8 Common Cat Depression Symptoms

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Although it’s not a topic often talked about, cat depression is important to be aware of.

Just like people, cats can suffer from depression, and there are certain symptoms you can look for if you think your cat may be depressed.

In this article, we’ll discuss some common cat depression symptoms, what can cause cats’ depression, and what you can do to help your cat in this situation.

Can Cats Get Depressed?

Just like people, cats can also get depressed. A study has proved that cats can experience both positive emotions like happiness and negative ones such as fear and anxiety. Cats are likely to get depressed when faced with negative emotions like fear or pain.

So, can cats get depressed due to discomfort and pain? Yes, these are two of the factors that can lead your cat down a spiral of depression.

DID YOU KNOW: A 2020 study about separation-related problems in animals found that cats tend to feel depressed the most when their owner is not around. 

8 Cat Depression Symptoms

There are several behaviors linked to your cat’s depression, with some being more common than others. Symptoms that cat owners should be on the lookout for include:

1. Changed Vocalization

Vocal cue changes are one of the symptoms of cat depression. If your cat starts meowing more than usual or stops meowing altogether, it could be a sign they’re depressed.

These changes in vocalization are in fact low-pitch tones untypical for cats.

As depression causes cats to act opposite of their nature, cats that are mostly quiet tend to get vocal and loud, while normally “talkative” cats become quieter and mostly keep to themselves.

2. Fear or Aggression

When depressed, cats are likely to become more reactive to their surrounding environment and display strong responses sparked by fear or aggression. Unexplainable aggression could be a sign your cat is feeling low, and suddenly overly fearful behavior can also be linked to a depressed cat.

3. Hiding/Changes in Personality

Cat depression can also cause your cat to exhibit some changes of personality. For instance, it’s not untypical for a cat to no longer show interest in activities that used to excite them.  

In addition, while it’s not common for cats to hide when they’re depressed, some cats may do so when feeling particularly down. If your cat seems to be hiding more than usual, it could be a sign they’re depressed as well.

4. Change in Appetite

Your cat eating more or less than usual or avoiding meals altogether can be an early sign of depression. It’s usually upon noticing these changes that cat owners first start to wonder: “Is my cat depressed?”

Closely linked to changes in appetite, a change in weight is also a common symptom of cat depression. If your cat starts to lose weight for no apparent reason, it could be a sign they’re not eating as much because they’re dying or depressed. On the other hand, if your cat starts to gain weight, it could be a sign they’re overeating due to depression.

It’s not uncommon for sad cats to suddenly display a loss of interest in their favorite food and the treats they used to love.

5. Sleeping More Than Usual

If you notice your cat sleeping more frequently, you should definitely be on the lookout for other symptoms of cat depression. Noticing your cat sleeping more regularly might not be alarming at first, as napping and relaxing is in cats’ nature, which is why it might be difficult for some owners to realize there’s something wrong.

Another sign your cat might be depressed is if it looks tired all the time and doesn’t want to play or do anything.

6. Excessive Scratching

Although cats usually scratch the objects in our home to mark their territory, they also use the act of scratching for stress relief. While excessive scratching is not necessarily one of the biggest symptoms of depression in cats, it can be a sign your cat is heavily stressed or anxious, or uncomfortable with something in their environment.

7. Inappropriate Peeing/Pooping Indoors

Peeing or pooping outside the litter box is a big red flag and very likely a sign of cat depression. Even though there could be other reasons explaining this behavior, anxiety, and depression are the most common ones. Cats often display this behavior when dealing with the loss of a feline companion or an owner as a way of spreading their scent in places where they can sense the scent of their lost one to feel better.

8. Changes in Grooming 

Although cats are known to be very careful about keeping their fur clean, much like humans, a depressed cat may also forget about its self-care habits. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your cat forgetting to clean their fur is just a sign of them being lazy, but take note of such behavior, as an unkept cat is usually an unhappy cat.

What Can Cause Cats’ Depression?

Cat depression is mostly related to your feline friend feeling unsafe due to some type of discomfort. Read on to learn the usual causes of cat depression.

Injury

Physical health is very precious to cats, as they enjoy running, jumping, or climbing on top of things, which is why injuries and depression in cats often go hand-in-hand. The physical restrictions that come with an injury can cause a sense of loss of enrichment in felines, making them experience sadness that could lead to depression over time.

Illness

Similar to an injury, dealing with a chronic illness like kidney disease can lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness in cats. Other medical conditions that have a negative effect on your cat’s mood and well-being include dental disease, diabetes FIV and other infections. 

The pain cats experience causes them to feel unhappy, which is why it’s important to consult a vet and follow their instructions on pain relief.

Loss of Someone They Were Closely Related to

Can cats get depressed when their owner leaves or passes away? Although many think of cats as unaffectionate and selfish, cats do form attachments to their owners and grieve when they lose them. A cat may also become depressed if their feline or canine house friend dies or is no longer around.

Cats can also grieve when a family member they shared a connection with moves out.

