Nurturing Kittens and Cats with Separation Anxiety from other Cats

Seperation anxiety in foster cats and kittens

Welcoming a new kitten or cat into your home is an exciting and heartwarming experience. However, it’s essential to remember that these furry companions may experience separation anxiety when separated from their littermates or other cats and kittens they have bonded with.

Kittens and cats form strong bonds with their siblings, relying on them for companionship, comfort, and socialisation. When kittens and cats come from a breeder, pound or foster home they may have formed bonds with other cats or kittens that are very strong. When they are suddenly separated, it can be a challenging adjustment for them.

Signs of Cat and Kitten Separation Anxiety

Cat and kitten separation anxiety can manifest in various ways, and being able to identify the signs is crucial in addressing and managing their distress. Here are some common signs to watch out for:

  1. Excessive Vocalization: Cats suffering from separation anxiety may meow excessively or make distressing sounds when left alone. These vocalisations are their way of expressing their discomfort and seeking attention.
  2. Destructive Behavior: Cats may engage in destructive behaviors when experiencing separation anxiety. This can include scratching furniture, chewing on objects, or excessive grooming that leads to hair loss or skin irritation.
  3. Inappropriate Elimination: Cats with separation anxiety may urinate or defecate outside of their litter box, even if they are usually litter trained. This behavior can be a response to the stress and anxiety they experience when separated from their human or feline companions.
  4. Excessive Clinginess: Cats with separation anxiety may become overly attached to their owners and follow them everywhere, seeking constant attention and reassurance. They may exhibit signs of distress when their owner is about to leave or display excessive clinginess upon their return.
  5. Changes in Appetite: Separation anxiety can sometimes affect a cat’s appetite. They may either lose interest in food or overeat due to emotional distress. Sudden changes in eating patterns should be monitored and addressed accordingly.
  6. Hiding or Avoidance Behavior: Some cats may retreat and hide in secluded areas when experiencing separation anxiety. They may also avoid interaction or display signs of fear or anxiety when approached.
  7. Excessive Pacing or Restlessness: Restlessness, pacing, and an inability to settle down can be indications of separation anxiety in cats. They may exhibit signs of agitation or engage in repetitive behaviors.

Here are some practical tips and strategies to help kittens and cats cope with separation anxiety stemming from missing their siblings or other cats.

Tips to Reduce Cat Separation Anxiety

1. While with the Foster Carer or Breeder

Separate the cat or kitten into a room on it’s own for a few minutes. Some cats and kittens will start crying almost immediately. If so, then you know it will be a challenge at the new forever home. Gradually increase the time that the cat or kitten has in isolation making sure to give them cuddles or whatever affection they like when they come out. This can get them used to spending time away from other cats and kittens and improve their resilience.

However, due to all kinds of circumstances, this is often not possible.

If you know you have a cat or kitten that cries as soon as it is left on it’s own and the new foster family lives close enough you can do a staged adoption. Take the cat or kitten to the new home and stay there with it for 30min to an hour. Then increase the time the cat or kitten is at the forever home with or without you there. Show the cat or kitten that you like and trust the new family to help them bond. Again this may not be possible due to a variety of reasons.

2. Gradual Introduction to the Whole Forever Home

When bringing a new kitten or cat home, it is crucial to gradually introduce them to their new environment. Allow them to explore their surroundings at their own pace while providing a safe space where they can retreat when needed. Initially, keep them in a separate area to help them acclimate to you and the smell of the room before gradually introducing them to the rest of the house.

It can seem strange that you have bought a cat or kitten home and are being told to put it in a small room. But it is the best option in order to see where your cat is at. If you give a very scared cat immediate access to the whole house it will find a hidy hole in a place that can make it difficult for it to get to food, water and litter. So you may get poo and wee on the floor.

Every cat and kitten is different. Some will find the smallest darkest place to crawl into and will only come out for food and litter needs at night or when you are not in the room. Others will try to dash out of the small room immediately and want to explore every part of the home.

As a foster carer I often put the new cats in the spare bathroom where there have cubes to hide in and blankets and balls in the bath to play with (they love sleeping on towels in the sink) This way I can reach them as opposed to when they hide under a bed. Some will pick the cubes and it can take days or even weeks before they respond to my pats by moving into them. Others will try to run out the door immediately. Once they get to the point where they want to get out the door I start to introduce them to other rooms. They may graduate to a bedroom or to the main house area depending on what other cats I have and how they interact with them.

If the new cat or kitten cries in the room it is in and you are able to move it to your bedroom or an enclosure playpen close to you that can help to reduce crying. But if it is crying due to separation from other cats keep reading on.

3. Gradual Introduction to your other animals

Cats and kittens that cry or exhibit other behaviour due to separation from other cats can find comfort in your animals.

However, that is usually not instant.

