Cat depression, the signs, symptoms and what you can do!

A photo of a sad looking cat
A cat suffering from depression often can look sad and lethargic.

While cats can be independent creatures who seem entirely comfortable in their own company, cats are known to suffer from depression. Anyone who has spent time with a cat will know that these animals are extremely perceptive and respond to their environment. An important thing to remember is that there are a number of reasons a cat may suffer depression like symptoms. I would like to say that in most cases it is not something you as an owner has directly cause. However it is usually something that you can help to treat by reading this post and carrying out the simple steps.

Can cats suffer from depression?

The very quick and concise answer is yes, cats can suffer from depression. Even though some people consider felines to be aloof animals, they are creatures that are capable of developing intense bonds and relationships with other cats and with humans. I have already covered about cats emotions in a previous post. They share many of the same mix of emotions that we ourselves feel so they too can feel sad, down and depressed.

What causes depression in cats?

There are many reasons why a cat may be depressed which means that no matter what your home situation is or how many other cats are present in your home, you may find that your cat suffers from depression.

One way in which cats suffer from depression is when they have experienced the loss of a companion, and this may be a fellow cat or a human companion. This is very similar to the way that humans respond and there have been studies which indicate that cats miss other animals or people that they have developed an attachment to.

There is also the fact that a cat who is not getting enough engagement and interaction can show signs of depression. Even if you think that cats are hugely independent, there are times when they wish to engage and interact with other animals and people. If this engagement doesn’t occur, a cat will feel depressed, much the same as any person would.

Another factor that may lead to a cat feeling depressed is a change in their diet or even their litter. These may seem like inconsequential matters to some people but cats often grow comfortable and familiar with their food and litter. A change in brand or type of food may impact on their food, but even a change to the location of where they normally eat or find their litter can impact on the outlook of a cat.

Any cat owner who is considering making a change to their diet or litter should make gradual changes. With respect to a litter box, if it is possible to set up two litter boxes at one time, this should be considered. This would allow the cat to develop a greater level of confidence in the new litter box before the old one is completely removed.

If you are not able to have two separate litter boxes set up, consider moving the litter box gradually. This will be less traumatic or challenging for your cat while allowing you to eventually move the litter box to a new location.

Changes in the household can cause feline depression.

It may be that changes in your home which have nothing to do with the cat may impact on the cat’s health and outlook. Some factors which have been cited as having a negative impact on a cat’s mood include divorce, a child moving out of the family home, someone new entering the family home to stay. If there has been a notable change to what people would consider being the standard home life, it may impact on how the cat feels and behaves.

Even the weather can play a part.

A photo showing it raining and cold outside
When it is cold and when outside your cat can get depressed.

As the title says, even the weather can play a part in your cats mental well-being. If you have a cat that love to go outside but does not like bad weather, then even a prolonged spelll of rainy and windy weather can cause your cat to get depressed. This is mainly likely to be over the winter time.

What are the symptoms and signs of depression in cats?

It is important that pet owners are able to spot what depression looks like in their pet. There are many symptoms or signs to look out for if you believe your cat has depression. Just because your cat shows one or two of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that they are suffering from depression, but it is something that is worth considering.

Common signs that show a cat may be suffering from depression are listed below. You may find that any number of these can be present.

  • A cat overeating.
  • A cat under eating.
  • A cat that is over grooming themselves.
  • A cat that is not grooming at all.
  • A cat that is shy of attention and keeps away from people and other animals.
  • A cat that hides away to keep out of sight.
  • A cat that is very aggressive in its behaviour when normally it is calm.
  • A very noisy and vocalised cat for no apparent reason.
  • Bad litter box behaviour such as doing their business outside of the box.
  • A lethargic and tired cat that oversleeps compared to normal.

Given that many of these signs are the opposite of each other, with over and under grooming cited as possible symptoms of depression in cats, it can be difficult for cat owners to determine if their cat is suffering from depression. However, it may be easier to think about notable changes in the behaviour or activity in your cat.

Given that cats are well known for liking to sleep, a healthy cat, both physically and emotionally, will experience a few active spurts over the course of a day. A cat who feels good will stretch, they will look to play, they will be keen to explore their surroundings and they will often hunt. If your cat sleeps more than they normally do or they are not interested in activities that they would normally engage in, it could be a sign that your cat is depressed or far from their normal self.

It is important for pet owners to monitor their cat’s food intake on a regular basis. This is a sensible idea at the best of times but if you have concerns about your cat feeling depressed or far from their best, they may lack enthusiasm for their feed.

If your cat is normally excited and highly enthusiastic when it comes to food, any deviation from this behaviour should be viewed as a change that is worth considering.

You will know your cat better than most people, and you should consider its behaviour in line with how it normally acts. This is particularly relevant with respect to your cat over or under grooming. Some cats are known to take great pride in their appearance, making sure they look at their best.

