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Cats Get Separation Anxiety, Too

WEDNESDAY, April 15, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Here's a little secret from your favorite feline: Even if he acts aloof when you're around, he really doesn't like it when you're away.

Turns out that more than 1 in 10 felines have separation issues, according to a surprising new study out of Brazil.

Many studies have investigated separation problems in dogs, but none have looked at cats. While it's often believed that cats are independent and fine being on their own for long periods, they're actually very social creatures who develop bonds with their owners, researchers report.

They asked 130 people to answer questions for each cat in their household, resulting in 223 completed questionnaires.

The responses revealed that that 13.5% of the cats (30 out of 223) met at least one benchmark for separation anxiety -- with destructive behavior the most common, reported in 20 of the 30 cats.

Other separation-related problems included: excessive vocalization (19 cats); inappropriate urination (18); depression-apathy (16); aggressiveness or agitation and anxiety (11 each); and inappropriate defecation (7 cats).

The cats with separation anxiety lived with 18- to 35-year-olds and didn't have toys or another animal to play with.

The study was published April 15 in the journal PLoS One.

Lead researcher Daiana de Souza Machado, of Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora in Sao Paulo, and colleagues said the findings are a starting point. They're limited by owners' interpretation of cats' actions in their absence and need to be confirmed by direct observation, she added in a journal news release.

For example, scratching on surfaces is normal in cats, though some owners may consider it destructive.

But the study is a starting point and suggests that certain measures, such as providing toys, could help cats cope with separation issues.

More information

Smithsonian.com has more about the bonds between cats and people.

SOURCE: PLoS One, news release, April 15, 2020

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