This is a commentary on Dr. Sarah Wooten’s thoughts on lonely domestic cats and how they tell us that they are lonely (see video at base of article). How many domestic cats are lonely and bored? We don’t know. We should know. This topic gets mashed up with the idea that domestic cats sleep forever. You see it a lot on the internet: cat owners saying that their cat sleeps for 18 hours a day. Yes, they will if they are bored and lonely! The problem originates in the human-created environment. The underlying condition is separation anxiety.
Cats sort of shut down when left alone all day or stuck inside their caregiver’s home without sufficient stimulation. Shutting down means snoozing. Boredom leads to seeking stimulation; eating that tasty kibble coated with artificial, fatty flavours. Kibble (dry cat food) is high in carbs as it has to be to make it. This is a recipe for obesity. And it is being played out in developed countries as evidenced by an obesity epidemic say the vets.
So, the first signs of feline boredom due to loneliness are sleeping a lot and becoming fat.
Peeing outside of box
Being bored is stressful. That applies to cats and people. Stressed cats (anxious cats) seek reassurance to make them feel better which can sometimes means spraying. Stress can also mean peeing outside the litter box due to stress cystitis; bladder inflammation due to stress. Incidentally, dry cat food can exacerbate the chances of developing cystitis as it dehydrates. It is a combination effect.
Destructive feline behavior can be an attempt to alleviate boredom. Boredom is a corollary of loneliness. The one follows the other. Sometimes destructive behavior is a result of an attempt to self-entertain through a form of play. The objective is the same.
Cats that have been alone all day and lonely might be more vocal than normal towards their caregiver according to Dr Wooten. I agree but this extra vocalisation will subside quickly once the owner is around. And whether a cat is vocal or not in general depends on their character. Although they might be more active and more vocal at night when you are trying to sleep if they are lonely during the day.
The point here is that if a cat owner through no fault of their own is forced to neglect their cat during the day they may suffer the consequences during the night.
Loneliness may lead to acting out which in turn may lead to aggression. The idea here is that frustration leads to redirected aggression at their owner or other cats. Anxiety due to separation for long periods may lead to stressed behavior/aggression. I am unsure how common this is. It may be anthropomorphising cats.
Velcro cat – clinginess
Sometimes loneliness can lead to clingy behavior. This is a type of attention-seeking. It’ll depend on the cat’s character as to how they respond to loneliness and seeing their owner late in the day. My gut feel is that cats become subdued and a little depressed which means less active.
Well, the fundamental solution – which might be impractical – is to be around more for your cat. Getting another cat for company sounds hunky-dory but it may make things worse as cats are territorial and a new cat would normally be a stranger cat encroaching on their home range. But the basic premise that two cats are better than one if you are away a lot holds good provided the cats get along. I have a page on trying to maximise the chance of them getting along (click here). An enriched environment will help but ultimately it is about the owner being around and interacting. This begs the question whether the owner is in a position to meet that demand.