Feline Separation Anxiety
Diagnosing FSA and how to treat it.
Despite their reputation for independence, cats are actually social creatures that may form close relationships with people and other pets. And some cats can become extremely anxious when their human or animal companion is absent, a condition known as feline separation anxiety (FSA).
Signs of FSA
Signs of FSA include eliminating outside of the litterbox, meowing or vocalizing excessively, and scratching or over-grooming that results in hair loss. When caused by FSA, the behaviors will only occur when the cat is alone. For example, a cat with FSA may meow all day while her owner is at work but barely meow at all when the owner returns home. Similarly, a cat with FSA may only exhibit inappropriate elimination when her owners are away on a trip.
Getting a diagnosis
Your veterinarian will determine if your cat has FSA. So if you suspect your cat is experiencing separation anxiety, schedule an appointment. Your veterinarian will ask you questions and perform tests to rule out medical problems before diagnosing your cat with FSA. For example, kidney disease or a urinary tract infection may cause your cat to urinate outside of the litterbox. Similarly, cats may vocalize due to physical pain or excessively lick themselves if suffering from allergies.
Caught on tape
Your vet may even ask you to videotape your cat when you’re away. It’s one of the best ways to determine the underlying cause of your cat’s behavior problem and to increase the likelihood of successful treatment. Video recording helps you and your vet determine whether specific events (such as seeing another cat through the window) rather than your absence trigger unwanted behavior.
If your vet diagnoses your cat with FSA, he or she may recommend a treatment plan or refer you to a feline behavior specialist. Treatment plans can include environmental enrichment, pheromone treatment, reward-based training to create a positive association with your absence and deterrents to prevent your cat from exhibiting destructive behavior. In some cases, adopting a second cat or anti-anxiety medication may also help. Your vet or behavior specialist will help determine which treatment path is best for your cat.