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Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Your Cat or Dog


Separation anxiety can be both stressful for the pet and you and it can present itself in both cats and dogs. The most common type of separation anxiety is with dogs but cats are prone to this too especially if they have nothing outside of you to entertain them. 

In many ways it's harder to determine that your cat is suffering from separation anxiety than your dog as they are less destructive and loud about it. Cats like dogs are very social beings and love interaction so although you may think they are happy alone, they need good interaction to be able to feel safe being left alone for periods of time. 

When animals aren't living in environments that are in tune with their natural state of being they begin to develop wellness and health issues. Click here to read the basic needs of your cat or dog.

You want your pet to be emotionally attached to you but not so much so that they go into melt-down mode when you're not around. Your cat or dog should be able to be independent of you for their ability to have some fun, be able to calm themselves down, feel safe in their environment and in themselves. You want a cat or dog that is self confident but obeys commands when needed.

The longer the issues go on around separation anxiety the harder it is to break the habit your cat or dog has gotten into whilst you're out. One of the most fundamental things is to ensure they feel safe in their environment and that you positively re-enforce good behavior. If you're pet is suffering with separation anxiety then you'll need to be extremely patient, kind and reward the small wins to help them get over this trauma. 

To change their behavior It's important that your dog or cat has experiences that allow for him/her to learn clearly. No animal can learn when they are stressed and this can lead to fears, avoidance, inability to feel confident in new situations and feed fearful associations with stimuli. The ability for your dog or cat to learn clearly will allow your pet's biochemistry to process information whilst relaxed, calm and in a neutral or positive state. This will support your cat or dog's emotional, physical, mental and spiritual wellness because s/he is learning without being under pressure or stressed and this will allow your dog and cat to develop confidence and prevent imbalances.

Common Reasons For Separation Anxiety

  • Your cat or dog has been separated too early on from their mother. They've not been weaned off properly from the mother and what would have been a normal development cycle, their confidence has been brutely interrupted by the early separation. This leads to massive emotional stress in the animal as their entire world is tipped upside down. If you're their new carer then this primary abandonment will be the root cause of their separation anxiety when you're out of their sight.
  • They don't feel safe in their environment. Your are their safe place not your home.
  • Changes to their home environment, i.e. you've moved home or someone has moved in or you've got building works going on, the arrival of a new baby etc. Any change to their immediate environment can lead to behavioral changes. 
  • It's your energy the pet is absorbing. If you're nervous, anxious and in a state your pet will absorb the energy and feel the need to calm you down, but this becomes a vicious circle. 
  • Boredom or lack of proper interaction by you whether this is in the form of interactive play, undivided attention, grooming them etc. They can begin acting out of you're not giving them the tender loving care they need when you are home.
  • You've leave them for too long on their own.
  • Don't have a stimulating environment. Like humans pets get bored if they have nothing to entertain them from time to time.
  • Have no proper routine and no idea when their next walk is coming, when their feeding time is etc. They have no confidence that their needs will be met so it can present itself in behavioral issues.
  • Not allowed to act like a cat or dog. For example your cat has no ability to release it's natural energy and instinct to climb, hunt, sniff and investigate new things. Whilst your dog is normally not given enough time sniffing, interacting with other dogs, running, walking, playing and seeking when you're out walking. 
  • You've adopted a cat or dog so they are already coming with emotional issues around abandonment or trauma depending on the environment they left. Animals have an innate sense to please so if they've already experienced bad treatment or abandonment they are desperate for a loving home and safety, so can go into fear or overdrive mode when you separate from them, even if it's just to go out for a while.
  • Could be the breed of your cat or dog as some breeds are more prone to anxiety and nervousness than others.
  • Could be an underlying medical condition so make sure nothing else if going on with your pet.

Separation Anxiety 

This can come in many forms for both your cat and dog but these are the most common signs your cat or dog is suffering from separation anxiety when you're not around. 

Some of these symptoms also occur when your pet is depressed or ill so know the signs and be attentive to what may be the root cause of the issue. If you think you're cat or dog is suffering with depression, click here or seek veterinary advice if you think there may be an underlying illness.

  • Tearing up the house.
  • Peeing or pooing around the house or outside of the litter box.
  • Peeing or pooing on your clothes or destroying them.
  • Destroying things around the house whether this is a door, settee, tables etc.
  • Knocking things over whilst you're out.
  • Excessive and constant crying or barking/meowing.
  • Scratching constantly at for example the door to get out to you or furniture.
  • Hiding or fearful behavior.
  • Changes in the feeding, generally to the point they are not really eating.
  • Neediness or your pet is very clingy
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Seems always depressed
  • Excessive biting of their paws or over-grooming in a need to self soothe
  • Sucking or chewing on their tail to self soothe 

Tips to Stop Separation Anxiety

Dogs and cats know you're routine better than you do. They know what you're about to do by the way you start to prepare yourself to leave the house. If you can, start to incorporate some of the more common things you do to get ready to leave with things you do to stay around the house. For example picking up your keys and then going to sit down and watch the TV, putting on your shoes and grabbing your bag but going into the kitchen to cook. Incorporating some of these "leaving things" in with staying around the house gives them less significance for your pet that these are part of your leaving routine.
  • Build the amount of time you'll be gone up slowly especially if this is with a new dog or cat. Start with a few seconds, then minutes etc. Yes this takes time but your patience will eventually pay off. Start by simply keeping you pet in one room, whilst you're outside the room, then pop back in. Don't greet your dog or cat with a massive fanfare of hello. Ignore it until it sits, lies down or waits for your command, then reward it. Your aim is to get them into a calm state not be super happy to see you.

