Vet Blog

Does My Cat Need a Friend?

June 21, 2021

Many people think of cats as independent, solitary animals.

But any cat lover knows that this couldn't be further from the truth. Cats are social creatures who love, and even crave, interaction with humans and other animals.

Do Cats Get Lonely?

While it's true that cats are more independent than dogs, they treasure relationships with caregivers and fellow pets. Some cats will experience feelings of sadness and abandonment when left without company. Keep in mind, though, that no two cats will exhibit these feelings the same way.

Reasons Your Cat is Lonely

Cats care deeply about their family members and miss them when they're gone. They'll feel the absence of a person, cat, or even another animal if they've:

  • Moved out. When a member of the household has moved out, your kitty will wonder where their family member has gone.
  • Passed away. Cats are capable of grieving in their own way. They don't necessarily understand the concept of death, but professionals believe they experience a sense of loss.
  • Gone on vacation, to the store, etc. Some cats will become lonely more easily than others. A little separation anxiety is okay, but if your cat is extremely distressed when someone leaves even for a short time, it's a problem. Discuss concerns about separation anxiety at your cat's next veterinary exam.

Cats and Their Humans

Because each cat has an individual personality, each cat will have a different relationship with his or her owner. But even if a cat acts aloof or aggressive towards his owner, a significant bond exists. Remember this if you're dealing with a grumpy cat. Whether or not your kitty realizes it, you serve as a source of security for him. At least on a subconscious level, he knows you're the one who feeds him and keeps him healthy. Although he might hiss when you try to cuddle, he also may cry when you're not around.

Cats and Other Animals

Dogs are "pack animals" who emulate the social habits of their cousins, the wolves. They have an innate need for contact with other beings. Meanwhile, when it comes to socialization, house cats are biologically similar to tigers. They don't feel any natural need to exist in packs. However, they still develop strong relationships with other cats. This is why you'll often see your cats playing, cuddling, and bathing one another. An older cat may take a kitten under its wing; a younger cat may follow an older one everywhere. Even when they squabble, they often recognize their feline brothers and sisters as family.

Signs of a Lonely Cat

Sometimes it's hard to tell what your cat is feeling. His natural instinct is to hide his feelings, especially those of discomfort or pain. He sees himself as a predator who can never appear weak. But he might be feeling lonely if he:

  • Meows or vocalizes more often than usual. Cats don't meow at each other, but they meow at us when they're hungry or distressed. If someone is missing, a cat might "call" for them.
  • Sleeps excessively. Although he already sleeps around 20 hours a day, your cat may sleep even more when depressed. This depression might coincide with the absence of a family member.
  • Refuses to use the litter box. It's never a good sign when your kitty averts the litter box. It might be because of a physical issue, but it may also be emotional.
  • Has appetite changes. It's also a bad sign if your cat doesn't want to eat. Consider loneliness a suspect, but don't rule out physical illness, either.

Easing Your Cat's Loneliness

Hopefully, your cat's loneliness will ease itself. As they say, time heals all wounds. Better yet, be your cat's companion as you both heal from the loss. Spend lots of time cuddling, playing, and healing together. If your cat has lost a feline brother or sister, we recommend giving him time to grieve. Don't bring a new cat into the home just yet. The new addition may add stress to an already tense environment.

We care about both your cat's physical and emotional wellbeing. If you think your cat is lonely, allow us to help. We'll discuss how to ease his pain at his next check-up.

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