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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.

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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.

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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?

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This post was first published in 2015 and has been updated.

249 Comments on Do You Suffer from Separation Anxiety When You Have to Leave Your Cat?

  1. I don’t trust anyone else to take care of Tasha. She has problems with chronic constipation and needs her meds twice a day. A tablet and a slurry of Miralax. I had to deal with constipation issues and it was on the weekend and going to emergency vets and traveling. I don’ want to ever have to go thru that ordeal again. I’d rather stay home and be with my girl.

    • I only go into the office once day a week now, but I still worry about my cat OJ while I’m away from home. I know (based on what comes out of the litter box) that he eats less when I’m not there. I’ve wondered about getting him an interactive toy to entertain him while I’m away but don’t know if he would really enjoy that. I didn’t used to worry so much about my cats until the Marshal Fire last year when so many people lost pets because they were at work when the wildfire broke out and couldn’t get home to rescue them. Maybe I just a worry wart. LOL

  2. Ramses has very special dietary needs and is a very “people oriented” cat. (I also have a TON of plants which need looking after on a daily basis, but that’s another story.) It would be POSSIBLE to have someone come over twice daily to care for his needs, but…

    Unfortunately, I encountered a story where a man’s cat was terrorized and tortured by a handyman hired by the owner of the property to do some repairs inside the apartment. The cat’s owner came home to blood and feces everywhere and his poor kitty was barely alive. The cat did not make it. The good news (if there is any) is that an online petition received enough signatures to have that evil handyman arrested. May the deed that he did come back to him a thousand times over.

    Although I understand this is a rare occurrence, I would not be able to put this horrific incident out of my head. Since I hate to travel anyway,. taking Ramses with us for an overnight stay would be my only option.

  3. I never really thought about it being separation anxiety, but I guess it is. I just always felt guilty for leaving my cats home alone. I used to even feel bad when I would be gone all day and their dinner would be late. We’re usually home most of the time now and only gone for a couple of hours at a time. I haven’t had a vacation or even a weekend away from home in about 15 years. When I did, my neighbor would always come by to feed my furry kiddos.

    • I’ve had bad luck, I’ve lost two cats pretty much right after I got back from vacation, even with the sitter, so now I’m terrified to leave them. Especially if one of them is older or sick. It really is a terrible thing. That the whole time I’m gone I’m just thinking about them. I don’t really know the solution, I’ve come up with a variety of ideas but it still stresses me out.

      • I am so sorry to hear this. it’s definitely not the way to end a getaway. My husband and I actually canceled going to his brother’s wedding when Pono was so sick. We lost him a couple weeks later. His family never forgave us for not going to the wedding and now none of his family talks to us. Our cats are our kids and there was no way we were going to leave them alone (especially a sick one).

        • Unfortunately not everyone is an animal person; however, the fact that his family won’t talk to you because of this just shows how petty and childish they are.

          • M, I totally agree. His brother has always pawned his older dogs off onto his mom because he didn’t want to care for them when they got older.

  4. I don’t leave my cats with no one I trust no one! I haven’t taken a vacation in eons. I even make sure I am home for thunderstorms, Halloween and firework time. Sir Tiger takes at least 3 too 4 days too recover from the fireworks.

    • Sir Tiger!! Love that name. To tell the truth, the best vacation is sitting at home with my cats!
      But sometimes you have to go, I just leave a detailed list for the sitter, and I request pictures of the kitties every day. Hopefully they are all young and healthy and don’t bolt out the door. But it is nerve-racking.

      • Thank you. I had too go into the hospital beginning of last year my son was here but some of my friends came here too check on both of them.

  5. This article and shared experiences from other paw parents made me feel at ease. It’s an honour to be surrounded by a global community who understands your sentiments so well.

