Five Rules for Humans Living in Catlandia

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Written by Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi

Humans and cats have been trying to peacefully coexist for centuries, and for the most part, we are doing ok…with a little room for improvement.  Our relationship with cats has definitely changed over time, with technology allowing us to connect with the masses and disconnect from the very place our cats try their best to meet with us; the present moment, or as I like to call it: “The Meow”. Modern convenience also allows humans to have very specific ideas about how they want their homes to look and feel. It enables a sense of urgency to how fast we like our conflicts to be resolved. Cats however… have not changed one bit. If anything, they may have become lazier from our influence and they have all the time in the world to do nothing.

We’ve basically evolved into beings that fit their whole lives into boxes. Sometimes, we invite cats to live inside and outside our boxes with us. Heck, we even expect them to use a box as a bathroom, regardless of how it looks, smells or where it is located. Basically, we set our own ground rules for living and expect our cat friends to adhere to the lines we draw around them. We come to understand that our feline guests have their own agenda pretty quickly. In fact, they’re not acting like guests at all. They’re treating our homes like their personal AirB&Pee!

The cats have taken over. They’ll live in your box… sure, just not by your rules. Think about the CAT, not the BOX. Your home has a different name now … Welcome to Catlandia, which is basically any place that cats live! You invited cats to stay; now you have to obey! Resistance is futile. Surrender is inevitable. Please consult the following guidelines for peaceful coexistence in a world free of your own frustration:

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Cats don’t understand “property”.

So here’s the thing… cats don’t see a difference between your stuff and their stuff. They aren’t drawing lines between where they are “allowed” to go. We do that; expecting them to understand that jumping on a countertop or dinner table is unacceptable. The problem is, cats go anywhere they please, because to them, everything in their territory belongs to them, including your stuff and sometimes…YOU. They expect it all.

Cats have a natural instinct to get off the ground, especially if it’s not rewarding on the floor. They want to be where the action is. That’s why cats choose to hang in places with high social significance, like couches, dressers and countertops or anywhere they can get the best possible vantage points. If you haven’t provided alternatives like cat shelves, climbing structures or made it practically impossible to sit or stand in places that you can’t compromise, cats are going to take advantage of what the landscape provides.  You’re going to have to give in a little to strike a balance and erase the lines.

Cats scratch furniture. True story! But… it doesn’t have to be that way! Give cats alternatives to your furniture and be observant of their preferences for location and material. Cats are going to scratch places that they consider important. That’s usually any scratch-able surface that you sit on too! If you’re having a hard time accepting their compliments, then make sure to provide your cats with places that they can call their own and scratch-friendly options that respect their preferences. The ultimate compliment is embracing their need for ownership.

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 Cats Are Disobedient.

Like fuzzy little punk rockers; cats have a way of pawing their noses at authority. They just can’t be told what to do and the harder you try to make them conform, the more they push back against your will to change them. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be influenced or trained. It just means that if it’s your idea to make them do something, it’s probably not going to happen the way you planned.  They read your intentions like a psychic.

Cats are not motivated to please you the same way that dogs are. They have unspoken expectations and even a sense of entitlement to the resources that humans provide. That doesn’t mean that they don’t understand reward. It’s quite literally the one the thing that a cat understands best! They just prefer to get those rewards on their own terms and not on your behalf. The trick is allowing them access to the rewards without stepping on their toes too much.  If there are benefits to be had, you can bet a cat will be around to receive them.

Training a cat is easy to do, if you understand what motivates them and are willing to devote the time. For some cats, it might be food or treats that keep their eyes on the prize, while others prefer playtime or affection.  You can clicker train cats to do all sorts of tricks and tasks, if they’re willing to work for food. Food might be the one thing you can actually control in this relationship, but don’t get cocky. Using food too much robs you of power and might ultimately backfire on you.

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Cats Can Be Selfish.

To say that cats are self-serving creatures would be a bit of an understatement. They mostly do what benefits them personally. When sharing living spaces with humans, cats learn quite quickly that there are very specific benefits to the partnership. We provide access to never ending buffets of food, along with all the bells and whistles (sometimes literally) to keep them happy in our homes. But is it ever enough? Probably not; the more benefit you provide, the more likely a cat is to be there waiting for it each day.  I call this the “Double edged sword of cat companionship”.

Most cats don’t like to collaborate with other cats when it comes to playtime. When faced with one target in a group dynamic, some cats just take a seat and wait until it’s their turn, which may never come, because one cat is monopolizing the playing field. In a multi cat home, it is essential that each cat have solo opportunities for interactive play. This helps to reduce tension, competition, anxiety and boredom. Keep it real and the benefits will balance out the rest.

