Most cats can handle their owners taking a well earned break every now and then but some cats find this separation extremely stressful. I have seen several cases of this kind of anxiety in clients’ cats and it is upsetting to watch and also very hard for me as a cat sitter to do my job. In some severe cases the cat will react aggressively.
Feline separation anxiety generally occurs with cats that do not see many people outside of their owners and have a very close and strong bond with them. Another contributing factor is if they were not properly socialised as a kitten or were weaned too early. They can be the sweetest cats to their owners but can turn into a completely different cat with the owner gone. It is generally a huge surprise when I have to tell the owner how their cat suddenly turned into Lucifer. Cats can sometimes start to pull their hair out due to separation anxiety, and will sometimes be sick, urinate & defecate outside of their litter & appear withdrawn.
How to cope with feline separation anxiety
It’s important to be sure that the cat’s behaviour is not due to an underlying physical problem. For example, a cat which is urinating outside the litter box and/or doing a lot of howling may be developing a urinary tract obstruction or infection.
If this has been ruled out and you suspect that your cat has anxiety issues or territorial aggression (see next chapter) the best thing to do is invest in Feliway diffusers which can be plugged into mains sockets around the home. It’s most effective to do this is at least 2 weeks before you employ a cat sitter.
To quote from their web site
Feliway diffusers are used to restore your cat to a natural balance. The Feliway diffuser is a safe solution of feline facial pheromone, which mimics the cat’s natural pheromones, creating a state of well-being and calm and is distributed around the house using a plug-in”. Also, be honest with your sitter and explain that your cat may act in this way so that the sitter can make an informed decision on whether to take your cat on. The sitter may also want to do some pre-sits with you present to try to win the cat’s trust before you leave.
Make sure you leave some old clothes or night wear out that smell heavily of you.
Leave plenty of catty stimulation around the home for your cat to play with.
Take steps to get your cat used to you leaving the home by ignoring your cat 15 mins prior to leaving or entering the home.
If you are unsure if your cat suffers from feline separation anxiety or you need any further help by way of a cat behaviour consultation please email Anita Kelsey, London Based Board Certified Animal Behaviourist, on firstname.lastname@example.org