Do cats experience separation anxiety?

by HM Glendenning

Hannah at the new place

Hannah at the new place

I am sure this is not an isolated situation due to the state of our economy. I was a homeowner that had 4 cats, 2 sisters that adopted me in 2001.

A calico, Hannah and her sister a Tortie, Kenya. Then I acquired a Maine Coon mix, Cassie. She was scared of her own shadow but became very attached to me, and eventually, her sister, an all black girl named Sootie who was somewhat 'feral.'

Hannah, Kenya and Cassie were indoor cats, spayed and declawed. They had access via a pet door to a huge 20' x 15' screened in patio. Though Sootie was not declawed and did not get along with the girls, she was content in our master bedroom upstairs.

Getting to the point here, due to a series of events and loss of my job, my home was going into foreclosure. Then my fiance's father had a stroke, so he moved back to their home.

Unemployment ran out so I had made plans to move in with my fiance's parents as his mother had broken her hip. Going back and forth between homes (50 miles one way), taking care of my 'girls,' packing etc...

If I moved in, only ONE cat would be acceptable. I at least tried for Hannah and Kenya, together since birth (9 yrs at the time). NO NO absolutely NO.

After months of back and forth a decision had to be made. My son took Kenya and his very good friend took in Cassie. It just broke my heart.

We were unable to find a home for Sootie, even though she had become much more domesticated. We had to have her put down. I had not cried so much in my life.

Hannah, being the alpha, came with us. We thought she would adapt better as his parents had a Maltese dog, and none of the girls had been around a dog.

Well Hannah has since established that she is alpha, but the problem is now she hates being alone, wants constant attention, wants to eat only wet food now almost every 2-3 hours, and has become very vocal.

I believe she has separation anxiety from not being with her sisters, who always played together and all had a space.

My fiance says I am crazy as Hannah has it made here. I believe differently. The other two have issues as well.

Is this something that a cat can experience? I have searched but am unable to find
any info on this.

Editor's note: Wow, there's a lot going on here and I'm very sorry to hear about all of your troubles.

Let me give you my opinion on a few points...

1) Yes, I believe cats can experience separation anxiety. Although it may manifest differently from dogs, they do experience it.

2) Despite being pegged as "loners," cats can become very attached to living with humans, other cats and even other pets, and can go into a deep depression when separated from them.

Some cats get so depressed when their housemates die or are removed from them that they stop eating and interacting.

3) I've said this before a number of times... cats HATE change.

4) Cats can be extremely territorial. A former coworker of mine moved about 20 miles away with his cat. Soon after, his cat disappeared, only to turn up a few months later in the old neighborhood.

5) When you make transitions like this, it's vital that you insulate the cat from shock as best you can.

Hannah has not just been separated from her housemates, she has been removed from her territory and placed in a strange place with other humans and a dog. Yikes!

Did you start Hannah out in a "safe room" in the new location? In that room, you spend time with her, play with her, and get her used to the new territory.

She stays in that room and that room only, until she feels comfortable and secure enough to come out.

Did you do a slow introduction to the dog after keeping her separated in the safe room for a period of days?

Does Hannah have places she can go to hide? Is everything set up so that she always has an escape route and can't ever be cornered? Does she have a perch up high where no one else can get at her?

Providing a safe room, doing slow introductions, and making sure your cat has all of the resources she needs can help a great deal.

To ease her anxiety, you could try Feliway or Rescue Remedy. In extreme cases, your vet may put her on anti-anxiety medication.

You could try rolling things back and get her (back) into a safe room. Then, transition her slowly back into the rest of the house.

I'm assuming she's totally healthy and her need for attention and vocalizations are due to stress.

I hope that helps.

P.S. Please keep us updated on her progress.

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Response to Kurt regarding cat separation anxiety
by: HM Glendenning

Hannah's 'safe room' was our bedroom. She came out when she was ready. She also has her food in here as well.

She also has a perch in the dining room in the window, as well as access to the garage via a pet door. She goes to the laundry area window where she has a perch there as well.

The dog is not smart enough to figure out how to use the pet door and we don't encourage her. (She thinks it's a window). Plus we play with her and she has items to stimulate.

Hannah and I have been here for almost 3 years and she will be 12 this year.

The dog 'yaps' constantly at nothing, which aggravates Hannah as well as me! But the dog is afraid of Hannah, she tries to act invisible when Hannah is around. :-))

Hannah is not her self, she startles easily now and I really believe she does remember and miss her sissies.

I have tried Rescue Remedy... she knows when I add it to her water. So no tricking her.

When she wants in or out of our room, she makes a big ruckus, so no staying in a 'safe room'. Maybe she is picking up my feelings of loss as well as her own. Maybe her age has something to contribute. I do love on her, pet,brush etc.

I know that I miss my home and independence, I really miss my girls (they were / are like my children) and their feeling of security. Plus the guilt of having to put down Sootie.

Also I just found out that Cassie died within a month of going to my son's friend. He was afraid to tell me. I am devastated. Thank you for replying to my post.

Editor's note: I'm very sorry for your loss. It sounds like you've done everything right to help ease Hannah's transition.

It does sound like she's stressed and if you feel that she's not herself, then trust your gut. She may also sense stress in you, so anything you can do to make life "normal" for the two of you would be good.

I would suggest you try Feliway as it has been known to help.

Separation Anxiety Exists
by: Elizabeth Benoit

I recently had to be away from my two feline friends for a month so I could help my father recover from heart surgery. I had no idea how deeply it would affect them.

My older female cat became withdrawn. My younger male cat followed my husband around like a shadow. When I returned, it took several weeks to regain the trust of my female cat.

My young male cat became very vocal if I even went into a separate room for several weeks. Things have gotten better since then, but I am now very aware of how change affects them. I do everything I can to prepare them ahead of time if I anticipate a change in routine.

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