  • Don't make a huge fuss when you're about to leave or when you arrive back home. Don't speak or touch your pet before you leave, basically ignore it in the run up to you exiting as this gets them into the idea that everything is OK and part of a normal routine. The more fuss you make when you're about to leave or arrive home, the more they get into a heightened state than something is about to happen. This is what you're trying to avoid. 

  • Make sure they get proper exercise before you leave so that when you do go out they are relaxing, tired and ready to sleep.

  • Confine them to a small space or one room so they can begin to build up their confidence in their immediate environment. Dogs have a den mentality in order to feel safe and secure, this is what you're trying to create. Cats like to have height or a hideout place that is safe for them to relax and sleep. Don't forget when you're pet is sleeping their senses are still actively working so you want to ensure their sleeping area is as quiet as possible. If they are showing destructive behavior then put them in a room that has nothing they can destroy.

  • Have a place that allows them to relax but also gives them a stimulating environment to amuse themselves when you're out. This can be anything from having access to toys, or things to climb in the case of your cat.

  • Ensure when you are home you give them your undivided attention for at least 15 minutes. There has been an increase in behavioral issues with the onset of our use of technology. Take the time to come away from your computer and phone and give your pet you're undivided attention with interactive playtime, grooming, talking, touching and in the case of dogs proper time outside of the house for walking and doing it's business. Be present in the moment. A quick walk around the block is not sufficient. A dog needs at least 20 minutes of aerobic activity to keep healthy both physically and mentally. 

  • When your pet want to plays, have affection etc. go with it whole heartedly, as they'll be raising their vibrational frequency into joy and love but ensure it's not just before you leave the house or upon entering and this will heighten the separation issue. 

  • Get into a solid routine, with regular meal times, walk times, time to play, and interact. If your cat or dog knows these are scheduled in they tend to be less anxious when you're not around as they know when their scheduled times are for everything. Animals will thrive in homes where there is a routine that includes their needs. 

  • In the case of dogs, let them have access to a raw bone. If they do get nervous whilst your out it's a way for them to release their tension and also stimulates both their muscles and mental ability whilst being highly nutritious.

  • Contrary to belief, cats love to sniff new things so something as simple as them investigating your shopping bags as you bring them home helps with their mental stimulation and continued development of their senses. Allow both your cat and dog lots of sniffing time as this positively impacts their messaging stimuli and emotional and mental well-being.

  • Increase the stimulation in their immediate environment. This can be anything from placing a bird feeder on the window and a place for your cat to view to changing in and out their toys, introducing new toys, squeaky, vibrational or puzzle toys. 

  • Music. Placing the radio on at low volume for example a talk show or soft music helps calm your pet.  Or put nature sounds on or meditation music at low volume. This helps improve their overall emotional well-being as the soft sound helps de-stress and ground them, especially the nature sounds.

  • Pet camera. Installing a pet camera will allow you to keep an eye on your cat or dog whilst you're out as the camera would be connected to an app on your phone. By seeing what is actually happening whilst you're out, such as excessive barking or your cat soiling outside of the litter box helps you begin to modify their behavior. You can use the camera as a way to talk and interact with them even to the point of asking the camera to dispense a treat. This can be a great option if you're out at work all day.

Pet's thrive in a safe and loving environment, where their needs are met and they are given time to be with you as their human companion. You want to encourage your pet to be independent and feel safe whilst you're not around. One of the best ways to do this is through positive re-enforcement not tough love or shouting at them to obey as this will only heighten their already stressed state. 

Don't try to add another pet thinking this will help your pet get over their anxiety issue. You need to weed out the problem first before adding anything else into the mix. Introducing a new pet when you're current pet already has emotional issues can make this significantly worse or create more emotional un-wellness such as aggression, fearful behavior or the new animal, can absorb and adapt the energy and behavior of the primary animal, leaving you and your pets with major emotional issues. 

The aim is to get your dog or cat emotionally stable, content and confident in themselves whilst you're out and this will take time and patience in order for both you and them to break any habits around separation anxiety. Applying the tips will go along way to changing your pet's behavior for the better.

NOW, we'd love to hear your feedback so LEAVE A COMMENT and feel free to share this with people you think will love it.

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Guest - Darrien Hansen on Thursday, February 04 2021 13:09

I'm thankful that you brought up how spending time away from your dog in small increments can help prevent them from getting anxious when you are apart. My sister recently adopted a husky that paws at her house's front door whenever she goes to work, and she would like to find a way to help him stay calm once she goes on a business trip this weekend.

I'm thankful that you brought up how spending time away from your dog in small increments can help prevent them from getting anxious when you are apart. My sister recently adopted a husky that paws at her house's front door whenever she goes to work, and she would like to find a way to help him stay calm once she goes on a business trip this weekend.
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Tuesday, March 21 2023

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