Is My Cat Depressed? Kitty Sads Are no Joke

Sad Little Sparrow - Is My Cat Depressed?

We all get the blues from time to time, but it might surprise you to know this is not solely the domain of humans. If you’ve ever wondered ‘is my cat depressed?’ and thought yourself silly, don’t. Feline depression is a thing – animal behaviourists first recognised this back in the nineties.

Sadly, depression in cats often goes unnoticed, as people figure it’s just cats being cats. Yes they sleep a lot, they need a lot of alone time and they’re sometimes downright rude, but understanding that your cat might well be down in the dumps is the first step to bringing the sunshine back into kitty’s world.

 

Why do Cats Get Depressed?

Just like us, cats are sensitive creatures; they don’t deal particularly well with change. Any number of things could be bringing kitty down – the loss of a friend, be it a favourite human or another pet, an addition to the family, moving house, even simple things like moving a litter box or different food can trigger the sads in your cat.

Just to prove my point, here’s the saddest tale of cat-woe ever:

Drama queens aside, when we see prolonged sadness in our feline friends it’s due to sickness or pain. Asthma cats and other kitties with chronic illness are particularly susceptible to depression due to the constant physical symptoms of their lot in life. Cats just wanna be cats and when they can’t breathe or move properly it can have a profound effect on their happiness.

 

How to Tell if Your Cat is Depressed

Depression in cats is not normal, and thankfully not common. Any negative change in kitty’s behaviour could be a warning sign that all is not well with his mental health. In particular, keep an eye out for:

  • Change in appetite – if your perpetually hungry kitty goes off his food, you need to be worried. Loss of appetite is a big deal and needs to be addressed immediately. Likewise, if your cat starts binge eating and crying for more this is also cause for concern.Zoned Out Sparrow - Do Cats Get Depressed?
  • Over grooming or under grooming – cats are known for being clean and keeping themselves nice. Depressed cats will often stop grooming and start looking like slobs, or over-groom to the point of causing bald patches and skin irritations.
  • Sleeping more than usual – felines are famous for their laziness, but only to a point. Too much sleeping could mean trouble.
  • Lethargy – the best thing about cats is their curious, playful nature. They love to explore and get into everything, so a lack of interest in those normal catty things should set off the alarm bells.
  • Vocalisation – some kitties just like to chat for no apparent reason (I’m looking at you, Sparrow) but if your chatty cat starts making sad, yowly, woe-is-me noises, chances are he’s expressing his discontent about something.
  • Aggression and lack of affection – just like humans, depression can cause cats to become snappy and withdrawn. Hissing, swiping, not wanting to be touched and hiding are all classic signs that something is up.

Sparrow on Laptop - Is My Cat Depressed?

Depression vs. Physical Illness

It’s important to note that the symptoms of feline depression are very similar to symptoms of many other troubles your cat could be facing. It’s difficult to tell the difference between a cat who is physically sick, or emotionally troubled, as these things tend to make kitty behave in the same ways. A visit to the vet is always in order if your little friend is acting strangely or just seems to be not quite himself.

 

Cheering up Your Sad Cat

If you’ve visited your vet and ruled out any medical reasons for kitty’s blah mood, the best thing you can do for your cat is to be his best friend. Just like we humans, cats find comfort and security in their favourite people, so just being positive and friendly in a gentle way will help to lift kitty’s spirits.

Cats need to be in control of their situations, so make sure you always interact with your cat on his terms. Pulling him out from his favourite hiding spot or giving him affection when he didn’t ask for it will not make him ‘snap out of it’. The key to your cat’s happiness is being able to feel safe and having an enriching environment. Here are some ideas to get that ball rolling:

  • Keep things routine – medication time and food time should ideally be at the same times each day.
  • Provide things your cat likes – places to climb, places to hide and things to play with will give Window Gazing Sparrow - Can Cats Get Depressed?your cat something to do and prevent boredom. This is especially important for cats who don’t go outside.
  • Open the curtains – not only is the sunshine great for bringing back the happy, your inside cat will love watching the world go by.
  • Play soft music – according to Veterinary Practice News, classical music can reduce anxiety and help to eliminate negative emotions.
  • Play with your cat – exercising and spending time with you will keep your cat healthy and make him feel loved.
  • Try a flower essence – my go-to, Rescue Remedy, is great for calming and reducing anxiety.
  • Synthetic cat pheromone sprays – these mimic the scents your cat rubs all over everything with his face and can be used to soothe a tense feline.
  • Plenty of TLC – just having a calm, supportive friend around can make a world of difference.

 

In extreme, prolonged cases of depression, your vet may prescribe an antidepressant, but these should only be considered as a last resort. Just like when we feel depressed, sometimes time is the best healer and no amount of good stuff can change that. If you make sure kitty feels safe and loved and has plenty of distractions, the blahs will run their course in their own good time.

 

Has your cat turned blue? How did you make it better? Your thoughts and questions are welcome in the comments below…

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20 Comments

  1. This a very useful article. I was not aware that cats could get depression.
    I do have a cat, so now I will keep an eye for that too.
    Thank you for the information.

    1. Hi Hisbel, thanks for your comment. Many people don’t realise that cats can get the sads, so it’s important to know what you could be up against. I hope your kitty stays happy and healthy!