    Recently I lost my business due to Covid and in the midst of that challenge, I was fortunate to adopt 2 beautiful amazing kittens. They’re my pillar of strength. Over the past 6 months, our bond grew stronger and stronger. Road trips, camping, picnic, beach walk and many more with my 2 adorable fur sweethearts. Inclusivity in most activities, even in shower (I hope I’m not the only one :p)

    Like all of you, I’ve several symptoms of separation anxiety to the point that I would think of them during savasana in yoga. Aiyaiyai…I just can’t wait to return to them.

    I was reflecting on my reactions and surprised to discover my anxiety noting that I was fiercely independent before I had them. So I assumed there was something wrong with me or was it due to first pet syndrome, however this article and platform to share our vulnerabilities around our fur babies helped me regain my balance. Thank you all for we are all in this together. We’re normal loving individuals and we’ll continue to find ways to develop healthy ways in coping with our separation anxiety. Love from Melbourne, Australia.

  6. My Lily and I became very attached when I was at home for 20 months, but recently I’ve had the opportunity to visit family for a few days at a time.

    I feel very sad leaving her, my landlord watches her while I’m away but she says Lily is sad when I’m away, which doesn’t help my sadness.

    I give her lots of love and cuddles when I get home.

  7. I’m in between homes and am living in a tiny apartment without my babies. Although they are staying in a loving environment with my parents I miss them so very much and visit them every chance I get, even if it’s brief. It’s funny how I’m the one with the separation anxiety!

  8. I have two gorgeous sons that live in indonesia whilst I live in Australia. I just moved back to Australia like a year ago for work and I’ve only gone and visited the boys twice.

    I’m constantly anxious about leaving them, and whenever I have to go back, it’s driving me nuts and my anxiety kicks in.

    They’re used to it because before this I went to work in Malaysia for a year and always come back home to them every month.

    They’re in good hands, they live at my house with the maids taking care of them, and I have my sisters come in and checked on them. We always video calls every few days, but that doesn’t help much

    I wanted to bring them every time I moved away, but the laws and policies is such a pain, not to mention it’s very expensive to get them to Australia

    I’ve always been with them almost 24/7 before so we have formed an unbreakable form of attachment and a lot of people don’t get it but we can have separation anxiety with the cats too. whenever I came home, I don’t go out and spent too much time outside, instead I stayed at home with the kids.

    And Thomas, my youngest he has fear of thunder and whenever it’s raining he’s very anxious and it’s making me hyperventilate whenever I think about how no ones will comfort him when I’m gone during thunderstorms. He will wait in front of the door for someone to let him out so he can hide in the other room where he can’t hear the storms.

    I don’t know what to do and how to cope with this. Any thoughts or recommendations?

    • I don’t even know what to say… it must rip your heart out when there is a thunder storm and your poor babies. Can your maids and sisters send you photos every day? I know that sounds crazy and like a lot, but that would help me. Truth is I couldn’t do it. When can you move back? I can’t imagine being away for a year. I can’t even handle a day.

      • As far as being afraid of your cat bolting out the door? I feel you. Why not put up a plastic baby gate that bends in different directions, and put it in front of the door. That way there’s a barrier first. L

        • Good idea with the gate. mediana bouchard how are things going with your cats in Indonesia and you in Australia during the pandemic??

    • Finding this topic has given me peace of mind knowing I’m not the only one who goes through this. I get anxiety even leaving my cat for a few hours. This recently started because my precious cat had a health scare and from then on, I couldn’t stop thinking of him getting sick and me not being there. Lately I’ve been forcing myself to be more social because as much as I love my cat, I can’t live my life always worried. I do go on vacation but my mom stays with him for the entire trip.

  9. I’m about to go on a 8 day trip to Japan with my girlfriend, and we have two orange little cat children. I love this brother and sister pair, and they are absolutely crazy about us. We have someone looking after them every day we’re gone, but I still worry in the back of my mind. What if he decides to skip a day? What if he forgets to lock the door behind him? What if he forgets to clean their litter? He’s an experienced cat parent and he understands what it takes to take care of a cat, but I can’t shake this feeling and it’s overwhelming my excitement to visit a country I never thought I’d ever see. Our female cat likes to burst out the front door when we come home from work, and I worry about that, as well.

