5 Signs Your Cat Is Depressed & How To Help May 31 2020, 3 Comments

It turns out that humans aren't the only ones who can suffer from depression. Cats can, too. Cats are highly perceptive and intelligent and are very reactive to their environment and even social situations. Depression in cats can be triggered by a variety of things, from the lack of a stimulating environment to a beloved family member moving or passing away. Here are five signs that your cat might be suffering from the kitty cat blues.

Symptoms of depression in cats can also be signs of an underlying illness and a visit to your vet may be in order to get a clear bill of health first! 


Lethargy.

 

Cats are known for their obsession with sleep. They don’t call it catnapping for nothing! While it’s normal for cats to sleep up to 17 hours a day, a cat that’s emotionally and physically healthy will separate those catnaps with bouts of play and energy. A happy cat will want to play, explore, and hunt in their environment.

If your cat has a sudden change in sleep behavior, e.g. excessive sleeping when they would normally be awake, lack of energy, not playing or interacting with favorite toys, this might be an indication your cat is not feeling happy.



Poor grooming or excessive grooming.

Cats are fastidious groomers, often spending hours grooming and tidying their fur. If you notice your cat grooming less, resulting in a dull, dry or knotted coat, they could be suffering from depression. If this is the case, you may need to start grooming your cat more regularly to help keep their coats healthy; if your cat doesn’t like standard brushes, consider a grooming glove, so you can pet your cat and groom them at the same time, making it more enjoyable.

Loss of appetite.

Cat owners know how excited cats can get when it comes to food time. For most kitties, as soon as they hear the wet food can cracking open, the meows cannot be stopped! Depressed cats, however, often lack appetites and excitement about food, even when you crack open a can of the smelliest tuna. Decreased appetite can also be a warning sign of illness, again, a checkup may be necessary.

 

Vocal clues.

Some cats may become more vocal when depressed. These will often be noticeably “unhappy” noises that are different from normal meows. They are low-pitched, mournful yowls.

Hiding or avoiding affection.

Most cats have an innate sense of "stranger danger" and dive under the bed for cover when friends come to visit. But if your cat begins hiding constantly, even during the times they would usually socialize with you (like during feeding time), there may be something in their environment that is causing them to be depressed or even stressed.

How to Help

If your cat is depressed, don’t worry - there are ways to help get them out of their feline funk. The first is to identify what may be causing the depression. 

Environmental Changes

Changes to your home can often unsettle your cat and cause anxiety and depression. A new family member, human or animal, can cause your cat to feel like their home and territory is being invaded. If there have been any big changes in your home and you notice your cat behaving differently, you can help ease this stress by providing them with a safe space of their own. Your cat may already have found this special place, in which case you can fill it with treats and toys that they find comforting to really make it their own space. 
If your cat has chosen a spot that's undesirable (like under the bed), you can provide them with alternate spaces and also fill it with items they find comforting or enticing. It could be a windowsill where they like to watch birds, or someplace out of reach. A tiered cat tree is may be a great way to give your cat some vertical space - especially one with multiple tiers and nooks to hide if they're feeling overwhelmed. Cats are natural climbers and often will seek out heights to give them a sense of safety and control over their environment.

Provide Enrichment

Cats that don’t get enough interaction or stimulation can become depressed. It's important to keep your cat mentally and physically active for them to be their happiest, healthiest selves! Try taking 15 minutes to play with your kitty; try a few different toys to see what type they like best. Do they prefer a wand or teaser toy? Or are they more of a laser pointer fanatic?

Ideally, you'll want to find a toy that is fun for both you and your cat. App-controlled toys, like the Mouse Hunt Toy, might be more up your alley. 

Get them a Companion

Most cat parents work out of the home, so they can't be around to entertain or socialize with our cats during the day. A second cat can be a wonderful way to fulfill your cat's need for socialization and play when we're unable to do so. Cats were once thought to be solitary animals - but cats really are social animals at heart and they can benefit from interaction with their own species (and other species, too). Adopting another cat can provide your cats with both physical and mental stimulation as they play together, groom, and explore.
However, introducing a new cat or kitten to the household can be a stressful time for cats and not every cat is suited to being in a multi-cat household if they were not raised together. So it may not be the best solution for your depressed kitty and needs careful consideration. " The majority of cats are hostile to other unrelated felines,writes Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB for the VCA.  "However, some cats, if they have been sufficiently socialized to other cats or are particularly sociable (genetically), do benefit enormously from feline company." 

A little extra TLC ...

Depressed cats will need extra compassion and care from their humans.  Just spending a bit of extra time with the cat, and being in tune with their emotions,  providing new toys or beds, interactive playtime, and special treats can all help lift your cat's spirits. In extreme cases, a vet may prescribe medication. Symptoms of depression in cats can also be signs of an underlying illness and a visit to your vet may be in order to get a clear bill of health first!