  2. I didn’t know that cats could become depressed, but I noticed my cat was acting strange last few days. She didn’t eat a lot like she does usually and she had some bald spots on her. Now I found your post about kitty sads and I am fully aware of cat depression. I am bringing her to the vet asap.
    I live in a flat very high up, do you think that has something to do with her behaviour?

    1. Hi Kristina,

      if your cat stops eating properly, that should set your alarm bells off. Cats like to eat so when they stop, it’s usually a problem. Check out this article for some information on why cats stop eating. As far a living in a high-rise, that in itself is probably not bothering your cat, but if she doesn’t go outside you need to make sure her environment is fun and interesting. Give her some places to sit near the windows and plenty of toys – and of course lots of TLC. But please…if your cat is not eating, take her to the vet. All the best!

  3. Great article! Thanks for this helpful reminders. I’m a cat lover too. I have a cat, a mixed breed of persian + siamese. He’s 5 yrs old now and he’s a happy and a healthy cat.

    1. Hi Christian, thanks for reading. It’s always nice to hear from other cat people, especially with happy cat stories. You must be doing something right!

  4. Hi. I found this post to be very informative and amazing. My cat, Baby, has been suffering from depression caused by the introduction of 2 new cats to the household. She has never been good with change and is not a very good other cats in the house. It was amazing to read different ways to help make her feel better and happier. I have been trying everything between letting her hide and getting difusers to help calm her. These do not seem to have worked. Thanks for the advice on helping her get better.

    1. Hi Amanda,

      I’m sorry to hear that your Baby is feeling down. Other cats can be a huge stress sometimes, and we just have to let things run their course. I’d be taking her for a quick check up at the vet and if everything checks out ok, lay on a bit of extra TLC. This guide has some great tips on introducing new cats, it’s worth checking out if you’re having trouble with your fur babies getting along. Good luck!

  5. This is a great article! I have a white cat we found as a kitten (the vet said about 5 weeks old). Her mom was a feral. She has never been particularly friendly and hides a lot. she has never been a lap cat until I moved two months ago and 5 hours from my previous home. She seems to be the same ol cat but now wants in my lap constantly. She is there now as I type this. I don’t mind at all but she just lays around. I can’t get her to play. Could she be depressed?

    1. Hi Hillard,

      Maybe your cat is just shy and taking a while to get comfortable with you. Are there any other concerning signs…not eating properly, not using the litter box, making a lot of noise? Keep an eye on her and if she shows any other signs of not being right go get her checked out with the vet.

      I had an ex-feral kitten years ago who turned out to be the loveliest cat, but she took a little while to get used to the fact that humans are nice. Sometimes you just have to be patient. Good luck!

  6. I love cats! Sadly I don’t have a cat of my own but I still enjoy reading about them. When my kids get much older and I’m able to convince my husband… I will get a kitty! But like I said I like to read about them and I have family/friends with cats so I can pass along this useful information if needed. Thanks for this blog post.

  7. Wow I didn’t know that depression in our feline friends could be just as bad as in humans. My kids have a kitty and I have noticed some of these symptoms with Snowball. My kids really love their kitty and love to hold and pet him, but now I see how it may be a bad thing because he has started hiding from us for the past little while. I will definitely inform them that we maybe making Snowball sad by never letting him have his alone time.

    1. Hi Matt,

      It’s definitely a good idea to teach your kiddies that they need to leave Snowball alone when he wants to be alone. I’d hate to think their love could end up getting them scratched or bitten. It does sound like Snowball is feeling a bit crowded – it might be a good idea to make sure he has somewhere high up to hide, out of reach of the short people. Good luck!

  8. I have always believed and known that animals share a lot of the same feelings as us, including depression. Me and my son recently took in a baby kitten within the last 7 months and now that he has grown some he has turned into a truly unique cat to me and my son, showing us love and affection that most cats I have had never have. Great post Shirley!

    1. Thanks Lorenzo, I love hearing happy cat stories. To me, it always feels like a great achievement when I raise a kitten into a friendly, loving cat…it sounds like you feel the same. I hope you and your son get to enjoy your wonderful pet for many years to come.

  9. Great Tips

    Wow, I never thought of our pets becoming depressed, they just always seem to be happy and adjust to changes pretty well.

    Great tips on what to watch out for in kitty depression, I never knew cats were so sensitive to simple things as moving their kitty bathroom to a new spot.

    1. Thanks Jeffrey, you must be doing something right if you pets just roll with the changes. Cats are not the tough guys they pretend to be!

  10. The thought of depressed kitty just makes me so very sad. 🙁 I used to have one that would get this way when we relocated his litter box, as you mentioned. I also agree that illness can mimic depression. One of my kitties that we lost to kidney disease was acting many of these ways, and a trip to the vet revealed the true problem. It’s great that you bring that up so people know to consider that as well.

    I also find it very interesting and awesome to read that soft music helps ease their anxiety! I just had a discussion with my husband last night about whether or not he thought cats/dogs enjoyed relaxing music.. or if they paid it no attention at all. Now I know! 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Hi Jen,

      sad kitties make me very sad, too! I hate to think that people don’t consider their pet’s emotions so I’m glad help raise awareness. Thanks for your support!

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