    I’m trying to remind myself that our cat sitter knows what he’s doing and he’s extremely reliable (used to be my employee), but my fear comes from a place of love. I just want to get back and find them snuggling on our couch like always.

    – A paranoid cat dad

    • I know what you mean about it overwhelming your excitement for a trip. It takes everything away from the fun when the worry takes over. I guess the texting photos every day from the cat sitter is what has made it tolerable. I have to physically SEE the cats to know they are okay. Even if they are hiding under the bed, at least I know they are okay and when I get home they will be fine. I had the most unthinkable thing happen last trip… my cat sitter went away in the middle of it and was going to have her son take over, but he got called away to work. So what then? I was frantic!! She found another sitter to take over in the middle of my trip!! It was insane! Luckily I had the new sitter (who I had never met) send me photos daily of the cats until I got back. Turned out just fine and the new sitter was actually better…. so who knew. But I was a wreck. The photos are the only thing that saved me.

    • I have a cat daughter named Arya and the hardest part about being away on a trip is night time. She usually sleeps next to me and not having that touch is definitely something that could get me down. I have to resist the temptation to worry and be sad; it won’t do anything and it’s not healthy. I give her lots of love before I leave and the rest is, like you said, releasing control & also trusting God to protect her like he does all the time and knowing that she is in good hands with my sister!

    • Oh my god! Do I have anxiety! And my cat does too. I used to be a traveler. I was leaving ALL the time; for the day, for the night, for the weekend, for the week, out of town or to other countries. Then I got my cat; traumatized from his previous home, and me being at home for a couple years with chronic pain. I gave him so much love and helped him heal a lot. I feel like this made us develop some kind of codependent relationship. He’s very clingy, sometimes to the point of exasperation. Im still ill so I don’t travel a lot, but I leave about two weeks a years to mexico, and I feel very uncomfortable leaving him. I think it’s one part anxiety from me, one part anxiety from him. Eventhough I have two different people coming to visit him every day (that should be enough, right?), I still feel guilty for living my life. It’s kind of becoming a little annoying, when my health is better I’d love to travel pre and I really need to find solutions. Anyone has ideas? I used to have two family members who could take him but now they can’t anymore.

  10. I just switched my cat to a raw diet due to allergies in normal and medicated cat food. I planned a 3 day vacation a month ago not knowing i would have to switch him asap, because he got very sick. He is doing better now but I am so nervous to leave him with my roommate. I paid my roommate to take care of him so I am sure he will, but it makes me nervous leaving my little guy without me.

    • Have your roommate text you 2x a day with photos of your kitty and updates. Have your vet on speed dial ready just in case. You can relax knowing you have all the backups ready. You probably aren’t going to need them but good to have all the bases covered. Texted photos help a lot.

  11. I will be leaving in a few days for a 4-day trip and a helper will make sure my cat is safe and be well taken care of with enough food and water and to clean the litter box as well and as the days pass by toward the trip, I’m getting a little weak and sad of thinking that my cat will be left behind. Me and my cat are best friends, I work from home and we have this bond. I would really love to take her with me but I;m scared that she will be kept in the plane cargo, no way!

