They most certainly do! Daiana de Souza Machado, from the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil, and colleagues has conducted a survey to explore whether cats suffer from separation anxiety when left alone. Although this study needs further investigation, I can personally attest to the fact that more than one cat that I have owned has shown displeasure at being left alone for a weekend.
Many people think that cats are fine being left alone for a few days while their owners go away. I have been guilty of leaving my cat alone while I went on an overnight trip. If the cat does not have a companion, such as another cat, they do miss their owners. In my case, although two cats that I owned did not like being left alone, they were not destructive. However, they were excited when I returned and vocalized their feelings. They made it clear that they were not happy being left behind.
In the survey that the researchers did, the cats that were left alone showed a variety of behaviors including excess vocalization and some destructive behavior.
Cats are much more social than many people realize. There are some cats that may not like to be cuddled and handled as much as others, but they still enjoy being near their owners and having the companionship.
Because cats sleep 12 – 16 hours a day, they may give the impression that they are not social since they are not as active as dogs. However, the hours that they are awake they crave companionship. And like many people, they sleep better knowing that their owners are home or that it is the normal routine.
So what is a solution if you must leave a cat overnight? If you know that this is going to be a common occurrence, you can own two cats instead of one. They will be company for each other. Another option is to have someone the cat knows and trusts visit the cat often or stay at your home while you are away.
Part of the problem is that cats do not like change in their lives. They are fine with the daily routine of their owners being gone for the day while at work, often sleeping the day away. Cats, just like dogs have an acute sense of time and recognize that on the weekends their owners are home most of the time. So when the owner goes away overnight, the cat will recognize that this is not the normal routine.
While more research needs to be done about separation anxiety in cats, it is important for cat owners to realize that their cats do love and miss them while they are away. Owners should take this into consideration when planning a weekend away or a vacation.