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Why Does My Cat Ignore Me When I Have Been Away?

If your cat seems to be ignoring you, especially when you return home after being away, you may be wondering what is causing this. 

Why does my cat ignore me when I have been away?

This behavior is actually quite common with cats. While we like to think of cats as fiercely independent, they are actually creatures of routine and when you go away, they can even suffer from separation anxiety! Another factor is that when you come home, you smell different. 

So, now you know. But, how do you get back to normal with your cat when its acting like this? What is the best way to prepare your cat before you go away? Why does my cat ignore me when I come back from work? Keep reading for these answers, and much more… 

How do you get back to normal with your cat after vacation?

A cat resting.

A cat resting.

There are actually things that you can do before, during, and after you’ve gone on vacation. For instance, before you leave, do your best to ‘keep things casual’. If you make goodbye an emotional one then your cat will sense your unrest, give you extra attention, and it will be much more stressful than if you’d simply played a little more with them and casually left.

During the time that you are preparing to leave, try to wear one or two shirts in particular whenever you are home. That way, while you are gone, you can leave them on the kitty’s bed and they’ll be able to smell your scents while you are gone.

If someone else will be at the house checking on your cat, you can also have some quick video chats to keep your kitty calm and let them hear you for reassurance. This will help your cat to know that they haven’t been forgotten or abandoned, but rather that you are simply not at home right now and coming back soon.

Finally, when you get back from vacation, check with your sitter or the animal boarding house where your cat has been to see how they’ve behaved in your absence. This will let you know in advance if your cat has been acting out so that you’ll have an idea if you may be coming home to a very stressed cat.

Once you are both home, let your cat readjust at their own pace. Don’t push too much attention on them while they are getting back into their daily routine. Right now, you smell wrong, and you might stress out your cat.

After a few days then things should get back to normal.

Does an unfamiliar scent make a cat uncomfortable?

Wherever you’ve been, you’ve picked up scents from there and cats rely on their olfactory senses more than their eyes. You no longer smell familiar and this makes your cat uncomfortable. It will take a little time for your cat to get used to you again and for things to get back to normal.

So, be patient with the process, this is actually quite normal.

How do you get your cat to stop ignoring you?

The best approach is to simply ignore them. As we all know, cats gravitate most often to your friends who don’t like or simply don’t pay attention to your cat. This offends your cat’s feline sensibilities and they will usually come closer to see why you aren’t making a fuss.

If that doesn’t happen fast enough, you can call to your cat and either hold out your hand, palm up, or just extend a single finger for your cat to sniff to see how they react. If your cat pulls away, don’t push things, but if they start rubbing their head against you then keep your hand still and let them.

They are marking you once again with their scents! It may take 1 -3 days, but be patient with the process. Your cat just needs to become comfortable with you enough to start marking you with their scents again and then things will get back to normal.

How can you prepare your cat before you go away?

While leaving some clothing that you’ve worn for a few days for your cat to sniff is a good idea, you can take that further by leaving some clothing that you’ve recently worn in a bag. Bring these with you on your trip and when you are coming home, change into them.

This helps to minimize extra scents so that you’ll still smell like your cat enough to trigger their notice. Also, when you are packing, be sure to do it casually and slowly, well before your vacation. If you simply pack the night before, your cat is going to notice your anxiety and it will be confusing to them.

Finally, if you are going to use a sitter, an introduction before you leave is a good idea. You want your cat to be familiar with this person so that they don’t stress out, hide, or otherwise act out in their presence. Otherwise, to your cat, it’s just a stranger coming into the house and messing with their food bowl.

They’ll eat the food when the sitter is gone, of course, but it’s a scary experience to have a stranger playing with their things. Introduce the sitter early and it will be much less stressful for your cat when you are gone.

Why is my cat scared of me after returning from vacation?

Mostly because you don’t smell like them anymore! Cats are predators and as such, they need the scents around them to be familiar and comforting. No predator that wants to survive is going to sleep around too many unfamiliar scents, after all.

Your cat notices immediately that there are new scents in their area and since they rely on this sense first, they might not even know it’s you right away! Don’t worry, your cat will soon adjust, it just takes a little time.

Why does my cat ignore me when I return from work?

From your cat’s point of view, you went and left the house and you’ve come back smelling recognizable, but a little weird. Where have you been?! You can try calling your cat over when you get home to give them some petting but if your cat refuses after you’ve made the first move, then you might just have to wait it out.

One trick that sometimes works, however, is to keep treats in your pocket (Click here to see the price, on Amazon #Ad) so that you can give kitty one whenever you get home. Once they know that you’ve left but brought home gifts, then your cat will be much more forgiving. Well, at least for the duration of the treat. We all know how peculiar they can be sometimes!

Will my cat hate me if I leave for a week?

A black and white cat.

A black and white cat looking through a window.

Your cat won’t hate you but some cats may suffer separation anxiety (click here for my best cat bed for this) while you are gone. After all, your presence is a big part of their daily routine. This is especially common with cats that were weaned quite early from their mothers, as they have a chance to become a bit codependent.

Your cat may act out while you are gone and even a little bit when you return, but things should normalize over a few days once your cat realized that you aren’t going anywhere and – most importantly –after you are smelling like them again from the play and grooming sessions to come after you’ve returned.

Do cats miss you when you are gone?

Yes, your cat definitely misses you. Your daily interactions together are a huge part of your cat’s entire world and when you go, it’s confusing and stressful for them. Cats express themselves quite differently from other animals and this can come across as cold to the uninitiated.

The real truth is that cats communicate mostly in body language and scents. Compare how they act around visitors versus how they are with you, specifically by their body language. You’ll notice that they are constantly marking you with their scents, by touching you with a paw or rubbing their faces against you.

This is a deep love and a strong bond, so even if your cat seems distant when you get home, you can be 100% sure that your cat missed you while you were gone!

Do cats get depressed when owners are away?

Cats become depressed when you leave, even for a few days, as they profoundly notice your absence. Cats grieve, too, if someone passes, and when that person doesn’t come back that grief can manifest in moping and even acting out. It will pass, but it can take a little time, though with brief vacations it will likely sort itself out in a few days.

How long does it take for a cat to forget you?

If you’ve just met the cat then that cat may forget you within a period of 16 hours. This is just an approximation of how long they keep information designated for their short-term memory. A cat that has known you longer, however, makes things quite different.

While we don’t have an exact figure on how long they will remember you, it is not uncommon for cats to remember their owners for many years after they have gone!

Lindsey Browlingdon