How to Spot Depression in Cats
While cats may have a reputation for being independent and aloof, they can be depressed just like people. Changes in their sleep schedule, appetite or grooming can all indicate that a cat is feeling blue.
However, these signs can also be indicative of illness, so it’s important to talk to your vet.
Cats often become depressed if they feel left out of the family’s activities. This can be because of a change in routine or if they have lost a companion. If you notice that your cat is acting differently, it’s important to take them to a veterinarian for a checkup. This is especially important if your cat has been meowing excessively as this could indicate that they have a medical issue.
Often, signs of depression in cats mimic other illnesses and may be difficult to identify. For this reason, it is important to consult your vet before assuming that your pet is depressed. However, once the cause is identified, depression in cats is usually short term. Most of the time, a cat’s mood will return to normal after they have processed a change in their environment or life.
Loss of a Companion
The loss of a companion animal is a very stressful event for a cat and can cause them to grieve. Grieving is a natural process that cannot be rushed. It can take weeks, months or even years.
In this study owners reported that their animals displayed behavioural changes resulting from the loss of a companion animal. A significant proportion of dogs and cats displayed variation in affectionate behaviour with some becoming more clingy and needy and others seeking less attention. Changes in territorial behaviour were also observed, with some dogs and cats increasing their searching and spending more time at the deceased animal’s favourite spot.
Be sure to give your other pets time to adjust to the loss of a fellow family member, and avoid introducing another animal too soon as this may cause further distress. In many cases, with time the feelings of sorrow will fade and be replaced by fond memories.
Changes in Environment
Even the smallest change in a cat’s environment can send them into depression. If they suddenly start grooming less, losing their appetite, sleeping more or seem lethargic or withdrawn, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your vet.
Cats may also become depressed if their normal activities are hindered by illness or injury. For example, if a cat’s arthritis prevents them from playing as much as they normally do, it can lead to depression.
It’s important to note that cats do not experience depression in the same way humans do, so their treatment options are usually short term and involve lifestyle changes and possibly medication. However, if the depression is caused by an underlying health issue, the prognosis will vary and may require more intensive medical care.
When a healthy cat who normally eats regularly and at typical times begins to leave food uneaten, lose weight, or stop drinking water, this is a clear indication of depression. If you suspect your pet is depressed, schedule a veterinary appointment immediately to rule out physical illness as the cause.
Recognizing cat depression can be challenging, but it is typically short term once identified. A visit to your veterinarian can help to rule out physical illnesses as the cause, and a combination of environmental and behavioral modification will likely be needed to return Miss Whiskers to her happy self. Pay attention to vocal clues, including low-pitched meows and less frequent purrs as these are often signs of unhappiness. The use of familiar items in a new environment can also comfort cats.