Signs Your Cat is Depressed

Signs Your Cat is Depressed

Causes of Depression in Cats – There are a few instances and changes that can lead to a cat showing signs of depression.

Loss of a Family Member

Many people still think of cats as solitary in nature. However, cats can be more or less social, depending on their experiences and living situations, and they can experience loss and grief similar to people.

When a family member moves out of the house or passes away, the family cat will experience a loss if they had a social connection to that person. It is also not uncommon for cats to grieve when a feline or canine housemate leaves or dies.

Moving to a New House

A change from the current living environment to something new can be stressful to both pet and pet guardian.

Aside from the stress of the move itself, moving from a large house to a smaller house or apartment would cut down the amount of space a cat has to explore and may restrict their level of activity, leading to depression.

In addition, when a cat that is used to having access to the outdoors moves to an apartment where they can’t go outside, they can become depressed.

Changes in the Family’s Schedule

When your work schedule changes and you’re absent for longer periods of time, your cat’s mental state may be affected. Also, when you go away on vacation and your cat is either left with a pet sitter or sent to a boarding place, your cat has no way of knowing that you will come back for them, so they may experience depression.

Changes in Physical Health

If an active cat starts to develop arthritis and can no longer jump up to their comfy spot on the couch, bed, or window, it can be depressing and lead to a loss of enrichment. As a result, your cat can become depressed.

In situations when a cat experiences a sudden loss of a limb or an eye, or they start losing their sight, that would totally affect how they navigate in the world. Some cats may adjust really well, but an older cat may take longer to adjust and may become depressed.


Signs of a Depressed Cat

  • Vocal clues or changes in vocalization: Your cat may meow more or less than usual. These are very audible indications that your cat may be unhappy. These unhappy noises are usually low-pitched, mournful yowls. Purrs do not always indicate happiness and an unhappy kitty might also purr more as a way to comfort themselves as well. Other cats that are normally vocal may become quiet, while quiet cats can turn up the volume.
  • Body language: Sometimes your cat’s body language can clue you in on their unhappiness and there are many eye, ear, fur, and body positions that can indicate this. Ears held back, tail tucked, hair standing on end, and other body signs are all forms of silent communication that your cat may be sad.
  • Aggression or fear: Sad cats tend to be more reactive and act out with aggression or fearfulness. If you notice behaviour changes that result in your cat being scared or abnormally aggressive, then they may be sad.
  • Clingy or hiding or changes in personality: A sad cat may lose interest in the activities that used to engage him, become reclusive, and hide. More quiet cats can become clingy or demanding and the fear of strangers that all cats seem to share can become heightened when a cat is sad.
  • Excessive sleep: Cats normally sleep a lot, but sad or depressed cats sleep even more. If there have been changes in the location of a favourite nap spot this can also indicate sadness.
  • Poor grooming or changes in grooming: This can be a sign of unhappiness and ill health. Cats that do not feel well or are depressed often stop grooming themselves leaving very unkempt looking coats.
  • Not eating or change in appetite: If your cat has stopped eating or you've noted a sudden change in appetite, it may be unhappy about something. Sad cats may snub foods they previously enjoyed and may even lose interest in their favourite treats.
  • Spraying or changes in bathroom habits: A sad cat may use their own scent to feel better by urinating in inappropriate places. There are many reasons for urinating outside of the litter box, but stress, depression, and sadness are high on this list. Your cat may urinate in high-value areas such as lookouts, your bedroom, or places where the scent of a deceased pet or missing human lingers in order to spread their own scent. Also, if your cat soils outside of the litter box, this should raise a red flag.
  • Excessive scratching: If your cat is sad or depressed, it may start scratching objects more so than usual to relieve stress and mark its territory.

How Can You Help? – Although cats can experience depression, there are many things you can do to help them improve their mental health.

Spend Quality Time with Your Cat

To help your depressed cat, you can spend more time with them. Just sitting with them and petting them can soothe to a depressed cat. Some cats may enjoy ear rubs, scratches on the side of their face or under the chin, or even being brushed.

Introduce New Toys and Games

You can also try to spark your cat’s interest in life again by engaging your cat in more activities or offering them new toys of different sizes, textures, and colours.

Actively participate in playing, using fishing pole–type toys to entice your cat. You can also offer puzzle toys to encourage your cat to work for tasty treats or provide toys that move around the floor in unusual patterns or make interesting noises. Download games made for cats to your mobile devices to engage your cat or subscribe to cat TV.

Offer New Types of Food

Some cats may show interest in different flavours or brands of food, or even human food such as boiled or roasted chicken, yogurt, or cheese. Other cats may respond well to meat-based baby food. Before feeding your cat human food, have your vet okay the type and amount of food.

Play Calming Music

There is soothing music designed specifically for cats that you can find on YouTube, our channel that some cats may enjoy. The music contains underlying tracks of cats purring and other frequencies of sound that cats can hear.

Try Supplements

There are natural supplements that contain l-theanine and l-tryptophan that can increase serotonin in a cat’s brain to help combat depression. Serotonin is sometimes known as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, and higher levels are connected to feelings of calm and happiness.

Use Pheromones and Invigorating Scents

Feline pheromones may be calming to cats. You can also offer your cats different scents, such as mint, catnip, and rosemary to waken their senses.

Consider Adopting Another Cat

Some cats may enjoy the companionship of another cat. However, careful consideration is needed. Even if your cat was very social with a previous feline housemate who passed away, getting another cat may not be the right answer. Your resident cat may not want a replacement for their recently departed housemate. 

Get Professional Help

You can also speak to your regular veterinarian regarding psychoactive medication for your cat. Ask for a recommendation for a veterinary behaviourist for a customized treatment plan and pharmaceuticals to help your cat.

Sep 16 2022
by Claire