The Purr Company Mews-Letter - May 2007
Hi and welcome to the May Mews-letter.
We've got some great stuff for you this month, including a fascinating
article on separation anxiety in cats. I wasn't certain there was such
a thing in cats, although I have occasionally suspected Rags had a mild
case. After reading this article I'm sure he has, so the advice in this
article is already being implemented here; I'll let you know how it goes.
We've also got a letter from reader Bronnie, who is having some problems
with Eddie and Millie, I'm hoping some of you can chip in some advice
Anyway, enough waffle from me, I hope you enjoy this edition.
- Separation Anxiety
- Readers Letters
- Special offer - Free Bottle of Purr
- Website of the month - Pets Weekly
1. Separation Anxiety
Drs. Foster & Smith Veterinary Services Department
Many people are familiar with separation anxiety in dogs, but assume
it does not occur in cats. However, recent research by veterinary behaviorists
suggests that separation anxiety may also develop in cats. Contrary to
what had often been thought in the past, cats are actually very social
creatures and can form strong bonds with people and with other animals.
While there is certainly more research to be done in this area, this
syndrome could be an important consideration for those dealing with anxiety-related
feline behavior problems.
What are the signs of separation anxiety in cats?
Signs of separation anxiety in cats may occur when the cat is separated
from its owner or another companion pet with whom it has a strong bond.
A cat with separation anxiety may insist on being with the owner at all
times, even following the owner from room to room. When the owner gets
ready to leave the house, the cat may sulk and hide, or try to get between
the owner and the door. When the owner returns, the cat may show an abnormally
Some of the behavioral problems triggered by separation anxiety in cats
are the same as those seen in dogs: vocalizing after the owner leaves,
inappropriate urination or defecation (sometimes near a door or on the
owner's personal items), and, less often, destructiveness (chewing, scratching).
Cats may also show their distress in other, less obvious ways such as
becoming too anxious to eat when left alone; or vomiting only when the
owner is not there. A less common sign in cats may be excessive grooming,
to the point of creating a bald spot on one or two areas of the body.
What causes separation anxiety?
It is not known for sure what causes separation anxiety in cats. It
has been speculated that there may be both genetic and environmental
factors involved. Being orphaned or being weaned early may predispose
a kitten to developing separation anxiety. While future research will
give us more information, for now, the best prevention is to try to start
out with a kitten that is well-socialized and thus hopefully will be
less likely to develop behavior problems of any type.
What should I do if I suspect my cat has separation anxiety?
The first step is to discuss the situation with your veterinarian and
have your cat undergo a complete physical examination. It is important
to make sure that your cat's behavior 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. A cat that is over-grooming may have a food allergy. Your
veterinarian may recommend some tests including a complete blood count,
a chemistry profile, urinalysis, thyroid testing, or a blood pressure
check. Because separation anxiety in cats is just beginning to be studied,
you may find it helpful to work with an animal behaviorist, who can help
you to rule out other types of anxiety-related behaviors.
How is separation anxiety treated?
In dogs, the most effective therapy for separation anxiety often involves
a combination of behavior modification and anti-anxiety medication. It
is likely that this would be true in the case of cats as well.
It may be possible to make the time surrounding the owner's departure
less stressful for the cat, by making some changes in the normal routine.
For 15 minutes prior to leaving and upon returning home, the owner should
ignore the cat. Leaving a distracting toy can be helpful. An empty toilet
paper roll with the ends closed off and holes in the sides can be filled
with various types and sizes of treats, which will fall out as the cat
plays with the roll. There are also commercial food-dispensing toys available
which are used in similar ways, e.g., Kongs and Buster Cubes. Another
option is to hide very tasty food treats (cooked chicken) in various
places in the house. Other toys the cat especially likes should be taken
out just before the owner leaves and put away once the owner returns.
When the owner returns, the cat should basically be ignored for approximately
Making the cat's environment more stimulating may help, also. A comfortable
perch that allows a view from a window can provide entertainment, especially
if there is a bird feeder in sight. Climbing ledges or carpeted towers
with attached toys can be fun also. Leaving a radio or TV on softly can
be comforting; some cats enjoy "cat videos" with sounds and
pictures of birds and other small creatures. Some cats may be less anxious
with another animal in the house, but this depends on the individual
cat and may or may not be a good solution.
In some cases, anti-anxiety medication may also be needed for a short
time period. These medications may include Buspar, Prozac, and Clomicalm.
These are not labeled specifically for use in cats, and their use must
be prescribed and monitored by your veterinarian.
Future research will give us more information about the incidence, cause,
and treatment of separation anxiety in cats, and help us to make life
better for our feline friends.
References and Further Reading
- Dodman, N. The Cat Who Cried for Help. Bantam Books. New York, New
- Frank, D. Feline Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: Chewing, Licking,
Biting. Presented at the 2001 North American Veterinary Conference.
- Schwartz, S. Separation anxiety syndrome in cats: 136 cases. Journal
of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2002; 220: 1028-1033.
- Stevenson, E. Ontario Veterinary Medical Association. Separation
anxiety. Menagerie Magazine. June 1998.
2. Readers Letters
Regular readers will know that from time to time we publish some of
the many fascinating letters and emails we get from our readers. We're
always delighted and surprised by the responses when we publish them,
so we'd like to know what you think about this.
Do you find that Purr helps your 5 cats get on together better ?? We have a
cat and a kitten which use to get on brilliantly and now all the cat Eddie
does is hiss and growl at little Millie and us all the time. They are both
neutered and I'm hoping that using Purr in the right places may calm him down
a bit. What do you think ?
Thanks for your email Bronnie
I'm not sure if Purr helps ours get on with each other as they get on
pretty well most of the time anyway, but I do think the relaxed mood
after Purr has therapeutic benefits, just as relaxing does for us. (If
you decide to try Purr, please make sure to give it to them separately
as there can be arguments over who gets which toy!)
That said, it sounds like the problem is that Eddie is suffering from
some sort of anxiety. Your vet should be able to give you some good advice,
but failing that they are sure to know a good behavioural psychologist
who could help. I also recommend the books by Vicky Hall, I especially
enjoyed Cat Confidential, which is a great guide to how cats think and
a great aid in working out what they might be upset about.
It's also worth joining the message boards at Catsey.com as they have
loads of highly knowledgeable people there who are always willing
to help. (You'll also probably encounter Sam, who regularly posts there)
We hope this helps Bronnie, Eddie and Millie, but several hundred heads
have got to be better than one so let me know if you have anything to add.
I look forward to hearing some of the great ideas our highly knowledgeable readers
3. Special offer - Ended
Pets Weekly is a website started and run by published author Stacy Mantle.
Featuring all pets including loads of info about cats, this site offers
advice, entertainment and fascination for anyone who is interested in
their animals, be they cats or otherwise.
The design of the site is pretty good, although maybe a little too busy,
but to be fair with this much info it would be hard not to make it busy.
There are sections on just about every pet related topic from toys and
other products, to caring for animals, to animal charities, to bereavement,
you name it and it's here.
My favourite section has to be The Veterinary Viewpoint, which features
letters from their visitors and responses from Dr. Diego Fernando Florez
from Aztec Animal Hospital http://www.aztecanimalhospital.net/ – this
is a fascinating collection of the concerns of regular pet owners and
responses from someone who really does know his stuff.
The only slightly annoying thing about the site is that a lot of the
links open a new window, and I had to spend time closing them every time
I'd looked at a few pages.
Over all, this is a really excellent site and it's been added to my favourites,
I highly recommend a visit.
That's all until next time, thank you for reading.