Does it seem like some cats just don’t appreciate petting? Or are we just opting to pet them in the wrong places? Cats like to be stroked in self-serving places like their cheeks, flanks and shoulders. Respectfully petting these areas, allowing the cat to steer the experience, releases pheromones and solidifies the bond between guardian and friend on equal terms. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Serve the cat first and you’ll be richly rewarded later.

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Cats Need Choices.

Most cats have a pretty clear threshold for how much physical attention they want. It’s the human need for petting and physical affection that often supersedes and disregards a cat’s crystal clear warning signs to cease and desist.

Before reaching above or below to pet, hug, carry, snuggle, kiss, move or dress your cat, ask yourself, ”Did I ask permission first?” Giving your cat the opportunity to answer, “Yes” or “No” to a proposal, allows them the free will to make a choice. We already know they won’t obey us or do anything for our benefit, so why would petting be any different? Cats are masters of the art of the deal. When given a choice, a cat will likely always say, “No”, if the benefits don’t outweigh the proposal. Eat your heart out, Trump.

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 In multi-cat homes, competition for shared resources, like feeding stations, toys, perches and litterboxes can be a huge trigger for tension, bullying and even inappropriate elimination outside of the box. It’s essential that each cat in the home have accommodations that match their individual preferences for privacy or party time.

Pay attention to your cat’s habits, particularly when it comes to litterbox placement and design. It’s always better to think about the cat first! Spread out scratching posts, cat trees and climbing structures and be sure to have places to soak up individual and group cat scents, along with the places that harness your own.

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Cats Are NEVER Wrong.

There’s never going to be a time when your cat thinks that they did something wrong. Their actions are 100% justified, even when the result is negatively received.  That’s why involving yourself in any form of punishment is a futile endeavor. Cats don’t follow directions or do things on your behalf, remember? So, unless your providing a benefit, getting yourself involved in the correction of their behavior will never get the point across.

Yes, I know, the pee incident happened on your pillow, and that is enough to anger anyone, but that doesn’t mean your personal reaction will have any impact on change. Shouting, scolding, or physically reprimanding your cat will only serve to complicate your relationship more. Remember, a cat is not motivated by spite or anger. That’s what WE do.. Don’t get angry! Get to work on your relationship. Your cat is telling you that something within our world of lines …. does not line up.

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CONCLUSION:

When cats “misbehave”, you can usually hold a mirror to their guardians to find the reason. After all, they are trying their very best to live in our boxes with us; to live in a world where lines are drawn and grey areas are quickly filled in. We can find Purrvana together. It’s really quite simple. Embrace the grey areas. The happiness and love we seek in Catlandia is just within our reach, but it will take collaboration. It will take humility. You’ll have to let go of yourself… just a little.

 

DQ & Cubby give you the skinny on food toys

 

 

Are you being constantly annoyed by your cat begging for attention or food or who knows what? Cubby “The Munchkin from Mars” and DQ took a few moments today to show you some simple techniques for food foraging,  which can work wonders for cats that are easily bored or looking for jobs to do. Change what seems like an annoying behavior into a designated activity. Make a those cats work instead of giving them an all-you-can-eat buffet every day! It’s super easy! Foraging toys are easy to find online or you can DIY your own out of common household items. However you make it happen, your cats will be happy and the best of all… not under your feet or on your desk begging for your attention. Check out the video!

 

Does Your Senior Cat Really Want to Live with a Kitten?

Surrender YOURSELF… not the cat!

Written by Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi

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Cats are surrendered to animal shelters every day because of behavior changes that humans interpret as spiteful, annoying and downright personal. Giving up on their companions completely, well-intentioned but desperately frustrated cat guardians throw down the white flag and assume that behaviors like petting/ play or territorial aggression, attention-seeking, excessive meowing and litterbox avoidance / spraying and marking are personal attacks against them. Perhaps if people knew that having a cat came with some personal sacrifice, the true surrender would be happening from within. It’s not always about you, but right now it is.

Congratulations! You live with cats. Notice I didn’t say you “have” or “own” them. That’s because when you agree to add a cat or cats to your home, you just made the ultimate sacrifice. You pretty much just agreed to surrender every possession you have, including YOURSELF to the enigmatic whims of a species put on this earth to make you work for them. In return, you will get conditional love. Yes… I just said that…because truthfully the conditions or compromises that you make just to live among these creatures are what confuses most people. Humans feel the need to control. You have a cat. You are now in control of absolutely nothing.

