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Separation Anxiety in Cats and Dogs


Stress and Anxiety

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a condition that affects both cats and dogs.  When a pet experiences separation anxiety, it has feelings of anxiousness when away from the pet owner.  Typically, the pet exhibits both physical and psychological signs.  Other animals, such as monkeys, horses, birds, and whales, also experience separation anxiety when away from the pack because they are genetically programmed to live with others.

Problems with Separation Anxiety

Behaviour issues are the main reason pet owners have their animals euthanized.  This is because pet owners become frustrated by the behavior.  Pets suffering from separation anxiety often exhibit behaviors that are undesirable to pet owners.

The first step toward preventing separation anxiety is to recognize the problem.  The behaviors associated with separation anxiety will not go away on their own.  In fact, the behaviors tend to get worse if they are ignored rather than better.  In addition, this anxiety ultimately leads to physical illnesses.  For most pets, the symptoms of separation anxiety are at their worse during the first 15 minutes after the owner leaves.  The symptoms can, however, persist during the entire time the owner is away.


Barbering, also called psychogenic grooming, is another response to separation anxiety.  When a pet engages in barbering, it repeatedly and compulsively grooms and pulls out hair and creates bald patches.  These bald patches are never located on the head or neck of the pet.  Instead, these patches are located on the flanks, the hind limbs, and the belly where the pet can easily reach.

Coping with Separation Anxiety

Some pet owners attempt to relieve separation anxiety by adding another cat or dog to the household.  In fact, dogs and cats in households with other dogs and cats are just as likely to experience separation anxiety as those that are the only pet in the house.  This is because the anxiety is caused by the separation from the owner, not just because the pet is lonely.  At the same time, pets can experience separation anxiety when kept apart from other animal companions, but this is a separate issue.

Some pets will cope better with separation anxiety by being boarded in a kennel.  On the other hand, boarding can cause a pet that never experience separation anxiety to suddenly begin experiencing the problem.  To help prevent separation anxiety, whether at home or at a boarding kennel, it is best to start staying away from the pet for short periods of time before leaving the pet alone for long periods of time.