Cats are often thought of as solitary creatures that are happy in their own company. It’s not borne out by scientific research.
The fact is that as a domesticated companion species, cats come close to depending on the regular company of and interaction with us humans. Research also demonstrates that cats enjoy the companionship of their fellow felines and even dogs.
Researchers from Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences who monitored 24 pets with video cameras in their homes. The animals were aged from six months to 15 years. Their conclusion was that, like our dogs and indeed ourselves, cats can also suffer from separation anxiety.
When cats don’t get the stimulation and attention they require, behavioural problems associated with boredom, stress, loneliness and depression can quickly develop. It is more apparent with indoor cats than those that venture outside.
The households which are likely to have bigger problems are those who live with only one cat that lives exclusively indoors.
Determining whether your cat is unhappy involves paying close attention to the cat’s body language and watching for warning signs.
Cats that are lonely vocalise to attract attention and alert you to problems. If excessive meowing accompanies your return from work or from being away for another reason then you should take note – especially it continues after you’ve returned or until you have given your cat attention. Soft purring is different and is usually a signal of contentment.
Some cats can become aggressive when you are leaving them and when you return. Usually what can cause this is your cat’s frustration at being left with no company for long periods. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you will snap them back to their senses by ‘rewarding’ this behaviour with petting and treats, it would merely encourage them. Instead let your cat settle down and come round to accepting the situation of its own accord.
This aggression can manifest itself in cats scratching a lot. This is about trying to attract your attention and provoking a reaction. Lonely cats may also try to reveal their feelings by grooming and licking constantly. It is a common sign of stress, and calls for careful scrutiny.
Another stress indicator is if your cat loses its appetite or increases its food intake and demands for food. However, before assuming it is induced by loneliness, have your vet look your cat over. There may be other causes for this behavioural change.
Other common cries for help can include urinating or defecating in inappropriate places like spraying outside the litter tray, and increased lack of activity including prolonged periods of sleep.
To combat any of these warning signals and to improve your cat’s outlook and happiness, try providing plenty of opportunities for your cat to keep itself occupied during the day. There are some excellent interactive toys that cats find great fun, engaging a cat’s senses for extended periods.
Flashing balls and treat dispensers give your cat things to chase after, while a good scratching post will discourage inappropriate scratching and a climber will provide kitty with somewhere else to explore. Placing the climber next to a window will give you cat an excellent place from which to watch the world go by.
If feasible why not consider a second cat to keep your existing cat company. Many people find cats are much more relaxed and have increased confidence when they have a companion. In addition there are specialist products available that prevent conflict and promote calm, like Feliway Friends.
If you are going to be away and are worried that your cat will become stressed in your absence then Cats, Dogs & peace of Mind has been trusted to look after cats and other pets in their own homes since 1999. You can read about how we work and see what our many hundreds of customers have said about our service.