More than one in 10 pet cats surveyed in a new study have displayed behavioural issues when temporarily separated from their owners.
The scientists also observed cats with separation-related problems tended to come from households with no female adults or more than one female adult.
Not having access to toys, as well as the absence of other pets in the house, were also associated with similar behavioural issues in the felines.
The findings, published in the journal PLOS One, are based on an analysis of a questionnaire survey gathered on 223 cats from 130 owners by scientists from the Federal University of Juiz de Fora in Brazil.
The owners were asked to provide basic information on each cat, which included descriptions of their interactions with the pets, the cats’ behaviours when the owner was absent, as well as the cats’ living environments.
Analysis showed 13.5% of all sampled cats displayed at least one of the several traits associated with separation-related problems, with destructive behaviour being most frequently reported (for 20 of the 30 cats).
Other behavioural traits such as excessive vocalisation (19 cats), urination in inappropriate places (18 cats), aggressiveness (11 cats), agitation-anxiety (11 cats) and inappropriate defecation (seven cats) were also observed.
Depression-apathy, which is characterised by a lack of energy and loss of interest, was also seen in 16 cats with separation-related problems.
The authors wrote: “The occurrence of SRP (separation-related problems) was associated with the number of females living in the residence, with not having access to toys, and no other animal residing in the house.”
The data also showed cats from households with owners aged 18 to 35 showed similar behaviours.
But the researchers said more work needs to be done to understand more about the relationship between cats and their owners, adding that their questionnaire can act as a starting point for future research.
The authors wrote: “This study provides information about behavioural signs consistent with separation-related problems (SRP) in a sampled population of domestic cats, as well as about the management practices used by their owners.
“The questionnaire identified that about 13% of cats may have signs consistent with SRP according to their owners’ reports, and therefore, it could be a promising tool for future research investigating SRP in cats.”