We should be aware of what our cat gets up to when alone at home. The video below is a tough one to watch. There is no violence, just nothing but transparent loneliness and obvious separation anxiety. Heartbreaking.
I was reading about a British, Channel 4 television program1. It concluded that an estimated one in four of the 8 million dogs in Britain became “deeply unhappy when left home alone”. That is 2 million upset dogs on a daily basis in the UK. It makes you think.
The program is not yet released but it got me thinking again about cats. I believe that cats are just as likely to be upset about being at home alone. The video above is an example.
Comments on YouTube under the video are like these:
“Many people seem to think cats are solitary animals but it just isn’t so. My cat is my constant companion.
wow i cried. His voice is like hello? hello? hey open it up plz/ Hello?
I stumbled on this video when searching online for ways to comfort my cat while I’m at work. It made me want to leave work and go home right now…”
I feel guilty and bad when I see this video. When I was working full-time while living alone I left my cat, Binnie, alone all day. As I worked as a locum I was able to take long periods off work and be with her all the time during those months. Ironically, that may have heightened her unhappiness when I was working.
The problem was that I didn’t know if she was unhappy when I was away. However, I believe that as she got older she become more stressed with being alone. It upsets me to think about it. At the time I was not so intune with a cat’s needs and feelings.
I am far more “cat-aware” these days, which confirms what we on PoC constantly return to: good cat caretaking is about education. Today, I am cat educated. It was not always like that.
A worry for all cat caretakers who are absent all day is that (a) we don’t know what our cat (or dog) is doing when we are away and (b) even when a cat or a dog is quiet and looks content, he may be stressed. The signs of stress may not be the ones we expect to see.
Cat stress can be shown in urinary tract disease such as cystitis, which leads to inappropriate urination and OCD such as overgrooming. As for dogs they can self-harm, bark, yelp and urinate when stressed because of separation anxiety1.
Dogs can be left at a canine centre if one is available. I would expect them to be rare.
One other aspect of modern life, which results in cats being left home alone for long periods is that the cat’s owner has no choice. If the person, through education about cats, becomes sensitive to her cat’s needs and stresses caused by being alone, she may relinquish her cat. That is an undesirable alternative.
The video below shows the RSPCA’s former chief vet Mark Evens setting up cameras in his home to see what his dog gets up to when he is away.
Important note: Marc, a important member of the PoC family works hard and has to leave his cats at home. Message to Marc: Don’t be upset by this article. I know you do a great job to overcome the problems of being forceably separated because of work commitments (Marc uses computer systems to monitor his cats and he knows what they get up to).
The first step is to know what your cat is doing when you are away. We cannot make the assumption that cats are loners and solitary and therefore content to be alone. Domestic cats have evolved into fairly sociable animals and we, their carerakers, are their best buddies. They will probably miss us when we are working our butts off trying to get on at work.
Many people keep more than one cat to provide company. I am sure this helps. Cat buddies should be chosen with care to ensure they get along otherwise it is just another stressor. Letting a cat explore safely outdoors (cation or cat enclosure for example) is also another way to alleviate stress in a home alone cat.
I feel guilty and sad writing this and while watching the video at the top of the page.
Ref: 1. Sunday Times