Separation anxiety syndrome in cats: 136 cases (1991-2000)

J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002 Apr 1;220(7):1028-33. doi: 10.2460/javma.2002.220.1028.


Objective: To determine whether cats develop clinical signs typical of separation anxiety syndrome (SAS) and the type and frequency of applicable clinical signs in affected cats.

Design: Retrospective study.

Animals: 136 cats with clinical signs typical of SAS in dogs. Subjects were evaluated during home visits.

Procedure: Medical records of pet cats evaluated for behavior problems during a 10-year period were reviewed. Medical records of cats that displayed behaviors typical of dogs with SAS (eg, inappropriate elimination, excessive vocalization, destructiveness, or self-mutilation) were more extensively examined, and cats that displayed these behaviors only when separated from an apparent attachment figure were included in the study.

Results: Behavior problems triggered by separation anxiety included inappropriate urination (96 cats), inappropriate defecation (48), excessive vocalization (16), destructiveness (12), and psychogenic grooming (8). Inappropriate defecation was identified in a significantly higher percentage of the neutered females in the study than in the neutered males. Seventy-five percent of the cats that urinated inappropriately urinated exclusively on the owner's bed. Psychogenic grooming was identified in 8 of the 40 neutered females but in none of the neutered males, whereas destructiveness was observed in 12 of the 92 neutered males but in none of the neutered females.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: Results suggest that cats can develop SAS. Sex and breed differences in the frequency of particular signs of SAS in cats may exist. Feline SAS should be considered in the differential diagnosis of anxiety-related misbehavior in cats.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology
  • Animals
  • Anxiety, Separation / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety, Separation / physiopathology
  • Anxiety, Separation / psychology
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Cat Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cat Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cat Diseases / psychology
  • Cats
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Eliminative Behavior, Animal
  • Female
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Syndrome