Recently, we’ve had a lot of change in our household. Often, my husband or I have to travel, and I’ve observed the effects on the cats. Are they annoyed or upset if one of us is gone? Surely, one person being gone is preferable to both humans being gone, right? Are the cats really as stressed by change as I imagine? Does separation anxiety apply, even if someone else is home?
I watched them closely, and here’s what I found.
If you’ve been following our history with Zorro, you know that he’s been through a lot change in a very short time. From mid-March to the present, Zorro has gone from an outdoor feral cat to a loving, indoor domestic kitty. All of this happened quickly, so I was worried recently when I had to travel for several days. Things had moved so quickly in our lives that I hadn’t had time to get Zorro used to my husband. My husband was a little nervous around Zorro, too, having had no experience with feral cats. Also, Zorro was (and still is) very attached to me. If I left, how would he do?
I need not have worried. Once I left, Zorro bonded quickly with my husband. While I think I am pretty special to Zorro, I also think that he really likes people. It was probably good that I wasn’t at the home, as it forced both Zorro and my partner to get to know each other. My husband is easily able to handle Zorro, and they enjoy napping together.
Do my cats act a certain way when I am gone? I’m not sure. When I travel, I ask my husband if the cats seem to be missing me. I’m curious about which cat misses me the most; I’m fascinated with the behavior of my cats. I want to see if there’s a pattern. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much of a pattern, except that Kieran seems a little more down than the rest of my cats. Kieran is sweet and sensitive. If he were a human, he’d probably be the kind who feels deeply but keeps his feelings to himself.
When my husband had to be gone for two months to help facilitate our recent move, I was curious about how the cats would take it. Would they be sad? Or would they fine, since I am the main caregiver? (I do the feeding, litter boxes, and the majority of cuddling and playing. My husband loves the cats but he’s not the cat nerd that I am.)
To my surprise, the cats seemed discombobulated and a little confused during the time he was gone. They followed me around quite a bit, and spent a lot of time in their safe zone (the bed) during the day. They gladly accepted my invitation to sleep on the bed at night, and they all piled on. It seemed they were waiting for that moment when my husband would rejoin the family pack. There were no weird behaviors (no litter box accidents, no loss of appetite), but something was definitely different.
I really believe my cats are happiest when the entire family unit is intact, when all humans are home. They notice an absence, just like when one of their own has an extended stay at the vet. They know when the family unit is complete.
What about your cats? Do they act different when someone is gone from the household? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (a cat fantasy fiction novel), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.