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Your cat does not think like you do. In fact, “thinking” is what is getting you in trouble to begin with. Just for a few moments… zero out your intentions, your ego and your past experiences. Think of nothing but breathing and follow that breathe, in and out. Pay attention to only the breathe. When you start to think about the past, you future plans, your resentments, your insecurities, the smelly guy on the bus that ruined your morning… go back to the breath and pay attention to ONLY what is happening in the NOW. You have just become a cat. Time to surrender to living in the here and meow. This may be the hidden secret to understanding cats.

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Relinquish control, because trying to make cats do anything based on your own intentions is futile. Are your cats misbehaving or are you just not allowing them to make freewill decisions? Ever tried to get your cat in a carrier just 1/2 an hour before a vet appointment. Chances are, your intentions (based on time constraints, fear of being late, the clerk at the desk rolling their eyes at you, etc) will impede on your cat’s freewill decision to enter the carrier on their own, thus resulting in personal blood loss and heightened stress for your cat. It’s like trying to defuse a bomb with a timer. Cut the wrong wire and that clock ticks faster and faster ….until BOOM! You have now pushed your cat way beyond their personal freewill comfort level and it’s on. Oh, it’s so on right now. Your lack of patience just got you served.

That same frightening experience can be changed by allowing your cat access to the carrier 24/7. Take the door off and make it a bed, heck, throw treats in there and your cat’s toys for crying out loud! Cats need time to adjust to things and they make negative impressions last if things are predictably disappointing. Surrender to the fact that your cat needs EVERY experience to go down by their own choice and with self-serving rewards. YOU can’t expect your cat to live by your rules. Mostly because your rules kinda suck. It’s not personal. It is defiance to your intentions. Breathe. Ok, welcome back.

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Your cat is not doing things to piss you off. Instead, you are just upset because they are not doing what you want them to do. Guess what? Cats don’t care about what you want. Once that’s understood, you quickly realize that their actions and your intentions will never line up.  You want the cat to stay off the counter tops. Ok… fair enough. Just realize that cats have an innate need to get up off the ground, particularly in places where the resources are highly valued or shared.

YOU are a resource for food and social bonding. YOU typically prepare the cat’s meals and your own in the kitchen. Trying to prevent your cat from being where the action is and where the  “gettin’s good” is pointless, unless you have vertical climbing  alternatives nearby that are more appealing and a positive experience. In order to stop the cat from going on the counter… that area better be humanely booby-trapped 24/7 and or a total pain in the ass to stand on, both when you are home and when you are not. Trust  me, surrender is easier. You live with cats now. Just give them what they want.

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Chances are…what you want and what your cat wants will never line up completely. Well, not until you give up and set yourself free of this burden. Stop expecting a cat to do what you want, stay where you put them, sleep in the beds you buy, eat the food you heard was good, play with the toys you fail to keep interesting and pee in the world’s crappiest litterbox  that you purchased for it’s convenience. You have a cat. Now you also have a job. Right now, you are so close to getting your ass fired. The solutions to making the cat bosses happy are in allowing them to make yes-no decisions and reading between the lines of their requests. Your review is coming up and so far “sometimes meets expectations” is your overall rating. You can’t quit. Just pay closer attention.

Serving up hardcore cat behavior. Blunt force reality with DQ.

 

 

 

DQ appears on KGO 810 AM RADIO!

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I had the honor and privilege of being on KGO radio’s “Hangin’ with Langan” show this weekend. Maureen Langan and I talked about everything from the Portland 911 cat to the common behavior misconceptions that I see everyday through my adventures with Go Cat Go. We took some really funny calls too! I had such a blast on the show with Maureen. Her comic timing and brilliant approach to late night radio made me feel really at ease. I don’t need an excuse to talk about cats and the way humans contribute to their problems. Just straight shooting on this show. I love that!

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You’ll hear me referred to as “The Cat Hipsterer” which is just my way of poking fun at the way people use “whisperer” to describe anyone with intuition about animals.. and also some razzing about my own aesthetic. People get so insulted when they are called hipsters. Can’t take yourself too seriously when your job is to find out why cats pee on people when they’re sleeping. It’s ok to be hip… and it’s hip to be square.

You can hear the radio podcast here: DQ on KGO RADIO

(It’s 30 minutes long, so make some muffins with your feet and find a comfy spot sit and laugh.)

