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Why Does My Cat Yowl When I Leave?

If your cat starts yowling when you leave, you may be wondering why and what can be done about it…

Why Does My Cat Yowl When I Leave?

Cats love us and they can grow quite used to having us around. Sometimes this dependence can even be a little unhealthy, causing your cat to meow even when you’ve simply just left the room. This is known as separation anxiety, and can occur for a number of reasons.

So, now you know. But, can weaning a kitten too early lead to this behavior? What is yowling? Do all cats miss their owners when they leave? Keep reading for these answers and much more…

Can a kitten weaned too early become dependent on you?

Cat looking out the window.

Cat looking out the window.

Sometimes a cat that was weaned very early becomes codependent. Other times changes in life can trigger separation anxiety, such as the death of an owner or even moving to a new home. Your cat becomes upset when they view you leaving and they get very vocal about it in order to let you know.

What is yowling?

When we say ‘yowling’, we are referring to a long and mournful moan from your cat that is often drawn-out and quite loud. It can occur for a number of reasons. Your cat might yowl if they are in heat or with males if a female in heat is nearby. Yowling may also express worry or serve as a warning when another cat is trespassing on their territory.

With older cats, yowling may even be a sign of cognitive decline such as dementia. Most often it simply means that your cat wants something from you, either for you to stay, feed them, or let them outside – it all depends on the context – so take a look around and as you get to know your kitty better it will become more obvious what they want.

Do cats miss their owners when they leave?

Cats can and do miss us when we are gone, despite how often they pretend it to be otherwise. Cats are creatures of habit and your cat is well-aware of your daily routine. They know when you will be leaving to go to work, when you usually come in, and any deviations in your routine will often get you meowed at.

If a cat is particularly codependent, then they might even act out, knocking things over or even leaving little ‘potty presents’ in your shoes or if they are really mad, maybe even on your bed! That said, even if they are not codependent, your cat definitely loves you and they miss you when you’re gone.

How can I prevent my cat from yowling when I leave?

Getting those meows to a minimum takes a little time and a lot of patience. A big part of it is going to be ignoring them when they meow. Keep some treats handy and when your cat comes up to you silently, then reward them.

Over time they’ll learn that they don’t have to meow to keep your attention. You can also break up your morning routine a little by getting rid of the ‘cues’ that your cat has learned to mean that you are leaving. Get your keys early, for instance, and hide your coat somewhere else so that you can quickly slip out.

Finally, some cat owners make a daily routine for leaving and arriving back home. Pet or play with your cat a little and then take them to their kitty-bed before you leave, then say goodbye and give them a treat. As soon as you come home, give them some affection and playtime so that they’ll learn that you are always coming home and it’s worth the wait.

It takes a while, but your cat will learn that you are not abandoning them and you will always come back home to them.

Would another cat help to keep my cat happy when I am gone?

Two cats touching noses.

Two cats touching noses.

Having another friend at home can definitely help and with a little careful selection, you can add another cat or even a dog to your home to make the house less lonely when you are gone. Socializing is an important part of helping to reduce separation anxiety, as it teaches your cat not to ‘put all their eggs in one basket’ socially speaking.

So, if your cat simply can’t seem to bear it when you leave for work, consider sharing the social workload with a companion animal for your cat. Your cat will have a new best friend and won’t be forced to rely on you alone for their social interaction.

What are the signs of separation anxiety in cats?

There are a number of symptoms that you can look for to help determine if your cat may be suffering from separation anxiety. Most commonly it manifests as a lot of yowling whenever you leave the house or sometimes, even just the room. The next most common symptom is your cat taking potty breaks outside of their litter box.

Some cats even take it further and may become very destructive in the home, knocking things off the counter or scratching the furniture to get your attention, and some will even stop eating.

Could excessive grooming be a sign of separation anxiety?

Excessive self-grooming can indeed be a sign of separation anxiety. Cats tend to groom themselves quite fastidiously and when another cat is present, they will typically groom each other and it’s a sort of social interaction.

If your cat is excessively grooming (especially if it’s producing hairballs and vomiting) then your cat might well be suffering from social anxiety.

At this point, a vet visit may be a good idea, as your vet can provide you with options to help if your cat is depressed or at the very least give you some pointers on how to help them to socialize properly.

Why does my cat yowl when I return home?

While cats seem to us to be aloof and even mysterious, they are actually huge sticklers for habit. Your cat has a daily routine and not only that, it includes you and any other animals in the house. When you leave, your cat is acutely aware of this, especially when you are LATE.

Leaving for a vacation for a few days can even traumatize a socially maladjusted cat. After all, they don’t understand where you’ve gone, so to them, it is like they have been abandoned.

Just reassure your cat and give them a little play and affection and try to make a habit of it, so that your cat learns over time that when you leave then you will be coming back and eventually they’ll become used to it and add ‘after work playtime’ to their internal kitty-schedule.

Why does my kitten yowl when I leave the room?

Some cats are more vocal than others but kittens are almost always going to be a bit loud and needy. This is not a cause for alarm and is actually quite normal. While they are kittens, if you make a special effort to reward silent behavior and to ignore vocal behavior, then you might just end up with a fairly quiet cat when they grow up.

It all depends on what you reinforce and on the individual personality of the cat in question.  

The good news is that a vocal cat might just be telling you that they miss you, it’s not always an indicator that your cat is codependent. In some cases, it simply means that you are the owner of a very vocal, chatty cat!

Why does my cat yowl when I just go down stairs?

One of the reasons that cats yowl is because they are worried. Stairsteps are designed to be an optimal height for humans (so much that studies have shown that altering their size, even a little, can cause stumbling). Your cat, with its shorter legs and 4-legged locomotion probably feels that the stairs are unsafe and they are worried about you.

Don’t worry. After your cat has seen you routinely use the stairs for a long period of time then they should relax, though you should also consider the context when interpreting why they are getting vocal.

If you climb the steps and immediately shut them out by going into the shower or going into your room and closing the door, then this is probably what your cat is yowling about. They want to spend time with you and they know that every time you go up the stairs then it means that they will be alone until you come out of that other room.

Lindsey Browlingdon