Feline separation anxiety often goes undiagnosed. We tend to think of cats as independent creatures that will adjust just fine as long as their basic needs are met. The truth is quite different.
Most cats develop strong bonds with their “persons” or another animal. With some cats, this bond becomes excessive and when that person leaves, the cat just cannot deal with it and problems ensue.
Feline separation anxiety is difficult to diagnose. Common symptoms include excessive grooming, loss of appetite, unexplained vomiting or diarrhea, destructive behaviors and litter box issues.
My daughter-in-law once owned a Maine Coon cat. Indie was devoted to Jennifer and followed her around like a dog. Jennifer traveled frequently and with each departure, Indie became ill. He refused to eat and showed signs of depression. After a few years of this behavior, Jennifer gave Indie to her parents who were home most of the time.. After numerous unexplained illnesses and periods of depression, Indie finally bonded with the couple and spent several contented years with them.
When my Siamese-mix kitten Lucy was a year old, I deposited her at my son’s house for a week. When we returned from our vacation, Lucy would have nothing to do with me and immediately bonded with my husband. She has remained “his cat” since then. Now when we travel, we hire a pet sitter, and the animals are much happier.
Cats are complicated animals, so take time to delve into their little psyches and figure out what’s bothering them. Certain types of cats are more prone to separation anxiety. Oriental breeds, such as Siamese or Burmese, possess more human-like temperaments and bond more closely with their human owners. Cats that received inadequate socialization as small kittens – such as orphaned, feral or even shelter kittens – may form dysfunctional attachments as adult cats.
Chico was found in a shed at about two weeks old. He was raised with his litter in a foster home and “mothered” by a large dog. I brought him home at 6 weeks. One-year-old Lucy mothered him, and he bonded with me. A few weeks later, little Jake arrived. When Jake was medically cleared and allowed free reign of the house, Chico was all over him. The two kittens were inseparable until Jake died unexpectedly just over a year later. Chico went into a “funk” from which he never recovered. He went from being a lap cat (when he wasn’t getting into trouble with his pal) to a scaredy-cat – frightened of everything. The forced separation from his best friend was a devastating loss.
Watch for changes in Fluffy’s behavior and personality when you return from a period time away from her. Try to create an interesting environment for your cat. Provide a tall climber placed by a window. Plant a bird feeder outside the window for kitty to enjoy. Talk to your veterinarian about other ways to help Fluffy’s separation anxiety issues. A cat behaviorist may have other suggestions.