Why Do Cats Isolate Themselves? (The Two Main Reasons Why They Do This)

By Phil / March 11, 2018
Why Do Cats Isolate Themselves

The question of, ‘Why do cats isolate themselves?‘ comes up from time-to-time, and there are a couple of different explanations for this depending on the cat.

The two main reasons are:

  • Characteristics, behavior, and personality of a cat wanting to be alone
  • Signs that the cat is nearing the end of its life

I will look at these two different explanations in more detail and hopefully help you identify why your cat is isolating themselves, and if there is anything you can do to help.

Isolation Due to Personality

In my experience, people often assume there is something up healthwise with their cat if they suddenly start isolating themselves.

Sometimes a cat wants to be alone all of a sudden and doesn’t want to play, be fussed, or interact with you.

This feels like you’re being pushed away or have fallen out with your cat, but it may just be down to how your cat is feeling and not something being physically wrong with them.

Sure, it’s unusual for a cat to change from being sociable to withdrawn and keeping themselves to themselves permanently, but I’ve seen it happen for short periods of time.

Looks for signs that there may be something else wrong with them of course and get them seen to if you’re concerned or think they are sick.

Otherwise just continue being there for them and showing them love. Give them some space and time and they’ll sneak back up on your lap when you least expect it.

Isolation Due to Health Issues

The older a cat gets the more reserved they become (in most cases). I think you can understand this, right? We all have a little less energy as we age (whether we want to admit it or not).

They play a little less, start spending more time sleeping or relaxing, are slower to turn up to their food bowl and give you a less than impressed look if you disturb them when they are sleeping on your lap.

Now, this is a slow process over the course of years. If you notice your cat suddenly becoming reserved, withdrawn, disappearing for prolonged lengths of time, isolating themselves, and so on, there might be an underlying issue.

It’s part a cat’s natural instinct to isolate themselves if they are ill. Cats go off on their own in the wild when they are injured or sick because they know they are more vulnerable in this state.

This isn’t true for all cats of course. You cat might become really needy when they are ill, so this is another reason to be aware of the other physical symptoms they are sick as I will cover next.

Many cats have their own unique personalities as I’ve discussed many times. It’s up to you as their owner to look out for changes in behavior, keep an eye on how they are keeping physically, and so on.

I have seen cats disappearing when they know they are seriously ill or are about to die however. It’s incredibly sad, but it’s what they want so we have to respect this and give them their space.

Physical Symptoms of a Cat Dying to Lookout For

If you’re concerned that your cat is sick or dying and that’s why they have started isolating themselves away you should take them to a vet right away.

If you’ve noticed any of the following signs however there is a good chance it’s not going to be good news:

  • Not eating or drinking much
  • Incontinence
  • Panting or labored breathing
  • Unkept and dirty coat
  • They smell bad
  • Weakness and lack of mobility

Outside of these symptoms if you’ve had your cat for any period of time you’ll just know when they are not themselves and there is something wrong.

Like I mentioned above, you need to take them to your vet sooner rather than later. Please don’t let reasons like the cost, being scared of the answer, or thinking you don’t have time be an excuse. There are no excuses.

There may be some treatment or medicine that can improve your cat’s standard of living, so make it a priority to get them seen to.

What to Do with a Cat That Is Isolating Themselves

As I covered above, the first thing you should always do is get your cat seen by a vet to find out if there is a medical reason why they are behaving like this.

If the vet has told you that it’s just a symptom of age and while there is nothing medically wrong it doesn’t look like your beloved pet has long left all you can really do is give them the best care possible.

Respect their space and understand that they may want some alone time. It’s not a knock on you, it’s their instinctual behavior to be alone,

If they do approach you for fussing, make the time to give them that petting and love. Maybe give them something a little extra special to eat if you’ve got the all clear from the vet for that too.

As a cat lover and longtime owner of many cats, I understand how upsetting it is losing a beloved member of the family.

All I can say is if you’re strong enough be there with them until the very end giving them as much love and appreciation as you can.

It’s a sad time, but also a time to remember all the love and fun times you had together.

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