However, a cat that stops grooming themselves will often end up with dandruff, with an oily coat, with knots in their hair and looking slightly messy. There is also the fact that some cats will overgroom themselves when they are depressed and there are notable signs to look for with this behaviour. If your cat has irritated skin, bald patches or they have open wounds, it may be down to them grooming themselves too much, leading to problems.

Of course, just because your cat is suffering from one or all these issues doesn’t mean that they are suffering from depression. It may be that your cat has other health issues or it could be that there are other reasons why your cat’s behaviour has changed in recent times.

How can we help a cat that is suffering from depression?

A photo of a cat hiding away
Cats can often seem lethargic and hide away if they are suffering feline depression

If you do believe that your cat is suffering from depression, there are steps you should take. No matter the condition your cat is suffering from, it is always good advice to take your cat to see a vet. It may be that your cat has a health problem that needs to be resolved and a vet will be best placed to help you resolve their problems.

If you believe there are reasons why your cat is feeling depressed, you should look to remove these issues or resolve them. If there have been any notable changes to your home life of late, if it is possible to change back, you may find that your cat’s health improves. Of course, if you are able to turn things back to normal, and your cat’s behaviour doesn’t improve, it may be that there are other issues at play.

Any household that has a number of cats may be more likely to experience depression in cats. When you have more cats, there is a greater chance of issues arising between the cats. If you find that there are problems between your cats, separating them and providing them with their own bowls and litter boxes may be a sensible and suitable solution to their problems.

If you are looking for additional support and guidance in caring for your cat and removing challenging situations, products such as pheromone diffusers may help to calm your cat and create a more pleasing atmosphere at your home.

This is what you can do if your cat is depressed.

As stated above, if you are concerned about your cat feeling depressed, you should arrange an appointment with a vet as soon as possible. This is because many of the symptoms of depression are very similar to the symptoms that cats experience when dealing with severe medical ailments and conditions. If your cat is suffering from diabetes, pancreatitis or kidney failure, the symptoms may be similar to those felt by a cat suffering from depression.

It is understandable that a cat who is experiencing a serious medical condition or disease will be in some discomfort. A cat who is in pain may manifest their emotions through depression. Even if your cat isn’t suffering from a major medical condition, it will be positive to rule this out, allowing the vet and yourself to focus on other factors that may impact in the health of your cat.

Give your cat extra care and attention.

If you believe that your cat is suffering from depression, you should try to spend as much time with them as possible. Cats may not require as much attention and engagement as dogs, but there are times when cats need interaction and to feel some love and attention from people.

Simple steps like speaking to your cat in a warm and welcoming manner, cuddling your cat and even stroking its fur will make a difference in how your cat feels or interacts with you and your loved ones. You should also try to encourage your cats to play and engage with others.

Make room for some extra play time.

A photo of a cat playing with a toy
Cats need extra play time when they are depressed

A good starting point in encouraging your cat to play is to allow cats to replicate the way they would behave in the wild. Domestic cats may be very far removed from wild cats but there are still similarities in how these animals are likely to behave. If you can, you should encourage your cat to stalk, to pounce, to climb on items, to leap around and you should look to stimulate all the cats’ senses, including hearing, smell and vision.

You don’t need to go outdoors to encourage this style of behaviour, you should find it is possible to create an indoor environment that allows a cat to behave in a wilder manner than they would normally do so.

There are plenty of toys on offer for cats but try to buy a few toys where you and your cat can play together. Having a toy that reflects a cat’s prey will also help to create a sense of wildness to your cat’s play and interaction.

If you are a cat owner and you notice that your cat is suffering from depression, it will have a huge impact on your home life. You won’t want to see your cat so unhappy and if you have loved ones, especially children, at home, they will feel the same when it comes to caring for your cat.

Therefore, cat depression is a serious issue that impacts on the life of everyone in the home and of course, it can be extremely serious for your cat. There are many symptoms to look out for when it comes to determining if your cat has depression. Even if your cat isn’t suffering from depression, these symptoms could be an indicator of something else, so it is important that you notice them and take action to resolve these problems.

There are many reasons why your cat may suffer from depression and as with all issues relating to your cat, it is never a bad idea to take them to visit a vet. If there are no medical conditions affecting your cat, it may be that your cat is suffering from depression, and you can apply more appropriate treatment.

Finding the root reason for your cat’s change of behaviour is vital because this allows you to remove that from your cat’s life. However, this isn’t always possible, and you should look to provide your cat with as much support and assistance as possible.

In conclusion…

Even though cats are considered to be animals that enjoy their own company and independence, there is nothing wrong with showing your cat some added love, affection and attention if they are depressed. Hopefully, it won’t be too long until your cat is back to their normal self.

I really hope that this guide to cat depression has helped you out. I would love to hear how you have gotten on with helping your own cat recover from its feline depression. Let me know in the comments section any of your stories.

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About Super Crazy Pets 35 Articles
Super Crazy Pets is made up of half a dozen devoted pet owners including a retired vet who have cared for and looked after just about every pet you could imagine. We pride ourselves on bringing you the best and most up to date guides and tips to help you give your pets the best life possible.

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