Every cat is different and I have had cats that immediately accept other cats with no hissing at all right through to cats that go full fight mode. So every situation will be different. I have perspex that I velcro to the door frames so the cats can see each other. If they try to break in or out to be with the other cat, or try to interact and play that is a good sign as opposed to if they fight through the perspex.

Cats may have never seen a dog before and so that can be scary for them initially.

I usually let the new cats out with the other cats for literally about 2 minutes for the 1st introduction. They will usually run and around and get the layout of the new room and then go back to the room they were just in. I then increase the time the new cat has with the other cats each day. That way the new cats and the current residents get used to each other in small doses. It’s like they get a small stressful moment and then they get to relax again.

4. Companion Toys and Comfort Objects

Provide your kitten or cat with companion toys and comfort objects to ease separation anxiety. These can include soft plush toys that mimic the texture and warmth of their siblings, or even a piece of fabric or blanket that carries familiar scents. Are you able to borrow or buy some toys or a towel or blanket from the foster carer? Ones that your cat loves or it’s siblings or friends have sat on? These items can provide a sense of security and comfort during times of loneliness.

I once drove an hour and a half to a forever home of a 7-month-old kitten that had been crying day and night since he was adopted 5 days before because he missed the other cats so much. We had tried everything that I found online or from other foster carers and nothing was working. She didn’t have any other animals and was not able to adopt more than 1 kitten.  So I lent her all his favorite toys and sat with them for an hour. He rubbed himself on her for the 1st time and she got to pat him. The crying got much less frequent and 2 days later had stopped.

5. Interactive Playtime

Engaging your kitten or cat in interactive playtime is an effective way to distract them from missing their siblings. Use toys such as feather wands, interactive puzzles, or treat-dispensing toys to provide mental and physical stimulation. Regular play sessions not only keep them entertained but also create positive associations with their new environment and bonding time with you.

For the cats and kittens that are super scared and hiding I started with a piece of string or long thin fabric. They seem to engage with that much better than the bigger toys on sticks. Even if they are non-responsive at first just keep trying everyday by dangling it close to them. It is so rewarding when they reach for it the first time.

6. Socialisation Opportunities

While cats are generally known for their independent nature, they still require social interaction and companionship. Make sure to spend quality time with your kitten or cat, providing affection, gentle petting, and interactive play. This human interaction can help them feel loved and reassured in the absence of their siblings and other cats.

When I get a litter of 6 kittens they tend to have little interest in me and much more interest in their siblings. But when 5 are adopted and 1 is left that kitten is suddenly very interested in me.

If you have a cat or kitten that is hiding you can lie down as close as possible to them and extend your hand towards them. They will be smelling you even if they are not moving. They may hiss or they may let you pat them. Each time you go in the room spend time with your hand close to them until they let you pat them.

7. Consider a Companion

Is your cat or kitten crying all the time and driving you mad? Or are they exhibiting some other separation anxiety symptom? If you don’t have other animals is it possible to adopt their sibling or best friend? This will be the fastest way to stop the crying.

You could adopt another cat or kitten that yours does not know but that may or may not help. Having a new feline friend can help alleviate separation anxiety and provide ongoing social interaction. But you will need to ensure a slow introduction and give them time to establish a positive bond.

8. Calming Techniques

In cases where separation anxiety persists, consider incorporating calming techniques. Natural calming aids, such as pheromone diffusers or sprays, can create a soothing environment. Additionally, classical music or white noise machines can help create a sense of calmness and security.

9. What if they are not Eating?

Check with whoever you got them from to see what they were eating and buy that exact food. Also, find out what times of day they are used to being fed. If they are scared and hiding make sure the food is close enough for them to access without them having to move much.

10. What if they are not going in the litter Box

Even 4 week old kittens know how to use a litter box. Cats don’t actually need much training as the litter box is an obvious place for them to go. Check with whoever you got them from to see what litter they were using and buy that.

If they are scared and hiding make sure the litter is close enough for them to access without them having to move much.

If there is a certain spot they keep going then put the litter box there. Once they are using it in that spot then you can start moving it gradually towards where you want it to be. Maybe move it 50cm-1m every day or so until it is in the spot that you want it to be.

11. Seek Professional Advice

If your kitten or cat’s separation anxiety is severe or persistent, it may be beneficial to consult with a veterinarian or a professional animal behaviorist. They can provide personalised guidance and recommend additional strategies or treatments to address the specific needs of your furry companion.


Helping kittens and cats cope with separation anxiety resulting from missing their siblings requires patience, understanding, and consistent effort. By gradually acclimating them to their new environment, providing comfort objects, engaging in interactive play, and offering socialisation opportunities, we can help ease their transition and provide a nurturing environment where they feel secure and loved. Remember, with time, patience, and love, these furry friends can adapt to their new lives and form lasting bonds with their human companions.

If you have any tips to help cats and kittens with separation anxiety from other cats let us know in the comments below.