WILL WORK FOR FOOD

Written by:

Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi
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Got yourself a flabby tabby? Is your feeding routine the same every day – just a free for all, help yourself, all you can eat until you fill the bowl again type situation? I know why you do it….believe me, I do. It’s because cat’s are low maintenance companions, right? Just fill the bowl, refresh the water and it’s off to work you go, go, go! Sounds easy enough, right? This is why you got a cat, because they require so much less than dogs. I get that. But then, why is kitty extra vocal in the early morning hours (like around 4 AM), running aimless laps around the apartment at night or suddenly misfiring his play-drive on his best friend, ending in a fur flying? Better yet, why is kitty gaining so much weight? Could it be that just putting food in the same open bowl every day with no real challenge or activity could be slowly chipping away at the moral fiber of your cat? His very will to live has transformed into accepted boredom, as his meals are now expected and reliable disappointments. Worse yet, some cats share this disappointment with a friend. It’s more like an internal disappointment, though. That’s why it never occurs to us until the shit hits the fan in our own lives – AKA lack of sleep, breaking up cats fights and being bitten with “No provocation”. What if the provocation was boredom? I just blew your mind.

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Don’t feel guilty. It’s not your fault. As resource manipulators and protectors, cats learn to adjust to the accommodations we give them, even if it is against their innate best interests.  Cats adjust to convenience easily, this is for sure, but when they are given he option to work for their food, they quickly realize a whole new appreciation for “The hunt”. You have a trained killer or four (let’s be true to this audience) in your house. You can’t expect them to sleep in everyday when their every thought is on simulated murder. Give them what they want…just don’t give it away for free. Sleep is the reward for a day filled with activities only a human can provide. Your cat isn’t lazy. He just accepts life as it is…and right now it’s boring. You can fix this. Only YOU can fix this.

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Now, don’t be scared. I’m not proposing that you simulate the hunt literally. No need to release mice or beetles in your house. Just opt for a better, more challenging presentation. Hopefully, one that just adds a little time and thought to the process. You can start with something simple like a bowl that has built-in obstacles or store bought foraging toys- There are so many types on the market!  Heck, throw some food in a paper bag or box and watch your cat go ape shit trying to get it out. Make it a challenge and if kitty is hungry enough, the hunt begins! Just changing it up a bit makes it more appealing. Ever wonder why cats make a beeline for a new box? That’s because It’s NEW (Not to mention similiar to the space ships that cats arrived in many moons ago).  Cats can be sensitive to change…but where boxes and toys are concerned…sometimes…. change IS good.

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Some of my clients have made DIY puzzle feeders out of anything from a soda bottle to a plastic Silly Putty egg. Sometimes, smaller, lighter weight toys are more desirable over clunky ones. Test your cats preferences each day with a new and creative food foraging routine. If your cat is not stoked on food, try a high value treat that is only given on special occasions. The more desirable the treat or food, the more motivation there will be to hunt for it.

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The bottom line is this. You can do better. We can all do better. Playing with your cat is a patience game. Most of us (humans) lose interest in the hunt, long before our cats do. It’s not that they are bored with the toys you purchased. It might just be the way they are played with. It’s up to you to put aside the time to add enrichment to your cat’s daily routine. Your cats are simply not that inventive. From interactive play (be the toy!) that is more like the way a mouse, bug or bird moves and less like the way your hand does  – to a hassle FULL not “free” session of food foraging Your cat needs challenging meals, not comfort food. Try experimenting with some of these simple additions and watch all those other complaints slowly melt away.

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Resistance is Futile

By Daniel Quagliozzi

Cat Behavior Consultant

 

 

 

One of the things that I find truly fascinating about cats is their keen ability to train human beings to do their bidding, no matter how inconvenient the task may be. We go to all sorts of lengths to keep our cats happy, eating, drinking and using their litter boxes, even if it means displacing ourselves in our own homes.

Cats are quirky animals. They could even be described as eccentric and little bit manipulative in their methods. Sure, human beings are particular about things too, but cats seem to boggle the mind when it comes to their likes, dislikes and habits. No one ever said that living with a cat would be easy. As long as you are trainable, your cat will have no worries at all.

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Let’s use my former best friend Matilda for example. These pictures are old as she has now crossed over into immortality. When Matilda was living, her old age and experience paved the way for many alterations in my lifestyle. There were certain conditions that she just had to have in order to get through the day. Most of these conditions happened at the my own expense.