  12. I will miss my little Bella so much when I’ll go to visit in Israel for two weeks, the country which I came from 4 years ago (I immigrated to Canada). But, then again, even though I know I will miss her like crazy, if I won’t go I might not see my family and friends and the places there that I miss for a long-long time… She’s only 1 year old and loves me so much, that will be the first time I’ll be leaving her for a vacation. And it’s even harder for me and my husband (which came from there as well, so he will visit with me) because we don’t close enough friends and we’ll have to live her in a cat pension for the whole of two weeks. I wish I could go for less time but you don’t visit a country 10 hours flight away for only a few days… And I’m going a year from now, so I must be crazy feeling anxiety already! Does someone has an advise for a new fur-baby mom how to overcome that guilty feeling?…

  13. Hello everyone,
    for me separation is even harder. I am absolutely unable to go on a holiday even though I am not living alone and the cats would be cared for every day.
    I just cannot go. I went so far as to turn around while boarding the plane.
    There is absolutely nothing I can do about that. I tried so many times, wasted so much money on trips I didn’t take.
    I am so lost at what to do 🙁

    • That’s pretty extreme separation anxiety, Michael, I can only imagine how hard that must be. Have you considered seeing a counselor to see if he/she could help?

      • Yes, I am seeing one. Not sure if he can help me. I am sceptical with those things.
        I do hope so however.
        As much as I love my cats, this is not healthy in the long run and I don’t want to start thinking it is their fault at some time in the future.
        Fingers crossed.
        Counselling appointments have such a looooong waiting time though 🙁

        • Oh no Michael, I’m so sorry to hear about this, as well as everyone else’s situation. But I hope everyone can believe their cat/cats will be fine. My husband and I never traveled for over 10+ years because we had 2 dogs and a cat and I would feel so guilty leaving them. Our 2 dogs passed and our tripod kitty was left. We finally did travel for 4 days and he did fine! My brother stayed over, but in the day our kitty was alone and did perfectly fine without anyone. Our cat eventually passed and now we have 3 1-year old cats. We temporarily fostered them at first, but totally failed. We already had a trip planned before adopting them. We assumed they would be back with their foster mom. It was really tough for me, because they were still kittens and not 1 yet. We had my brother come in the morning and the original foster mom coming twice thereafter. I felt so scared and sad because they would be alone at night and I thought they would be lonely. We also set up cameras to see if they were okay and you know what, they were perfectly fine! I cried when I saw them just lying around, playing and finally getting used to my brother and their first foster mom. It is definitely NEVER easy, but please believe and have the confidence they will be okay! And when you return, they will show you that they were completely fine and you were really missed! Stay strong everyone, they adapt better than we do! <3 🙂

        • Did you try leaving them with wifi cameras all over the place? I have 3 cats and for me 9s very difficult to leave them too, but kmow9mg that i cam see them whenever I want makrs a huge difference. Why don’t you try that for 8h amd rhen maybe sleep at a friends house for 24h, etc? So yiu knoe yiu sre close enough to go at anytime of somethi g is not right? Rememher the brain is like a muscle that you can train.

          • Oops. Sorry I sent the other by mistake without correcting it.

            Hi! have you tried leaving them with wifi cameras all over the place? I have 3 cats and for me it’s very difficult to leave them too, but knowing that I can see them whenever I want from my phone makes a huge difference. Why don’t you try that for 8h and then maybe sleep at a friends house for 24h, etc? So you know you are close enough to go home anytime if something is not right? Remember that the brain is like a muscle that you can train. And the reality is that you only need to make sure there’s no way they can get out, they have enough water and food and someone to clean their litter box and if you have more than 1 cat and they get along well, they will be having a great time while you are worrying. Believe me. I have seen them obsessively for hours haha. I would even wake up in the middle of the night to see them (because the cameras have infrared) and they are always fine. As long as you have someone you can call if you see something strange, you and them will be perfectly fine. Enjoy your vacations! The love for our pets should make us happier and better humans not slaves of our fears. In my case, fear is created by my hyperactive mind and not based in reality. All those irrational “What if”s.
            I have left them many times now. The longest was 20 days with a sitter that came once a day. A nightmare for me for the first 5 days but then I saw them having a good time and eating normally, etc so I relaxed and enjoyed my trip.

