Categories: separation anxiety

Is it fair on our cats to leave them alone all day?

Kodi misses his human guardian very much

Do cat owners know what their cat is up to when they are away at work all day? Do they think about it? Does it concern them?

This video of Kodi provides an insight into how some cats respond to their human companion leaving for work all day. How common is this form of feline behavior? Perhaps we need a study.

As you can see at the beginning of the video, Kodi has a cat companion but it does not stop him pacing by the front door with his comfort toy in his mouth for what seems like hours every day. A reporter describes Kodi as ‘clingy’. This is untrue.

His ‘owner’ is considerate and concerned and I guess can’t do anything about it but make a video showing Kodi’s distress.

This is called separation anxiety. Most cat owners have heard about it. It is stressful. It can result in stress related diseases such as cystitis.

An example of cat domestication failure

The video is sad. But this scene must happen millions of times daily across countless number of countries. Do you think we – humans in general – are doing enough to get cat domestication right?

Without wishing to be too pessimistic and negative, is this another failure of humans in the domestication of the cat?

Other ‘failures’ are declawing, feral cats, unwanted cats, cat abuse, cat meat, cat fur, extreme cat breeding, cat hoarding. There are other examples.

I failed when I was working

I am as much to blame as anyone else. When I was working I left my full-time indoor cat at home all day. I had hard days. I felt bad about it and she’d be there at the front door when I came home, curled up waiting patiently. It was heartbreaking. Although, fortunately I was able to take long breaks from work as I was a locum.

However, I was not doing a good enough job as a cat caretaker. Is Kodi’s problem a sign of cat domestication failure? The problem is that there is no solution for cat owners who work full time and live alone. And single people living alone are more likely to adopt a cat thinking that cats are self-sufficient and able to tolerate being alone all day. I am sure that is true.

Worse for dogs?

I have the impression that dogs suffer more than cats with separation anxiety. I don’t think it is good enough. We need to do something to resolve this.

Is it fair to say that single people who are away from home all day should not be allowed to ‘own’ a cat? Having two cats is not an automatic solution if one of them misses his human companion.

The books I have hardly mention separation anxiety in cats. But surely this is a big hidden problem that needs to be addressed.

Here’s a couple of comments to the video:

Turn on the radio by Erin Uber:

“I did petsitting for about 30 years. Some of my friends had dogs and cats who had severe separation anxiety. For some of them, turning on the radio when they left really comforted the pets, either to music or talk radio. You might try it, and see if it helps Kodi feel more at ease when you have to leave. Best wishes to you, and to Shorty and Kodi also!”

A story about a feral cat missing her caretaker:

“Many many years ago, a feral cat and her kittens appeared in my family’s garden. At first she was really terrified and aggressive, but after a few weeks, she got vagely used to us. A few months after she appeared, my mom and I went on vacation and we asked a neighbour to look after her. Upon our return, the cat was gone. The neighbour told us that she had been sitting in the garden, looking through the windows and searching for us. A little while later, she returned, but every time I talked to her after that, she would just turn her back on me and hide. I would never have thought that a feral cat would sulk so hard just for being left alone a few days! I think this is the best example that cats don’t just care about the food we provide to them.

In the years after that, she grew into the happiest, chattiest outdoor cat you can imagine, always glad to start a conversation with you.”

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • Poor Kodi, he is very anxious, very sad.

    At night when we go to bed one of our cats keens a little, seeks out one of many knitted, stuffed ball toys (we call them 'woolly babies') and he brings them onto the bed. Then he settles for the night.

    I have wondered if whoever he lived with before he was stray, may have died at home in bed. We always speak softly to him when he does this. He has always done it. It is a definite anxiety.

    Whenever we go out, we leave BBC Radio 4 on burbling away in the kitchen or bedroom. Both seem to like this. The World Service works too.

    Often both are asleep in the same position we left them in, when we get back home. Leaving the radio on also makes it less certain for any potentially, intruding cat haters, that no human is home.

    I do believe that many domesticated companions suffer quite badly when left alone. I include the smaller ones, like rabbits and rodents there too.

    Ferals get acclimatised and attached to their carers too, so I am not surprised by the garden feral being upset by the regular carer going away. I don't think it is sulking, I think it is anxiety. An insecurity due to a shocking change of routine. No being likes abandonment, even if they understand it is temporary.

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