Cats make wonderful companions, but even the cutest kitten can cause concern when they get kitten separation anxiety symptoms.
If you're a pet owner worried about your kitten's separation anxiety, we'll discuss the signs and symptoms of kitten separation anxiety, how to help your feline friend cope, and offer some helpful tips to make life easier for both of you.
What is separation anxiety?
Kitten separation anxiety is when a young kitten exhibits distress or behavioral issues when separated from their caregivers. Kittens form close bonds at a young age and can develop anxiety when left alone for periods of time.
Separation anxiety in kittens typically develops between 8 to 12 weeks of age as kittens start to see their human family as a secure base.
And kitten separation anxiety symptoms include excessive crying or yowling when the caregiver leaves, following the caregiver constantly to avoid being separated, destructive behaviors, and lethargy or hiding when alone.
These behaviors indicate the kitten is stressed at not having their preferred attachment figure nearby. And the immaturity of their brains has not yet equipped them to cope with short periods of independence.
kitten separation anxiety symptoms
Have you recently noticed your kitty acting a bit clingier than usual, or vocalizing more when you leave the house?
It may be those kitten separation anxiety symptoms, so used to the company of their sibling and mother from birth, start to form strong bonds with their new humans and struggle a bit with being alone.
A kitten cries out persistently to show distress at being separated from their caregiver.
The kitten wants to stay near its attachment figure at all times to reduce separation anxiety. It follows closely behind and seeks contact.
One of kitten separation anxiety symptoms is that a cat sits on your lap more, sleeps next to you, or tries to get petted frequently as a way to reduce anxiety by being nearer to you.
Your kitten may appear depressed and sleep more, or hide frequently as a way to cope with the stress of being left alone.
Common kitten separation anxiety symptoms, A kitten may eat less when separated from its caregiver due to high levels of anxiety.
Some kittens with severe separation anxiety begin eliminating outside the litterbox as a sign of distress.
The kitten may constantly meow, chirp, or make other vocal noises to get the caregiver's attention and reduce separation anxiety levels.
While this can be concerning at first, with patience, understanding, and the right strategies, you can help your furry friend adjust and gain more confidence in time.
Let's explore what may be causing these anxious behaviors and how you can best support your kitten through this phase.
What Causes Separation Anxiety in Cats?
Many cats experience separation anxiety at some point, but with understanding and patience from their caring owners, most kitties can overcome this phase. Here are some of the top signs of separation anxiety in kittens may develop:
- Sudden change in routine: If you recently changed jobs, had a baby, or a housemate moved out, this disrupted routine can be very unsettling for your cat.
- New pets or people in the home: A newcomer that your cat must now share attention to can trigger anxiety over losing their role as "favorite."
- Missing their littermates: Some cats, especially those separated from siblings at a young age, can develop anxiety from missing that constant companionship.
- Lack of mental stimulation: Without enough physical and mental engagement through play, scratching posts, and interactive food, your cat may become bored and anxious when left alone.
- Too much initial attention: If you lavished your new kitten with round-the-clock attention at first, they may struggle to be independent later on.
- Medical issues: In rare cases, pain or an undiagnosed health problem can cause a cat's behavior to change, including causing separation anxiety.
How Is Separation Anxiety Diagnosed in Cats?
To correctly diagnose kitten separation anxiety symptoms, a vet must first rule out medical issues. They start with a physical exam including blood and urine tests to check for conditions like hyperthyroidism or kidney disease.
Your vet will ask questions about your cat's behaviors alone - when they start, how long they last, and what your cat does. Video of your cat home alone can reveal how anxious they are and if they exhibit destructive behaviors.
This physical screening, history, and observation gives vets the full picture to either diagnose health issues or confirm separation anxiety. Only then can a proper treatment plan be made involving behavior changes, environment changes, and possibly medication.
Working closely with your vet and giving as much information as possible can help determine the best course of action to improve your cat's life and ease their anxiety.
Not always we’ll have the right time to go to the vet in the right time, right?
So here’re important tips to help your cat with.
What Can I Do If My Cat Shows Signs Of Separation Anxiety?
The good news is you’re capable to help your cat!
The first step is to remain calm and patient with your cat because their anxiety is coming from a place of distress, not bad behavior.
Then try these strategies:
- Gradual exposure: Start by leaving for short amounts of time, even if just 5-10 minutes. Slowly increase the duration over days or weeks.
