Feline depression is a real and recognized condition which can be hard to spot since cats are independent and strong creatures capable of hiding their weaknesses. Changes in routine, environment, and circumstances can be stressful for cats, and the natural response for it is depression. It is important to learn how to help a depressed cat and cheer her up.
Since feline depression presents with the same symptoms as some physical conditions, it is important to rule them out before jumping to the assumption that your cat is depressed. Your vet can help you rule out diseases, and once a kitty is deemed in perfect physical health, you can think about the causes of her depression.
Depression is described as “lack of joy,” and there are plenty of things you can do to get your kitty to pull through this period and help her live and enjoy life to the fullest.
This article will help you understand the reasons behind feline depression and symptoms it presents with. Once you’ve identified the cause of depression, there are several treatment options available that will help your cat feel happy and joyous again.
How to Tell If a Cat is Depressed?
Just like people, cats can experience a range of emotions, and just like us, every cat is an individual and can exhibit signs of depression differently.
It is easy to notice that once a vibrant and cuddly cat is sad when she doesn’t greet you by the front door with purrs of delight. But not all cats are cuddly bubbles of fur that love to be petted, and it is easy to mistake depression with your cat’s usual aloofness.
Knowing a cat’s character is very important for observing and reacting to any changes involving her mental health. This can be particularly hard if you’ve just adopted a new kitty since you aren’t familiar with her behavior and daily routines.
A depressed cat can experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Lack of appetite or overfeeding
- Lethargy or excessive sleeping
- Excessive vocalization
- Under or over grooming
- Inappropriate litter box behavior
- Lack of play and affection
- Avoidance; a cat will hide to avoid you
- Aggression or irritability
Even though these symptoms are associated with depression, they are also signs of serious diseases like pancreatitis, kidney disease, or diabetes. Because of that, it is very important to take your cat to be checked by a vet.
Furthermore, older cats or cats with previous surgeries and injuries can become depressed because they are in pain, so you shouldn’t presume that your kitty’s problem is just psychological.
To get to the bottom of things, your vet will run blood tests, chest X-ray, and ultrasound to determine the overall health of your cat. By eliminating any physical malady as the cause of symptoms, your vet can accurately diagnose depression.
If your cat gets a clean bill of health, your vet will help you identify external stressors that may be affecting the cat.
What Causes a Cat to Become Depressed?
Even though some people perceive cats as cold and unaffected by things around them, that is far from true. Cats are social creatures that can easily get stressed by changes and things that are out of their control.
If your once active and cuddly feline is feeling blue and withdrawn and won’t come out of hiding, think about any recent changes in your life and household.
#1: Change of Food
Cats are creatures of habit, and any slight disruption in their daily routine can trigger depression. If you have to change your cat’s food, do it gradually over a period of 10-14 days to give your kitty enough time to adjust to the new taste.
The same goes if you want to move your kitty’s food bowl to another location. Give your cat time to adjust by moving the feeding station little by little until you’ve reached the new spot. By doing so, your cat won’t feel like she is being punished for something.
See Also: How Many Calories Should a Cat Eat
#2: Change of Residence or Family
All pets have some trouble getting used to a new home and neighborhood, and some cats are very affected by the change in their environment. Furthermore, taking a cat to live with your family or friends for a period of time while you are on a business trip can also cause her to become depressed.
Cats form long-lasting bonds with their owners and family, and even slight changes in the dynamics can make a cat feel sad.
Since cats are more independent than dogs, most people think that they can be alone for longer periods of time without any consequences. This is far from true; every cat needs love and devotion to stay physically and mentally healthy.
Working longer hours or taking more frequent business trips can make a cat feel unloved and neglected, which leads to depression.
#4: Loss of Family Member or Companion
Cats are loving beings that can suffer and be very sad when they lose a family member or a companion pet. When you lose someone, it is natural to feel sad and overwhelmed with grief, and these are emotions that your kitty can experience as well.
#5: The Arrival of a New Family Member
Welcoming a new baby home is always a cause for celebration, but it might not be so for your kitty at first.
Babies require constant attention and a cat may feel neglected and rejected with the arrival of a new baby. This will cause a cat to feel sad and to withdraw into themselves, so it is best to prepare the cat for the all changes before the baby arrives.
See Also: How to Keep Cat Out of Crib
#6: Bringing a New Pet Home
Adopting a new pet is a wonderful thing. However, your cat may feel that she now needs to compete for your love and attention. This feeling deepens once a cat realizes that now she needs to defend her food from a new pet and race him for the favorite spot on the sofa.
All of these can stress a cat and make her feel disposable, which triggers the blues.
Despite popular belief, cats aren’t solitary beings and love spending time playing and interacting with their owners or other pets. If a cat’s brain isn’t stimulated on a regular basis, she can easily become bored, which is one of the most common causes of depression.
How to Treat Feline Depression?
The best way to successfully treat feline depression is to identify and eliminate the stressor which is causing a cat to feel anxious and depressed. There are a few things you can do to make your cat feel relaxed and establish new routines which will get her to rely on you once more.
However, in some cases, a cat may not respond to these changes, and you will have to seek the help of a vet or a behavioral expert.
#1: Spend More Time Together
It is important to spend time with your cat every day to show her how much you care and to keep her in good mental and physical health. Encourage your kitty to spend time with you by using a soothing voice and toys. In no way should you force your cat to play or cuddle if she isn’t up for it.
Try to make this a routine, and spare half an hour each day just being there for your kitty. You can talk to her, cuddle, play, or just sit beside her, so she knows that you are there. Do your best to encourage your kitty to interact with you, but don’t bully her into it.
