The holiday season is a whirlwind of parties, shopping, feasts, and family. In preparation, you’ll probably be out and about more than usual, leaving your cat at home alone.
Though comically known for being solitary and aloof, cats are social creatures and enjoy your company as much as you enjoy theirs. Recent studies have even shown that the majority of cats show a significant attachment to their owners. Any increase in separation, especially if you go out of town for days at a time, can cause stress and anxiety in your cat. But don’t worry, there are ways you can help ease the stress of separation anxiety during the holidays.
What Does Separation Anxiety in Cats Look Like?
If your cat is feeling stress or anxiety from all the changes in your schedule during the holidays, they will let you know. The most common way to communicate their frustration is an increase in meowing or crying. So, if you have a quiet cat that is suddenly very chatty, they’re trying to tell you they’re stressed out.
Other signs are easy to notice as well. For example, if your litter-trained cat suddenly starts having accidents in the house or you notice new destructive behavior, it’s because they are coping with their separation anxiety in unhealthy ways.
Not every sign that a cat is experiencing separation anxiety is obvious though. Some cats will simply stop eating while you’re away. If you allow your cat to free-graze their food, you may not notice that it is taking longer than usual for them to empty their dish. So, keep an eye out for how often and how much you’re feeding your cat in case there’s a change to their usual habits.
Other cats display their stress by changing the way they groom themselves. If you notice your cat grooming to the point of patchy fur, there’s something going on. To complicate matters further, some cats will simply hide from you or pretend to sleep. This seems counterintuitive and even a bit bratty, but it’s your cat letting you know they’re unhappy that you’re leaving so much.
What to Do If You Notice Separation Anxiety in Your Cat
If your cat displays one of the above issues, it may not mean anything, but if you notice several changes that align with your increased absence, your kitty may be missing you. Spending more time at home is not the only solution, especially if that’s not possible immediately.
Reach out to your vet and let them know what’s going on with your cat. Stress can cause physical health issues in cats, so getting your vet involved as quickly as possible will help mitigate a potentially expensive visit in the future.
Your vet will offer the best course of action for your cat, but they will also confirm the symptoms of stress aren’t related to other health issues. If your vet determines that the issues are caused by separation anxiety, they may prescribe anti-anxiety medications to help while you’re away. No matter what, don’t ignore the signs or be afraid to get your vet involved in the emotional health of your pet; it’s why they’re there.
How Can I Prevent Separation Anxiety in My Cat?
If you have time to prepare your cat for the upcoming holiday schedule changes, you can take measures to ease the stress before your schedule shifts.
Keep as much of your normal routine as possible. Feed your cat at the same times they’re used to. If you can’t keep to that schedule, invest in an automatic feeder, or start getting your kitty used to new feeding times gradually by shifting the times by 10–15-minute intervals leading up to your absence. Keep other changes to a minimum during this time, so don’t adjust their living space, food or litter brand, or even their bedding. Allow your cat to adjust to one change at a time whenever possible.
If you have a one-pet household, your cat may feel your absence more keenly than cats with other animals around. Consider leaving your TV or radio on while you’re away, so it seems like someone is with them. Simply hearing sounds may make your cat feel like everything is normal, making it easier to adjust to you being away. On a similar note, leave your cat extra toys to play or cuddle with while you’re gone. Some toys are motion activated, so your cat will have active play time even when you’re not home.
Look at your cat’s space. They likely have a preferred hangout room, so maximizing that space is another fantastic way to distract them while you’re gone. In the weeks leading up to leaving, invest in a window perch, new cat tree, or even cat shelves. By starting early, your cat can explore and get comfortable with their new surroundings while you’re there, and now they have a new window or perch to enjoy while you’re gone.
The holidays are a wonderful time filled with lots of fun, but it can make your schedule busier than normal. If you notice these changes are impacting your cat negatively, talk to your vet. But don’t forget to give your kitty a special holiday treat: one-on-one time with you. You’ll both be happier for it.
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