Yes, the fact that your cat is shredding toilet paper or tearing at pillows might mean he or she misses you.

Have you ever come home to find shredded toilet paper, torn pillows, or your cat sulking in the corner? As it turns out, these bad behaviors might all be signs that your feline friend is experiencing separation anxiety. A new study published in PLOS ONE identified separation-related problems in domestic cats using a questionnaire-based survey.

woman cuddling siberian cat
Credit: Casarsa Guru / Getty Images

To assess signs and symptoms of separation anxiety in cats, researchers in Brazil gave 130 owners of adult cats a questionnaire on their behavior, activity, and environment. According to CNN, 13.5 percent of the 223 cats surveyed had at least one separation-related problem, including destructive behaviors or distressed mental states.

While some experts and cat owners believe that felines have a difficult time forming relationships with their owners, this study proves that cats can actually experience separation anxiety much like dogs. "Our study suggests that these animals might suffer when separated from their attachment figure," said study author Aline Cristina Sant'Anna, a professor of zoology at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora in Brazil.

Of the cats who demonstrated one separation-related behavior, approximately 67% of those cats also exhibited destructive behavior, such as excessive vocalization, urination in inappropriate places, depression-apathy, aggressiveness, agitation-anxiety, and defecation in inappropriate areas.

Researchers also found that anxiety is more likely to occur in cats who are the only pet in the household and don't have any toys to occupy their time. They also discovered that separation-related behavioral changes appeared mainly in households with either no women, or more than one woman, and households with owners aged 18 to 35 years.

"Cats thrive on predictability and routine and people 18 to 35 tend to have a less predictable lifestyle—maybe more travel, more random work schedules, late nights," said Ingrid Johnson, a certified cat behavior consultant. "Cats really need that structure in their life."


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