Do cats get lonely?

Can cats be lonely? Yes.

Yes, cats do get lonely despite the fact that people think that domestic cats are solitary animals. Cats get lonely in the context that they miss their human companion or if they have a cat companion they might miss him/her. It is loneliness as a form of separation anxiety.

The word “lonely” might not be 100% applicable to a domestic cat because it is a word formulated for human use. It means to be sad because one has no friends or company. I think we can conclude that cats certainly miss the company of their human companion if they are not around for a long time during the day.

And also, if two cats have lived together for a long time and one of them dies, the remaining cat will feel that loss. Loneliness is an emotional state and humans are realising that cats feel emotions just like themselves. We are still discovering the variety and depth of emotions in domestic cats but thankfully we now accept that cats do feel emotions which must be good for cat welfare.

Cat loneliness can lead to stress just as in humans. It can be debilitating and it can affect health. For example, a cat can develop cystitis due to stress. A domestic cat might overgroom to relieve stress. When a cat overgrooms it is usually in areas of the body which are easily accessible such as on the belly and on the insides of the hind legs.

Cat owners don’t know what their cat is doing or feeling when they are away from their home for long periods. If they knew they might be surprised. Certainly, dogs are known to show behavioural distress when left alone in the home for long hours.

The domestic cat is adapted to social living and they need our company. When it’s not there they miss it. You can call that loneliness if you like.

What do you think? Do you have any experiences of cats being lonely?

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Do cats get lonely? — 10 Comments

  1. When Abby was the only cat in the house, I could tell she missed me. She’d be at the door the moment I walked in and wouldn’t leave me alone for hours. When Shadow joined the brood, Abby was initially very ‘hissy’ – she was the Diva and considered Shadow the interloper. Upon coming home, they both were at the door, but Abby made sure she was in front; she was a bit of a bully that way. Over time, they got used to each other and assimilated nicely; now they’re both at the door but side-by-side. Sometimes in the night, I’d hear Abby meowing that lonely sound. I’d call her name and she’d come running and jump on the bed. After a bit of fussing up, she’d settle down and go back to sleep. Separation anxiety? Perhaps. Shadow doesn’t say much, his meow is mostly like a squeak. He started doing the same as Abby in the middle of the night. The only difference is when I called his name, he’d jump on the bed and stay there at the foot. After a couple hours, he’d jump back down and find a spot in the other room on a cat tree, or couch. They also follow from room-to-room if I’m gone for any length of time so I guess they miss me…either that, or expect me to feed them every time I go in the kitchen. (It doesn’t happen, but they keep trying, lol!)

    • They miss you. I believe that all cat owners need to be aware of how their cats miss them when they are away all day. The cat owner may have no choice. For years when I was working I left my cats alone all day. I feel bad about it now. I am with him all day most days nowadays.

  2. I hired a pet sitter while away on vacation a few weeks ago. She sent texts letting me know how my cat was doing. Most days the pet sitter only saw signs of my cat such as litter box usage and food being eaten until the day before we went home, then the pet sitter spotted her from a safe place at the top of the stairs, when the pet sitter got about halfway up the stairs my cat bolted. I put 3 felliway diffusers in, unwashed clothes on her pet bed, left some lights on, blinds up so she could still dee outside, low volume music, etc. and she still hid. Obviously cats miss their humans and have emotions. When I returned she stayed practically glued to my side for days and would freak if I moved. She was back to normal after a week. Our next vacation is twice as long so I am worried about her but I also do not want to never take another vacation for the rest of her life. It is a dilemna.

    • Michele, perhaps prior to going on vacation the next time, you may want to consider inviting your cat’s caretaker over for a couple of weeks for the cat to get used to their presence. It may also help to have something with the caretaker’s scent on it (pillow case, towel, etc.) left around the house for a couple weeks prior to vacation so your cat gets used to that person’s scent. It works for dogs; it just may work for cats. Good luck!

    • Michele don’t talk about vacations 😉 I just don’t want to leave my boy because I am his entire life. I feel what he feels and I know he’ll be very upset if I go on vacation. I have not been on vacation for around 12 years 🙂

      • I totally get it Michael, I had anxiety attacks while we were away. I missed her as much as she missed me. I was supposed to board her for solo trip to see family and I cancelled it. My partner did not want to take care of her and even though it is one of the fancy cat hotels with a three level “condo” I was scared that she could get sick from the stress since she hid in her own house for the first vacation. I would never get over it if she became ill while I was away.

        • Yes, absolutely yes, even when I am out for say five hours going to London at an unusual time, I think of him. I think this is where we and people like us are different to people who have a less connected relationship with animals. We empathise. We can feel what they feel. The origins of that sensitivity would be a topic for discussion.

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