Separation Anxiety - Long post, sorry!!

This is a place to gain some understanding of cat behavior and to assist people in training their cats and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other cat owners and lovers...not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!


Purred: Fri Jun 1, '12 9:07am PST 
My Cat Clyde is 4 years old and has been displaying signs of severe separation anxiety. It has gotten worse over the past year, though I have not moved or made any major changes in my routine. He displays all the symptoms I have found diagnosing him:

- Anxious behavior before I leave for work
- Heartbreaking howling after I leave for at least an hour (I recorded him)
- When I come home he is usually right in front of the door (although he could have heard me coming up the stairs and ran there)
- Insane behavior when I return, including running fills speed around the house, or falling at my feet and showing me his tummy while making mewing noises
- Following me around the house so closely I often step on him or trip
- When I lay down for bed he immediately stretches out next to me and will not move all night unless I lock him out of my room. Which makes him cry.
- Recently, and worst of all, he has started eliminating (poo) on my things when I am gone - couch, bed, laundry. Actually, a lot of the time he waits until I come home and does it when he knows I will notice. That requires foresight I didn't think cats had.

Obviously there are a lot of reasons I would like to get him help, and not only because my stuff smells bad. I hate to think he is so sad, just because I am gone! I have a roommate but in Clyde's world he might as well not even exist. He never eliminates on my roommate's things, I don't know how he knows the difference.

Everything I have read about separation anxiety/attachment disorders says affected cats were kittens who were weaned too early. Well this can't be true because Clyde's mom gave birth to him in my closet and they haven't been apart a day since. His mother weaned him naturally at around 12 weeks, with no interference from me. Pandora (mom cat), Clyde and Clyde's sister Bee live together in my 2 bedroom apartment. The other two act like aloof cats, don't love to be snuggles or held, sleep alone, and don't particularly care when I come or go, so long as they have food.

the vet says there is nothing wrong with him physically, but I really want to treat him somehow. Does anyone have any advise or experience with this? I hate to think I did something wrong when I was raising him to make him love me so much!

This is me and Clyde: http://www.catster.com/cats/856541/photo/5533370

Edited by author Fri Jun 1, '12 9:13am PST


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Purred: Sun Jun 3, '12 12:12am PST 
I am a feline veterinarian. It sounds like you've done everything right, but just as people have different personalities, so do cats. Clyde definitely sounds like he is experiencing anxiety -- there are many things you can try. Rescue Remedy (at alternative medicine/health stores) and Composure Chew Treats (available through veterinarians) contain natural calming ingredients, and work for many cats. In severe cases, which Clyde qualifies for, there are some anti-anxiety medications that can be used. If your veterinarian is not familiar or willing to prescribe, you may wish to try an all-feline hospital. Anxiety, whether human or animal, is unpleasant, and tends to escalate if not treated.
The other thing to try is to get up a few minutes earlier to allow a rowdy play session with Clyde before you leave for work, so he is tired and more apt to take a catnap. Please let me know how things progress. My goal is happy cats! www.angelcatcoach.com


Purred: Mon Jun 4, '12 7:50am PST 
Thank you so much for your reply! I took a look at your blog and it contains so much great information about cats! I have been a cat owner my whole life - I grew up with them as a child and the first thing I did when I got my first apartment 4 years ago was adopt a neighborhood stray. It's amazing how we can always learn new things about them.

Anyway, I have not tried a many of the things you mention below, which gives me a lot of options to test out in the next few weeks. I was using something called Feliway, which was like a glade plug in for cat-calming pheromones. That worked a tiny bit, but for the cost (over $100 a month in refills) I was not nearly impressed enough to continue using it. I also give Clyde a rough wrestling session on the bed (this is his favorite way to play and get energy out, as he tends to be aggressive with his sister if he has pent-up energy), and also get out the laser pointer and run him around the house for a while. That works well, it seems, but he still has good days and bad days.

I hesitate to put my cat on maintenance anxiety medications, but I will definitely consider it as a last resort. I have already taken him in at least 4 times just to make sure nothing is wrong. Anxiety never even came up, I did the research into that possibility myself, and once I read about it, it seemed so obvious. I might start the search for a feline exclusive vet.


Purred: Fri Jun 15, '12 5:41am PST 
I am a kitty owner of five kitties and one has some separation anxiety although its not nearly as bad as it used to be. We ended up using glade plug ins (feliway was way too expensive) and the apple spice flavor had a calming effect. I mentioned this to my vet and she thought I was crazy but she did further research and found that a few other of her clients have said the same thing about other scents.

Elvis would often cry through out the night and whenever he couldn't see me or access me. When it was really bad, I would wear a tshirt for an hour or two before bed and then leave it downstairs for him to smell. Again, not sure if this helped but something I tried.

I also have incorporated play time/love time when he is the only kitty upstairs and the others are downstairs. He seems to enjoy this one on one time!

Elvis, who got his name because all he would do as a kitten was cry, was rejected by his mother from a young age (maybe 2-3 weeks) and I ended up getting him when he was about 4 weeks old. I attribute the separation anxiety to this. My poor baby!