Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a well-documented psychological condition in which an individual experiences excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from those to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment. And while we usually think of separation anxiety in terms of pets being stressed about being separated from their guardians, I think it exists in reverse, too. For most of my adult life, I’ve felt anxious about traveling – and I actually like to travel. I enjoy a change of scenery, whether it’s visiting friends in familiar places, or whether it’s traveling to someplace I’ve never been before.
But traveling means leaving Allegra behind – and that’s something I’m never completely comfortable with. I’m pretty sure that many of you feel the same way.
I have the best cat sitter on the planet. Allegra adores my friend Rita, who comes to visit Allegra twice a day when I’m away. She doesn’t just feed her and scoop her litter box. She plays with Allegra (she has a special game that Allegra loves!) and gives her plenty of love and attention. She texts me after each visit to let me know how Allegra is doing, and she texts me photos. So obviously, there’s absolutely no reason for me to worry about Allegra, right? But I still do.
People who don’t understand what it’s like to love a cat may accuse me of having a co-dependent relationship with my cats. And maybe I do. I miss Allegra when I’m not home, but more than that, I worry about her being without human company for such long stretches of time in between Rita’s visits, because she’s so used to having me around all day, every day.
I know that she probably sleeps most of the day and night when I’m not home. She probably spends some time watching the goings on outside the windows. She probably doesn’t spend a lot, if any, time worrying about when I’m going to come home.
I’ve learned to cope better with being gone. Knowing that Allegra is in such good hands with Rita is a huge help. I try to let go of my need to be in control of the universe, and trust that she will be fine. And I connect with her energetically several times a day, sending her love and letting her know that I’ll be home soon.
I won’t let my separation anxiety stop me from traveling, but I rarely go away for more than three or four days at a time. I can’t remember the last time I’ve taken a real vacation of a week or more, the way I used to before I had cats. And while it sounds tempting at times to do that, I know I’d just be too anxious about being away from Allegra to really enjoy it.
So tell me: do you experience separation anxiety when you have to leave your cats? How do you handle it?
This post was first published in 2015 and has been updated.