  14. This article helped a lot.
    I know I am being completely illogical but somehow this doesn’t help.
    Nerina is a Greek rescue cat who was abandoned by her mother at a very early age with a bad eye infection.
    We have a very close bond a despite having ideal care arrangements (a friend who loves the cats and lives in my studio apartment with access to my flat) I still miss her when I go away and I know she misses me.
    She has access to the garden and a brother cat. She will be fine in her own home but still I will miss her.

  15. I’m the same, I’ve just left to go to the airport for a 2 week holiday, my uncle is looking after our cats while we away and I’m sat in floods of tears right now.

    • I know that feeling… sitting in a flood of tears in the airport. I even had security ask me what was wrong. Let us know how it goes. Have your uncle text you if he can daily with photos. That always helps me.

    • Me too its ok. Im literally on my way to the airport now and im crying a river. I dont know if imma be okay though.

      • How did it go? I’m leaving again this Sunday and already starting to feel the anxiety of leaving my three. AHHH. It doesn’t get easier. I will have my sitter text photos. I need to make my list of three: Best case scenario, worst and probable. Then the breathing… four in, hold four, four out. Surprisingly that helps during the actual trip.

  16. I just for the first time left my two cats Harley Quinn and Weasley for an entire week for a vacation with my husband. They were taken care of by my best friend who they know well and appreciate. I cried many times especially at night missing my cats and it honestly ruins my vacations to an extent and I just miss my cats so much and feel so badly for leaving them. We stick together like glue! I’m relieved I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be able to ever go to Europe or even hell Texas without missing my everythings the entire time…

  17. One of my cats was injured in a car accident and i nursed him tube feeding him every fours hours. He was always clingy but became more so especially as now he is blind. I did all the tricks that sas recomends and he will now settle if im away. Unfortunately my separation anxiety from him and his brother hasn’t! X

  18. Omg I am so glad that when I put into goggle that I’m anxious to leave my cats when I travel, that there were people who felt the same way! I’ve asked my friends whether they get anxious and miss their cats when they travel and they kind of look at me like I am a little crazy! Thank you for actually posting this it made me feel so much better. I am the proud mummy of 6 rescued kitties who are always used to me being around as I work from home! But I am actually due to go on holiday in a month (only for three days) and I get so emotional thinking will it distress them that it sometimes makes me think is traveling worth it. But like yourself I love travelling and luckily my mum is staying with my babies until I return. Thank you for posting this it has really helped.

    • I only have one kitty and right before I leave I’m a nervous wreck. I have a good sitter. I had two cameras to watch him and one stopped working so I’m kinda a mess this trip and I’ll be gone 10 days. I know he will be okay but I look forward to getting home. I’m so glad to see others are like this and I’m not crazy

  19. Hi,

    This article was so helpful. My husband and I adopted a cat about 6 months ago and she was unfortunately abused before we got her. Since she has had some unfortunate experiences, she is very reluctant with new people. Since adopting her she has come out of her shell and feels more confident. (I did so much research and tried my best to socialize her in ways that she enjoyed, and most importantly on her time.) She absolutely loves me and my husband and has a bit of separation anxiety if we are gone for too long during the day. We both work full time but I manage to come home during the lunch hour so she can have some interaction…

    Okay enough background 🙂 We dearly love our Ivy and we are thinking about going on vacation soon and obviously this brings me a bit of anxiety because 1. I’m going to miss her and I want her to be happy 2. I don’t want her to be lonely or sad. Thankfully, my mom will watch over her a couple times a day to give her food/water and ensure that she can have some attention and play time. I hate feeling guilty to leave her but I just do. Do you have any other tips when you have gone on vacation to keep a cat that has a bit of separation anxiety happy?

    Thank you again for this wonderful article!

  20. I’ve been following the story of Aslan and all your kitties. So glad they are OK. Let us know what we can do to help.

    • I know that I have been late to update. One of the reasons is I forget the name of this website so I cannot post the comment but now I found it again and I happy to read all the stories in here. I will update about my cat Aslan and all my kitties from time to time.

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