#2: Encourage Your Cat to Play
As we’ve said, laying around and not doing anything the whole day can annoy a cat and get her depressed. If this is the case with your feline, you should spend some time every day getting your cat to play with you.
To motivate and intrigue your feline, design a game so it resembles the way your kitty hunts and stalks prey in the wild.
Give your kitty the opportunity to stalk, pounce, and catch her prey to give her a moment of joy and accomplishment. Use feather toys, strings, battery-powered mice, or lasers to get your cat’s attention. Remember that your kitty will need a little more motivation than usual, so be patient and take it slowly.
You should play with your kitty for 30 minutes every day, and you can divide this into several shorter sessions if you feel like it. And don’t forget to let your cat win every time since this will help her produce serotonin, the hormone of happiness which counteracts depression.
See Also: How to Play with Your Cat
#3: Stimulate Your Cat When She’s Alone
Provide plenty of toys, scratching and climbing posts, and hiding places for your cat to keep her entertained and stimulated when you aren’t home.
By doing this, your cat will spend time doing something and not simply sleeping out of boredom. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on toys since a simple ball of crumpled paper can provide hours of endless fun.
Keeping your kitty stimulated and entertained when you aren’t around will keep her in good physical shape and prevent her from feeling alone and sad.
See Also: DIY Cat Toys
#4: Establish a Daily Routine
Cats are creatures of habit; daily routine gives them a sense of security. To help your cat deal with depression, set up a daily schedule you will stick with. Depending on your working commitments and pace of life, set up feeding, playing, and grooming times and teach your kitty to rely on them.
Do your best to stick with the schedule and try to do everything at the same time every day. For example, feed your cat prior to and after work at the same time every day. Also, spend half an hour playing and grooming regularly. This will give a cat sense of importance and things to look forward to.
#5: Set Aside Time for Grooming
Regular grooming is very important for the overall health and well-being of a cat, and physical contact will help her relax and deal with her anxiety and depression.
Spare a couple of minutes of your day to brush your cat, and try to do it at the same time. Besides making your cat look perfect, this routine will give her a sense of security, and she will feel better about herself and reassured.
See Also: How to Groom a Cat
#6: Get a New Friend for Your Cat
Cats develop strong bonds and attachments to their family members and other pets, and loss of one can make a cat feel sad and alone. You should remove all the evidence and smells of a deceased companion so your cat won’t be reminded of him every time she jumps on the sofa.
Bringing a new pet home can help both you and your cat to deal with the loss. Your kitty will get a new buddy that will depend on her for guidance while he settles in, and he can always motivate her to play and divert her thoughts to more pleasant things.
See Also: How to Introduce a New Kitten to a Cat
#7: Reduce Stress
Put yourself in your cat’s shoes and think about things that can cause her stress. Causes of stress vary significantly from one cat to another, but you know your cat the best, and you should be able to figure out the circumstances that make her sad and withdrawn.
Loud music, new furniture, change of food and water bowl, litter box or types of litter are the most common causes of stress. Furthermore, cats are able to sense when we are stressed and become stressed out accordingly.
Consider all of these things to help your cat relax and provide a quiet and loving environment in which she will feel safe and reassured.
#8: Give Your Cat a Massage
It may sound strange, but giving your kitty a massage can help improve her mood and get her excited about things again. This type of therapy improves quality of life and provides physical contact, which has a reassuring and calming effect.
While you massage your cat, you can talk to her in a soothing voice; offer encouragements and your support.
See Also: How to Massage a Cat
#9: Let Your Cat Feel Useful
Being a great hunter is in the basic nature of every cat, and you should encourage your cat’s hunting abilities even if there is no need for her to hunt.
Praise your cat when she catches a cockroach, mice, pigeon, or a fly. By doing this, your cat will feel valuable and of service, which will help her feel better and more secure.
#10: Use Supplements
If you’re dealing with a severe case of depression where your cat refuses to eat, your main concern should be encouraging her appetite. The use of supplements and some natural remedies can help with that.
Feliway is a synthetic cat pheromone similar to the hormones that help a cat feel safe, secure, and relaxed. You can opt for a spray, cream, or diffuser to apply the Feliway and give your kitty much-needed relief.
Homeopathic remedies like Ignatia, chamomile, and St. John’s wort are easy to find in pet health stores and can help soothe an anxious cat. You can use these extracts and apply them to a cat’s coat or buy tinctures and mix them with her food.
#11: Use an Antidepressant Medicine
In cases of severe depression, a cat may not react to any of the above-mentioned treatments; you should talk with your vet about the use of antidepressant medicine.
There are several choices of non-addictive drugs that will help stabilize the serotonin levels and help your cat feel better. Fluoxetine and tramadol are commonly used to treat depression and any pain a cat may be experiencing.
These are the same drugs people with depression use to feel better, but like all drugs, they have certain side effects; you should discuss with your vet first.
If your vet thinks that your kitty can benefit from this type of therapy, the good news is that she won’t have to take it for the rest of her life, but only for a few months until she is back to her old self.
Feline depression is a real condition and proof that cats are very much interested and involved in things that happen around them. Even the smallest change in daily routine can be a stressor and cause a cat to urinate outside a litter box or hide from you and your attempts to cuddle her.
Since many other diseases can present with these signs, it is important to take your cat to a vet for a proper diagnosis, and so you will know how to help a depressed cat.
Finding the cause of depression or stressor and removing it is the best way to help your cat feel relaxed and content in the long run. In most cases, establishing a daily routine as well as promoting frequent interaction and play can also help a cat feel better, more confident, and happy.
Do you have any experience with helping a depressed cat get better and content again? Let us know if we missed anything by posting a comment below! Catnip can also be a good way to stimulate your cat, so check out our article on how to give a cat catnip.