Separation anxiety happens when highly attached furbabies become upset and super-stressed when they’re left alone by their pet parents. It’s a serious condition and possibly one of the main reasons owners get frustrated with their pets and give them up. Anxiety in pets may be present in ways that owners might easily mistake for behavioral issues.

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Causes

There is no definite evidence showing exactly why dogs develop separation
anxiety. However, dogs who have been adopted from animal shelters will most
likely possess this stressful condition than those dogs who were kept by a single
family since puppyhood. Other less dramatic changes can also trigger this
disorder. Here are a list of situations that have been linked to the development of
separation anxiety:

  • Change of guardian or family
  • Change in pet parent’s schedule
  • Change in residence
  • Change in household membership

Common Signs and Symptoms


A dog who has separation anxiety shows a lot of stress when they’re left alone.
They might:

  • Urinate and defecate when left alone
  • Bark, howl and whine to excess when separated with their pet parents
  • Chew things up, dig holes, scratch at windows and doors, or destroy household objects
  • Drool, pant or salivate way more than usual
  • Pace, often in an obsessive pattern
  • Try to escape
  • Develop the condition known as Coprophagia, or when dogs defecate and then consume all or some of their excrement. In the situation of separation anxiety, the dog performs the behavior when the pet parent is not present.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine whether a dog has separation anxiety or not.
Some common behavior conditions can cause similar symptoms. Before concluding that your dog has this disorder, it’s important to rule out the following behavior problems:

  • Submissive or excitement urination. Some dogs may urinate during greetings, play, physical contact or when being punished.
  • Incomplete house training. A dog who occasionally urinates in the house might not be completely house trained.
  • Urine marking. Some dogs urinate in the house because they’re scent
    marking.
  • Juvenile destruction. Many young dogs engage in destructive chewing or digging while their pet parents are at home as well as when they’re away.
  • Boredom. Some dogs can be disruptive when left alone because they’re looking for something to do.
  • Excessive barking or howling. Some dogs bark or howl in response to various triggers in their environment.
  • Incontinence caused by medical problems. Some dogs’ house soiling is caused by incontinence, a medical condition in which a dog “leaks” or voids use of his bladder.
  • Medications. There are a number of medications that can cause frequent urination and house soiling in dogs.

Treatment

If your dog has a mild case of separation anxiety, these tips and tricks might help your furbaby:

  • Give your dog a special treat each time you leave. Try giving your pup a KONG® or puzzle toy stuffed with something really tasty that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish. Only give them this treat when you’re gone, and take it away when you get home.

 Kong Toy Flipz Treat Dispenser Large

 

  • Make your entries and exits low-key without a lot of greeting. Ignore your furbaby for the first few minutes after you get home.

 

  • Leave some recently worn clothes out that has the scent or smell like you.

 

  • Consider giving your pet natural calming supplements.

 Ark Naturals Happy Traveler Soft Chews 1.98oz

 

For serious cases, you’ll slowly need to get your dog used to your absence. Here are some departure techniques that you could do to train your dog:

  1. Your dog may start to get anxious when he sees signs that you’re about to leave. So do those - putting on your shoes or picking up keys - but don’t leave. Sit on a table or watch a TV instead. Expose your dog to these cues in various orders several times a day.
  2. When your dog starts to feel less anxious about these cues, you can now train him to perform out-of-sight stays by using an inside door in your home. You can teach your pup to sit and stay while you go to the other side of the door. Slowly increase the amount of time you wait on the other side of the door, out of your dog’s sight. You can also work on getting your dog used to the aforementioned cues as you practice the stay. For example, pick up your keys and ask your pup to stay while you go into another room.
  3. As your dog gets used to the “stay game”, increase the length of time that you’re gone. Then transition into using an outside door in your home, but not the same one you go out to every day. Make sure your pup is relaxed before you leave.
  4. Gradually build up the time until you can leave the house for a few minutes, then stay away for longer periods.

Only you can tell if your pup is ready to be left alone for longer periods. Don’t rush things and always act calm when you leave and when you return.


It’s also key to work your furbaby’s mind and body. Make sure to give your dog lots of exercise everyday. Challenge your pet’s mind by playing training games or using interactive puzzles. A tired, happy dog will be less stressed when you leave.

 

Separation Anxiety in Cats

Causes

It is not known what causes separation anxiety in felines. It has been speculated that there may be both genetic and environmental factors involved. Genetic factors include emotional sensitivity and a predisposition towards anxiety. Certain oriental breeds, such as Siamese and Burmese cats, may be more susceptible to develop separation anxiety than cats with robust temperaments, like Maine Coons. Environmental factors often involve improper bonding experiences when cats are young.

 

Common Signs and Symptoms

Here are some signs of separation anxiety in cats:

  • Over-attachment to the pet parent. Cats began following their owners from room to room around the house.
  • Pre-departure anxiety. Cats shows signs of distress as the owner prepares to depart.
  • Excessive vocalization. Crying, moaning or meowing right after the owner has left. 
  • Anorexia. Cat is not eating or drinking while the pet parent is away.
  • Inappropriate elimination. Often in the form of urine marking, though fecal marking may also occur.
  • Vomiting. Often occurs when the pet parent is away. Food or hair are often contained in the vomit.
  • Excessive self-grooming. This starts as a displacement behavior but can progress to compulsive self-grooming if unchecked.
  • Destructive behavior. Some cats may claw and scratch door edges presumably in an attempt to escape from their solitary confinement.
  • Exuberant greeting behavior. Occurs when the owner returns home.

Treatment

If your furry feline is showing signs of separation anxiety, here are some things
that you can do:

  • Provide perches or climbing frames that are positioned strategically across or close to the window, so your cat has a good view of the outside world.

 

  • Place food or kibble in an activity ball that will make your cat work to get the food out.

Kong Cat Toy Puzzlements Pockets

  • Give your cat an assortment of mobile toys enhanced with catnip.

Kong Cat Toy Crackles Scoopz

  • Hide food throughout the house so your cat has to find it.
  • Leave the radio or television on, tuned to your usual station.
  • Spend at least 10 minutes daily playing with your cat.
  • Use environmental pheromone therapy such as Feliway to help reduce anxiety.

Comfort Zone Cat Calming Spray and Scratch Control 2oz

 

 

If your furbaby still has problems after you have enriched the environment and incorporated playtime in their routines, please see your veterinarian for further advice.

Sources:
https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/separation-anxiety
https://pets.webmd.com/dogs-separation-anxiety#1
https://www.petplace.com/article/cats/pet-behavior-training/separationanxiety-in-cats/
https://www.medicanimal.com/Understanding-Separation-Anxiety-In-Cats/a/ART111499