Dear Critter Corner: I went on vacation for 3 days and left my cat Dallas at a friend’s apartment. Now at home she seems to be having separation anxiety, scratching at the door and meowing when I leave. I have another trip coming up and am worried I won’t be able to leave her on her own. What can I do to help?
It can be easier to leave Dallas when you go on vacation if you leave her in her own home instead of a friend’s home where she may not be as comfortable or used to the new surroundings. Cats can be sensitive to new noises and smells, and usually in a new environment their daily routine changes as well.
For this next trip, let’s try to prepare Dallas for your departure by leaving her in her own space starting with short increments. Try to include this in your daily routine so Dallas doesn’t anticipate this for only when you leave on vacation. If Dallas is comfortable in your entire home then she can continue to have access to this area, but if she becomes overwhelmed with too much space by herself consider secluding her to a small area of the home, like a bedroom. Continue with her daily routine of breakfast, dinner, and playtime at certain times so that Dallas knows what to expect when she has a pet sitter providing her with the same while you’re gone. Before leaving her, make sure she has plenty of food, water, and a good amount of playtime to tire her out. Some cats like having a cat video playing on TV, listening to spa music, or playing with a treat puzzle toy when they’re alone. When leaving her on her own, start out with small increments such as 2-3 minutes. Then begin to vary the amount of time she’s left on her own; for example, 3 minutes, then 7 minutes, then 5 minutes and so on. When you leave try not to make a big fuss, and instead leave calmly and quietly. When you return be sure to open the door only when Dallas is calm and quiet, not when she is scratching the door or meowing. This will help provide positive reinforcement for when Dallas is on her own and calm.