Survey identifies potential separation-related problems in cats

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cats separation anxiety
Photo: Anurak Ponapatimet-123rf

The first questionnaire survey to identify possible separation-related problems in cats found 13.5 per cent of all sampled cats displayed potential issues during their owner’s absence. 

Though many studies have been conducted on owner separation problems in dogs, little work has been done to assess potential separation-related problems in cats. Despite the common belief that cats are happy being left alone for long periods of time, recent studies of cats and their owners suggest that pet cats are social and develop bonds with their owners.

In order to assess separation-related problems in cats, a team from the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil, developed a questionnaire for use with cat owners. 

The questionnaire was given to 130 owners of adult cats living in the city of Juiz de Fora in Minas Gerais, Brazil, for a total of 223 completed questionnaires (one per cat).

After assessing and categorising responses for each category, the authors statistically analysed their results and published their findings in PLOS ONE.

The data showed 13.5 per cent of the sampled cats (30 out of 223) met at least one of the criteria for separation-related problems, with destructive behaviour most frequently reported (present in 20 of the 30 cats). 

The other behaviors or mental states identified were: excessive vocalisation, inappropriate urination, depression-apathy, aggressiveness, agitation-anxiety, and inappropriate defecation.

This questionnaire still requires further validation based on direct observation of cat behavior. It’s also limited by a reliance on owners being able to accurately interpret and report their cats’ actions in their absence (for instance, scratching on surfaces is normal in cats, though some owners may consider it destructive).

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