Our cat was a master at turning his back on us and steadfastly refusing to engage in any further conversation.
It was mostly recognizable when he realized that we were all leaving the house, usually in the car. This is when the cat turns his back as we leave the house.
Even once we were all in the car and reversing down the driveway, a quick stop to wave and say goodbye to kitty (I know we are a bit weird) would just be met with that silent, stoic and totally still, back.
He never deviated, not even once. It was a most deliberate snub. This didn’t happen just once or twice, but hundreds of times.
No amount of cajoling would entice him to turn around, ever. We were totally ignored and frozen out of any communication.
When Your Cat Turns Its Back, What’s he Saying?
From a human perspective, it felt like he was angry or sad because he was being left alone and we were going out. I’m quite sure the cat was not thinking that all at once, but there may be some gray areas. Did the cat feel left out?
He was definitely saying that he was not happy about being left alone.
Cats are independent, as we know. They may not want to be seen following or showing affection towards their owners, as it goes against their natural instincts.
As a cat owner I know this, however I persist with wanting the cat to alter his behavior.
By turning their back, your cat may be trying to assert their independence and avoid looking like they’re following you.
Any amount of calling his name by use to get his attention did not work. We now know from studies have done in this field, that cats do recognize their own name.
However, only a select few will respond to their name. Most will ignore it, although their ears may twitch slightly, which is a sort of acknowledgment.
Or cat could not have failed to hear us calling out to him. I have to give him his dues, he was never persuaded to see what all the fuss was about.
Negative Vibes About The Car
One theory is that the cat had an aversion to the car. This is absolutely correct. The cat’s main excursions in the car were to drive to the vet. He didn’t like getting into his cat carrier. He was scared and anxious about going to the vet, so the car was associated with stress or discomfort.
In his kitten days, we took him for short rides around the block in the car. The hope was to get him used to car travel. We did fail at this one.
Once he was elderly he was happy to sit on someone’s lap for a trip to the vet in the car, without so much as moving a muscle.
I am sure that the car had negative connotations for him. Plus, whenever we got into the car without him, we all went away for a period of time, leaving him alone.
Mind you, when we returned home, he knew that the bonnet of the car was a nice, warm place to have a snooze.
How Do Cats Feel When Their Owners Leave?
Cats can experience separation anxiety if their owner goes away for long periods of time or when schedule changes are abrupt.
A study was carried out to examine the attachment styles kittens had towards their caregivers. During the test the kittens spent 2 minutes in an unfamiliar room with their caregiver. This was followed by two minutes alone and then a two minute reunion. Some of the kittens showed a reduces stress response when the caregiver returned.
To read more about this study, it is published here in Current Biology.
Signs Of Feline Separation Anxiety
Anxiety in cats can manifest in several ways, including:
Excessive vocalization (meowing, crying)
Destruction of household items
Urinating or defecating outside of the litter box
Loss of appetite or excessive grooming
Aggression towards people or other pets
Pacing, restlessness, and agitation
These signs can also be caused factors other than separation anxiety, so it’s best to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.
Help Your Cat Feel Less Anxious When You are Not Around
Here are some ways to help your cat feel less anxious when you are not at home:
Provide hiding spots
Cats like to have a place to retreat and feel safe, like a cozy bed, a box, or a cat tree.
Leave familiar scents
Place a piece of clothing you have worn, a blanket, or a towel with your scent in a spot where your cat can smell it, or leave it in the cat’s bed.
Leave out interactive toys or food puzzle toys to keep your cat entertained.
Play with your cat before you leave
Spending time playing and bonding with your cat before you leave the house can help them feel more relaxed.
Keep a consistent routine
Maintaining a consistent routine for feeding, playtime, and bedtime can help your cat feel more secure.
Consider a feline companion
If your cat is social, consider adopting another cat as a companion. One cat can be lonely, but two cats can keep each other company. Yay! What a great excuse, er, reason, to get another cat or two.
Consider pheromone therapy
Pheromone diffusers and sprays mimic natural calming scents and can help some cats cope with stress.
When we arrived home, it was a different story. He would often be on his window perch, which looked directly out onto the driveway at the front of the house. We were always on the lookout for those little pointy ears visible through the glass. Was he waiting for us to come home?
Sometimes he would be a shadowy figure visible through the front door as we arrived home. Often he would dart out the front door as if to say, “Yes, I can see you, and I’m glad you are home, but I’m going outside now; see you later!”
Sometimes we could hear the soft thud that signified that he had left the safety of his window lookout and was making his way to the front door.
All in all, I would say that his behavior was totally normal.
I miss that kitty! He is no longer with us!