your body, and alcohol and caffeine can cause changes in your heartrate and breathing. The combination of heaviness in the food and lack of nutrition can increase feelings of anxiety in some people. By focusing on foods that provide you with high-quality nutrition can help you feel much better. If you’re on vacation, this can be difficult, but try to keep at least one meal per day on the healthier side.
- Talk to Your Doctor
If feelings of anxiety are common for you, then you should talk to your doctor about it. While everyone has some level of anxiety from time to time, consistent anxiety is not normal. Chronic anxiety can be difficult to deal with and can limit many aspects of your life. Therapy and medication may be necessary to manage chronic anxiety, and it is not likely to resolve without significant work on your part and possibly medical interventions.
Separation anxiety can be a real challenge to manage, especially if your cat has a severe case. It may take multiple steps and lots of time and positive reinforcement to help your cat feel happy and comfortable when they’re home alone. Make sure to practice patience and be willing to work through things with your cat. If all else fails, talk to your vet about options for managing your cat’s anxiety.
About the author
Cat mom to Ivy – a feisty little rescue kitten that is her one and only child. For now! Throughout her life, she has been introduced to the special love that can be found in the bond with a cat. Having owned multiple felines, she is more than certain that their love is unmatched, unconditional and unlike any other. With a passion to educate the public about everything, there is to know about felines, their behavior, and their unique personalities, Crystal is devoted to making sure that all cats and their owners know the importance of conscious living – and loving!