By Julia Williams
Cats are aloof and independent animals, so they’d never get lonely, right? Cats are asocial creatures who don’t form close bonds with humans and don’t even like us all that much, isn’t that true?
Um…no. Despite the fact that these ludicrous characterizations about cats are practically woven into the tapesty of social media, television sitcoms, stand-up comedy and elsewhere, they’re just not a true depiction of what cats think or feel.
I’m not sure how those myths about cats got started, but unfortunately they are prevalent in our society. I can’t go a week without hearing one version or another. They all bother me because they can be injurious to cats and they make it harder for homeless cats to get adopted.
Even felines who do get adopted sometimes have to live with people who assume that the cat doesn’t really care if they pay much attention to it or not. They may have to live with people who think it’s perfectly fine to leave the cat home alone every day, week after week with no mental stimulation or companionship, because the cat doesn’t care.
Take it from me, someone who has lived with and loved cats for many decades: they care. Very much, actually. Yes, your cat misses you when you are gone, they do get lonely and they can get bored too. Just how lonely or bored really depends on the cat. There is no one size fits all, because every cat is an individual just like every human is.
How Can You Tell if Your Cat is Lonely?
I cat-sit for a friend several times a year, and the cat is not overly friendly the first few days. But the longer my friend is away, the more affection the cat shows me and allows me to show her. After about a week, she’s “all over me like a cheap suit” as the saying goes. This cat clearly misses having someone around, and it’s not just for the food.
She also gets progressively more mischievous – knocking stuff off the kitchen counter or into the sink, for example – which is a direct correlation to the level of boredom she feels being alone for days on end.
Some felines crave companionship so much that they will experience stress and even separation anxiety if they are left alone too often or for too long. Lonely cats may also develop behavioral issues such as peeing on your bed or tearing up the place. Aggression and excessive vocalization can also be signs that your kitty is lonely and could use some more playtime and petting.
Alleviating Loneliness in Cats
This is such an important topic that it really deserves its own post, but I’ll offer a few brief suggestions for the time being.
● Enrich their environment with cat trees, window perches, “cat shelves” or a “cat staircase” on the wall, and other things that can enhance your kitty’s wellbeing. For some ideas, check out Catification – Creating a Feline Friendly Environment.
● Provide plenty of toys they can play with by themselves, such as catnip mice, trackball-type toys, the Peek-a-Prize box, a ball pit; even paper sacks and cardboard box will entertain cats.
● Leave the radio, TV or a Cat DVD on while you’re gone.
● Leave a piece of clothing with your scent on the bed or someplace else where they like to nap.
● Hire a pet sitter when you’re gone for more than a day, and be sure they will do more than feed your cat and clean the litter box.
Carving out some quality time for your cat every day is essential, because they not only need your companionship and love, but they desire it and truly do appreciate it. Much more, in fact, than you will probably ever know.
Making an effort to bond with your cat, play with them and provide an environment rich with stimulation will all help to diminish the loneliness and boredom they feel when they’re home alone.
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