Moving to a New House

You might not always know how to tell if your cat is depressed and what causes them to act a certain way, but you should keep in mind that cats are creatures of habit. So, they can easily become depressed when their routine is disrupted, and usually do when they move to a new home.

The process of relocation and the new environment can disturb the cat, especially if their new location doesn’t offer as much space and freedom. Moving from a house to an apartment can be a big change, and the limitations coming with it can cause the cat to feel down.

The Arrival of a New Pet

Cats are not big fans of changes, so a new member entering the family can cause them to feel threatened and lead to depression. However, signs of depression in cats are easy to miss when welcoming another pet into your home, so you should pay extra attention.

Owners should always keep in mind that cats need time to adjust to a newcomer, and even when they accept the new pet, they might not be very friendly towards them.

DID YOU KNOW: Even though cats can exhibit unusual behaviors due to depression, they have plenty of interesting behaviors in general. For instance, have you ever wondered why cats prefer sleeping on your chest?

Key Takeaways

Cats are likely to get depressed when they find it difficult or impossible to escape a negative emotion like fear.
A sad cat can often have a strong negative response to its surrounding environment
Cat depression can cause changes in your cat’s personality and manifest in isolation, excessive scratching, or a lack of grooming.
Cats form attachments to their owners and they will grieve when they lose them.
Both acupuncture and herbal therapy have been effective in treating depression and anxiety in cats.

How to Treat Depression in Cats?

If you think your cat might be depressed, the first step is to take it to the vet to rule out any medical causes. If your cat is healthy, there are a number of things you can do to help ease their depression.

1. Create a Routine

Creating a routine is one of the best ways to tackle the symptoms of depression in cats.

Set aside sometime each day to play with your cat and give it plenty of attention. This will help your cat feel safe and comfortable, which might help them bounce back from depression more easily.

2. Play with Them

Toys can help your cat be engaged and active, introducing a shift into their sluggish depressive behavior. However, even if your cat is older and not very energized and keen on playtime, you can still help them through depression simply by being there for them.

A sad cat will find it easier to deal with depression when receiving attention and affection regularly—in addition to playing with them, you should pet your cat, massage their ears, or show any act of affection your cat enjoys.

3. Provide Them With New Types of Food

Apart from giving them space and time, you can help your cat by introducing new flavors into their diet to mix it up a bit. Try adding catnip to your cat’s food, but do so scarcely so as not to upset their stomach. You might also want to consider cat pheromones, which can be found in certain kinds of collars or diffusers. These products release calming chemicals that may ease your cat’s anxiety and depression.

4. Postpartum Depression 

When it comes to postpartum depression in cats, opinions vary, with some vets saying that cats don’t experience this type of depression, while others think the sudden hormonal change is evidence enough that they do.

5. Play Calming Music 

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery proved that cat music can have a calming effect on felines, especially in out-of-home veterinary settings. Cat music is composed by using cat-like vocalizations that resemble the sound of purring. The stress relief cat music offers can help your feline friend cope with the heavy emotions of depression.

6. Try Natural Supplements

Alternative medicine to ease cat depression is also an option. There are some promising studies that have made some links between CBD oil and depression in cats. The use of CBD is said to relieve anxiety and pain in cats, both of which are symptoms of depression. For this reason, you should learn more about powerful CBD oils for cats in 2022.

In addition, acupuncture and herbal therapy have both been effective in treating a variety of disorders in cats, including depression and anxiety. Acupuncture therapy can help release the built-up stress in the cat’s body, while herbs like chamomile, hops, valerian, and catnip have a calming effect on cats.

DID YOU KNOW: Having learned how to tell if your cat is depressed, keep in mind that cat owners should be extra careful about some medications. For instance, while Benadryl is often used as a cat sedative when traveling, it can sometimes have the opposite effect and cause the cat to feel overly excited, posing the question of whether Benadryl is safe for cats.

Conclusion

Cat depression can be easy to miss, especially if you adopt the mindset that your cat is just acting out and going through some kind of stage. Owners must understand that cats can be sensitive to change and have a strong emotional response, which is why it’s important to be aware of the signs of depression in cats and make a habit of noticing untypical behavior.

FAQ

How to cheer up a depressed cat?

There are many things you can do to try and cheer up your cat. Making sure your cat has plenty of toys and places to hide and climb to keep them active is as important as interacting and spending quality time with them.

Can cats sense depression and anxiety?

Cats are very attuned to their owners’ emotions and can sense when something is wrong. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, your cat may pick up on these feelings and become depressed or anxious too.

Can cat depression be cured?

Unlike human depression, cat depression symptoms are not as persistent and with treatment, most cats will recover from depression. Although there is no set time frame for how long cat depression may last, vets consider it a fleeting state.

ABOUT AUTHOR

When she couldn’t decide between being a nurse, a psychotherapist, and a financial genius, Ofelia decided to do all three. Her interests run far and wide, and she loves researching about everything you get to read on our website. Credit cards or top-notch software, she’s here to tell it all like it is.

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