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:
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.
- 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- Aggression and lack of affection – just like humans, depression can cause cats to become snappy and withdrawn.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.
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 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…