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1. Matilda needed very cold water presented to her in a drinking glass, located on the night stand next to the bed. (I  found this out the hard way when I set a glass out for myself in case  I got thirsty during the night)

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2. Matilda demanded that sleeping be accomplished under the covers and on top of my chest… the moment I lay down for bed each night. This required me to lift my comforter up so that she could spin around several times on my chest and get comfortable. Other times, she preferred to be tucked in like a human…and I happily obliged.

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3. In the absence of a blanket, Matilda would attempt to crawl under my bathrobe. As you can see, this is was partly successful as there is only so much bathrobe to go around and I am wearing most of it.

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4. Matilda asked that her wet food be served exactly at 7:00 Am and 9:30 PM, which was communicated by the act of trampling all over me  until I finally give in to her cries for attention as she stood on my wind pipe. Her night-time demands were quite effective to say the very least.

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5. Once the food was served, Matilda would have roughly three or four bites of the food, walk away and make herself comfortable in the now empty master bed. She would remain in the bed until roughly 7 pm… when I returned home.

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6. For her daily work out session, Matilda required that a shoe lace attached to a stick be forever dangling from the same night stand she perched on for water. I guess she decided that having her very ownhome  gym was easier than pestering me for playtime.

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Cat guardians across the country can relate to Matilda’s story. She may be gone in body but the spirit of her quirks will forever live on. Her needs, although not that outlandish… were still her very own.

Freedom of choice is a cats prime directive. They do what they want, when they want and there’s nothing you can do about it. Resistance is Futile.

Velcro kitties: Tips for 9 to 5 guardians with over-attached cats

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For those of us lucky enough to be working these days, a nine to five gig is a blessing, but for our housebound feline room mates, this time of the day can be downright traumatic. The consequence of forming a tight and routine bond with our animals can often be displayed as anxiety when we leave the inner sanctum and decide to leave for the day.

Cats are solitary by nature. They can get along just fine without the company of another cat, although there are many exceptions to the rule. While maintaining a life of independence, they tend to bond strongly with their human caretakers, even when they are paired off. After all, we are EVERYTHING to them! Humans are the providers of love, conversation, physical comfort, food, water and interactive play. Another cat simply can not provide this.

How do you know if your cat is stuck to you like Velcro? My guess is…. you won’t even have to ask this question!

Signs Of Feline Separation Anxiety

  • Over-attachment to the owner such as following the person to every room of the house (heal chasing).

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    • Distress as the owner prepares to depart: This can take many forms, but some of the more common reactions are meowing, sulking, apparent depression, slinking away and hiding. (No, seriously it’s true!)cat-kitten-cute-picture-photo-meow-closeup
    • Vocalization (crying, yowling, meowing) right after the owner has left or even when you are sleeping.
    • Anorexia – the affected cat is often too anxious to eat when left alone.
    • Inappropriate elimination – often in the form of urine marking. Deposits of urine or feces are often near to the door from which the owner has departed or are on that person’s clothing, bed sheets, or places like bath mats, rugs and behind or under furniture.

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    • Excessive self-grooming. This starts as a displacement behavior but can progress to compulsive self-grooming if unchecked.

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    • Destructive behavior – rare, but some cats may claw and scratch door edges presumably in an attempt to escape their solitude. This can also happen while you are sleeping to get you to wake up and give them attention.
  • Exuberant greeting behavior – as if greeting you after you left on a long vacation. ( Where have you been ?!?!?!)

Here come the solutions!

Enriching the cat’s “home alone” environment is the key to success! This can be achieved by means of:

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Giving the cat a view of the outside world! Add climbing structures, cat trees, open windows with screens.

Strategically position bird feeders near the windows with a view.

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Leave toys all over the house and change it up every now and again. The same defeated mouse that your cat played with two days ago is no longer a challenge. Hide toys in creative places like the peek-a-boo box above.

Putting the day’s ration of dry food in a puzzle toy will keep your cat focused on eating instead of your absence. Although cats with separation anxiety tend not to eat when left alone, hunger is a great motivator when other sources (YOU) are no longer available. Some caveats apply if cats refuse to eat for more than a day or so. Consult your local vet if this turns out to be the case and try to work out some kind of compromise. It can get tricky.

Leave the radio on. The “white noise” effect of the radio drowns out the otherwise perturbing sound of silence. We find that classical music has positive effects on loneliness.

If behavior modification by independence training and environmental enrichment do not work it may be necessary to resort to anti-anxiety medication for the cat for a while. Consult with a veterinarian about the use of drugs like Prozac to help calm an anxious kitty.

Ok, Now go to work and rest assured that kitty is not making long distance calls, ordering pizza or rearranging your apartment while you are away.