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Warning Signs That Your Cat Is Lonely

Warning Signs That Your Cat Is Lonely

I adopted my calico cat, Blaze, when she was 8 weeks old, and I had just left a failed love affair and was living alone – again! — on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Blaze was a beauty – a collage of white, orange and brown fur, with a “blaze” of color fanning out from her green eyes. She needed a home; I needed a friend; it seemed like a win-win situation.

Wrong!

I worked a newspaper job at the time, and left little Blaze alone for 9 hours each day. Hey, a gal’s gotta work, I reasoned. And since cats are supposed to keep their own counsel, I figured she’d sleep all day and welcome me with open paws at night.

But when I returned each evening, Blaze displayed all the symptoms of a lonely cat.

• She meowed incessantly, and I’d carry her around in my shirt all night, because she wouldn’t leave my side.
• She coughed up huge hairballs because she obsessively groomed herself when I was gone.
• She didn’t touch her food until I finally showed up, when she ate like it was her last meal.
• Occasionally, she ripped a throw pillow to shreds.

Clearly, Blaze needed a friend, someone to pal around with until I returned from work. So when Blaze was 6 months old, I brought home Fonzy cat, a 10-week old, pitch-black fuzzball with a tough little face and a happy personality.

Wrong, again!

Blaze hated Fonzy from the moment he pranced into that one-bedroom condo. She hissed, she stalked, she pounced and grabbed Fonzy in her paws and roughly licked his face – the cat equivalent of a wet willy.

My lonely cat became a pissed off cat. Not only did Blaze hate Fonzy, she wasn’t too happy with me, either. If Fonzy hopped on my lap, Blaze lept off. If I rubbed Fonzy’s belly, Blaze sulked under my bed until she got a chance to pounce Fonzy.

I now realize I made poor decisions that hurt Blaze and Fonzy. And I’m sharing my story, so you don’t make the same mistakes. Here’s what I should have done to help Blaze feel better in my absence.

• Provide more stimulating toys to keep Blaze better entertained, something that moved, like one of those long feathers on a stand.
• Add a window perch so Blaze could have looked out on city life, more entertaining than staring at the same four walls.
• Rotated toys, so some would seem new and more interesting again.
• Placed food in a food-dispensing toy, so Blaze could work for a meal.
• Paid a cat sitter to keep my cat company. Hey, people do that.

And, if I really wanted another cat, I should have introduced Fonzy slowly, maybe fostered him for a few days to see if the couple was a match.

Blaze tortured Fonzy for years, until he outweighed her by 5 pounds. By then, I had met the man I would marry, who owned an adorable cocker spaniel that both cats could hate together: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

 

Related:
5 Ways to Keep Your Pet Happy While You’re Away
6 Myths About Cat Litter

Read more: Behavior & Communication, Cats, Depression, Everyday Pet Care, Pet Health, Pets, Remedies & Treatments, , , , ,

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Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Lisa Kaplan Gordon, creator of frugalgarden.com, is an award-winning journalist, avid gardener and fly-fisher. She lives in Northern Virginia on a half acre that always needs weeding. Please visit her on Twitter (@kaplan_lisa) and Facebook (Lisa Kaplan Gordon)

188 comments

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1:49PM PDT on Sep 22, 2014

I'm dealing with this worry now. And probably shouldn't be. My cat's foster mom feels my Ruby would be happier with a clone of me rather than another cat. I'm home now most of the time so she seems happy. When I worked fulltilme, she was perfect then too. I think it is ME who wants another pet, not Ruby. I did try to adopt a beautiful black kitty - had her for 11 days - Ruby wouldn't accept her so we found her a wonderful home. Ruby STILL wants to go in the room where I kept the other cat to make sure it's still empty. :-}

12:50PM PDT on Sep 22, 2014

Thank you for sharing.

4:09AM PDT on Sep 22, 2014

Thank you

9:40AM PDT on Sep 18, 2014

ty

1:36AM PDT on Sep 17, 2014

Very useful information, thank you so much. My cat has two windows to sit in and a lovely garden to study, and I often leave the radio on (low volume) so that there's some sounds in the apartment. In the 4 years I've had him, he's not shown signs of depression at all :)

10:21AM PDT on Sep 15, 2014

It's so easy to believe that if a pet would be good for you, you will also be good for the pet. It doesn't always work out that way. And yes, introducing a new pet friend can actually make things significantly worse, especially if done thoughtlessly.

Some friends of mine have a smart policy when seeking out a new dog (they always have two large dogs). First they go see the dog in question to decide whether or not they think they'll get on with it and it will get on with them. Then they arrange a second visit to introduce their current dog to the potential new one. If the dogs also get along, then they arrange the adoption, but they won't sign anything before they find that out.

Adopting a second cat should work the same way. Meet the cat and see if it gets along with the human population, then introduce the felines and see if that works BEFORE making any commitment. Cats have strong personalities and very firm opinions on pretty much everything.

And boy can they make your life miserable if they aren't happy!

5:06PM PDT on Sep 10, 2014

I worry about this happening when im at work or go away for a nite or 2. I have 2 girls & they're pretty close 2 each other, but still...sure this is a worry 4 everyone..

11:45AM PDT on Sep 7, 2014

I agree with Giovanna M., I always say "my cat chose me" because she's so timid around all other humans and other cats, yet she'll lounge all over me!

7:10AM PDT on Sep 7, 2014

On a course on animal welfare we were told that unlike dogs -who are social-, cats are social selective. This means that a cat will socialise ONLY with individuals he approves of. By the way, they also confirmed what I was told while majoring in Biology and that contradicts the current trend of paranoid dog owners: Dogs are social and male dogs should interact with male dogs (if your dog acts weird with other male dogs, he may be being selective but most probably he´s picking on the owners manias).
My personal experience is that, yes, cats are social selective and that some dogs are more social selective than others.
Why so many people believe cats can deal with loneliness better than other creatures I can´t understand. Maybe they are more resourceful if left alone or abandoned than dogs, but that does´t mean they don´t suffer from loneliness. Maybe we should start paying attention to animals instead of expecting them to feel what we fancy they should. Hopefully this article may get the message through that cats are more sensitive than what many people credit them to be.

4:04PM PDT on Aug 29, 2014

Angela P. human mothers do leave their children alone for nine hours and more. Depends on the situation. I have met people who experienced childhoods like that. It did lead to personality deviations.

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