Cats crave being with their owner, new study claims

While cats can often appear to most people as uninterested and aloof, it turns out they are actually sensitive creatures who crave being with their owner, according to a new study.

New research from Brazil found 13.5 per cent of cats had emotional problems when they were left at home alone for long periods.

Destructive behaviour was the most common cat dilemma reported by the 130 feline owners in the study, followed by excessive vocalisation like meowing and inappropriate urination.

It also found issues arising from separation were worse in homes where there were no cat toys or where the owners were male, as well as when the owner was under the age of 35.

Cat behaviour expert and owner of cat consultancy What's Up Pussycat Regina Hall-Jones said the study proved what she knew all along.

"Cats do get very attached to their humans and can suffer from separation anxiety, which can present in many different ways," she said.

"Whilst cats do sleep a lot, they do need physical and mental stimulation and it's best to ensure they have environmental and physical enrichment in their lives so they're happy."

Five-week-old domestic short-haired kittens Lucy, Rascal, Aussie and Quinn. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Five-week-old domestic short-haired kittens Lucy, Rascal, Aussie and Quinn. Picture: Jonathan Ng


Pet Behaviour Vet's head behaviour veterinarian Dr Joanna McLachlan said she welcomed the study but said she believed the true number of cats who experience separation anxiety could be higher.

"From adoption, owners should gradually expose their cats to longer and longer periods of alone time, and ensure that they are left in an environment with positive associations, with plenty of fun things to do," she said.

She warned destructive behaviour at home could also be a symptom of a problem in the cat's brain which could be addressed with medication, pheromones and supplements prescribed by a vet.

"Music therapy, toys and food distractions are also used to help the cat feel calm," she said.

Cat owner Krys Dempster from Abbotsbury in Sydney's southwest said cats were like people and forged relationships with some humans more easily than others.

"You can tell if we go away for a week, when we come back they say, 'you left me here'."

She said each of her cats had formed a special bond with a particular member of her family.

"Every cat is different, you never get two cats who are the same," she said.