- Enrichment and activity: Leave interactive toys, treat-dispensing toys, and plenty of scratching posts. Play with your cat vigorously before leaving to tire them out.
- Ignore negative behaviors: Don't give extra attention when your cat shows anxious behaviors. Reward them when they're calm instead.
- Pheromone diffusers: These can release calming pheromones to ease your cat's anxiety while you're gone.
- Create a secure space: Provide a high-up place or covered bed for your cat to feel safe when alone.
- Medication (if needed): In severe cases, anti-anxiety medication.
For quick tips to minimize your cat anxiety:
- Leave the radio or TV on for background noise
- Leave quietly without a big announcement or goodbye
- Provide a covered bed or high shelf as a safe space
- Give interactive toys or puzzles to keep them occupied
- Hide treats in food puzzle toys to activate the prey drive
- Start with short departures of 5-10 minutes, then gradually increase
- Give a view of favorite spots through a window or catio
- Consider using a pheromone diffuser or spray (check with the vet first)
- Give extra play and cuddles when you return home
Minimizing your cat's pain is not like helping prevent it. When it comes to kitten separation anxiety symptoms, there’s plenty to do.
How to help prevent separation anxiety in your kitten?
Start leaving the kitten alone for short periods from a young age. Even just walking out of sight for a few minutes and returning frequently in the first few weeks can help them adjust to your comings and goings.
- Give the kitten multiple interactive toys and places to hide from the start. This provides mental stimulation and a secure place when alone. Rotate the toys to keep them interesting.
- Engage the kitten in play sessions before you leave to help tire them out. This can use up some of their extra energy that may otherwise result in anxiety.
- Establish a regular schedule and routine from the beginning. Kittens thrive on predictability, so consistent times for meals, play and naps will give them a sense of security.
- Spend time training and socializing the kitten. Well-behaved and confident kittens are less likely to develop anxiety later on.
- Have multiple family members provide the kitten with attention and play. This helps them learn to tolerate periods without one particular person.
- Limit excess pampering and over-feeding. Kittens that are too dependent on constant care and attention struggle more when that care is temporarily withdrawn.
- Consider adopting two kittens can minimize kitten separation anxiety symptoms. They can provide companionship and reduce the risk of separation anxiety when left alone together. Just be ready for potential behavioral issues between the pair.
By taking these preventive measures and training the kitten from a young age, you can significantly reduce the chances of separation anxiety developing as they mature.
Methods to Avoid Separation Anxiety in Cats:
If you follow the previous tips you may, with time, avoid kitten separation anxiety symptoms, but for more explanation, here’s what can make a real change:
- Stick to a schedule and routine
- Gradually increase the time away
- Leave familiar comforting things
- Provide mental stimulation
- Use a pheromone diffuser
- Make quiet departures and arrivals
- Make the carrier a safe place
Is there any Treatment?
Once it starts to show signs of separation anxiety in kittens, it can be difficult to remedy and here’re methods listed below that help to prevent the condition in the first place should be implemented if they have not been already. Additionally:
- Routine is paramount and cats must lead predictable lives with as little disruption as possible.
- Owners should make an effort to enter and calmly leave the home. Avoid making a fuss of the cat upon either arrival or departure.
- Provide a safe space where cats know they can spend time alone undisturbed. This could be their bed perched atop a cat tree or perhaps a shelf in the laundry room.
- Consider using a calming supplement, at least in the short term, to keep them as relaxed as possible while working on the other methods discussed.
- Hiring a professional feline behaviorist who can evaluate your furry companion within their own environment is never a misstep. They can craft a tailored plan specific to your kitty.
Why do cats get separation anxiety?
Cats can become stressed and anxious because they're social creatures who crave companionship and affection. They're used to having the presence of their human family and other pets in the home, so when that's suddenly taken away, they become stressed.
This lack of stimulation and comfort can lead to destructive behaviors, like scratching furniture or urinating outside the litter box. Even worse, some cats may become withdrawn or depressed.
Can cats recover from separation anxiety?
Yes, cats can recover from separation anxiety with the right treatment and behavior modification, though it can be challenging. While separation anxiety can be difficult to treat, many cats see improvement when their owners stick to consistent routines and schedules to give the cat a predictable environment.
In time and with patience, most cats can learn to tolerate short periods alone and their anxiety will lessen. But a complete recovery from long-standing separation anxiety issues may require significant changes to the home environment and the cat's routine. With the right care over an extended period, even cats with severe separation anxiety can see improvements.