Cats can suffer from depression just as much as dogs can. Pet lovers might think that these aloof little creatures don’t really get attached to their human or animal families, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In today’s article, we are looking at the clinical manifestations of depression in cats, its causes, and several ways of making a depressed cat feel a little better.
What causes depression in cats?
The factors that can lead to this condition can be very different, and the way they affect our feline friends can also be unique from one animal to the next. For example, some cats are very adaptable, so they might have nothing against accepting a new animal member or even moving to an entirely different environment.
But the majority of cats don’t really appreciate changes that much, so any modifications to their normal routine, living space, or the people or animals they interact with can lead to a depressive episode.
Being sick and having to see the vet day in and day out can be another reason why cats get depressed.
The majority of cats that are taken out of their environments tend to become sad, but that’s not the only way they are affected. They can become nervous or incredibly anxious to the point that they get scared by every little noise.
And even if most cats are solitary and actually like being left alone, if they get used to a person or another animal for many years, the loss of that presence will affect them in a more or less significant manner.
Needless to say, abandonment and the absence of an appropriate diet or clean water can also make a cat depressed. Physical pain can lead to the same outcome, especially in chronic diseases. Cats don’t really appreciate having their independence taken from them, so it’s very hard for them to cope with being sick.
Symptoms of feline depression
We might have already mentioned anxiety as one of the signs that pet owners can notice in their depressed cats. But that’s not the only symptom that these furry friends can show. Another very common one is hiding behind the furniture and refusing to communicate with human and animal friends.
Some of the other clinical signs that can be discerned in a depressed cat are listed below:
- Preferring alone time
- Being needier than usual
- Refusing to eat or drink water
- Vocalization in search for their animal or human companion
- Looking out the window for hours on end
- Sleeping for longer periods of time
- Inappropriate elimination (peeing and pooping in the most unlikely of places)
- Spitting or hissing whenever they’re bothered or forced to interact
The symptomatology can differ a lot depending on each cat’s personality and circumstances. If they’ve always lived indoors and shared their life with another cat, and that cat has now passed, you will undoubtedly notice your other feline friend getting sad.
On the other hand, cats that have spent the majority of their life outdoors and that have not created strong bonds with other animals might have a lower chance of becoming depressed.
Their mentality is more of a ‘fight or flight’ situation, and since they have to fend off the attacks of predators, be stealthy, and also make an effort to get food, they’re just too busy with all of these tasks to get depressed.
But some cats are just more sensitive, so they tend to suffer a lot more whenever something drastic changes in their life.
What can you do about it?
Treating depression can be quite challenging, mostly because it can go unnoticed for a long time, especially at first, and because cats aren’t so keen on having to put up with yet another change after they’ve lost a loved one, for example.
Here are a few tips on how you can make your feline friend feel just a little better.
Get another cat
As counterproductive as it might seem, especially if you’ve recently lost another feline companion, getting a new cat can break the routine and can help your older one feel a little better.
Whether that happens because they’re irked by the kitten’s behavior or because they don’t know exactly how they are supposed to react, it’s something that will definitely distract them from feeling sad.
There are some supplements that can make a difference in terms of improving the symptoms of depression in cats, and they range from omega-3 fatty acids that help your cat’s brain function better to L-tryptophan or L-theanine. Ask your vet about these products and whether they might be a good fit for your cat.
Spend more time with your pet
The lonelier your cat gets, the more likely it is for them to feel even more depressed. If you have never had a schedule where you play with your pet for at least 15-30 minutes every evening, you should consider creating one.
Get new toys, a cat bed, a cat tree, or whatever else you need to invest in to make your cat feel better. A cat perch can also provide them with some entertainment, especially when you are at work.
Try feline pheromones
Feline pheromones can help your pet calm down for a bit whenever they get very sad and start vocalizing in your house. Not all of them work as well or even have the same effects on cats, but trying one can’t hurt, right?
When everything else fails, you can ask your veterinarian if they can’t prescribe medication to your cat so that they feel less depressed. There are some options in terms of such drugs these days, but we suggest that you first try to change things up in their living space and routine and only then resort to this solution.
Also, there are veterinary behaviorists these days that can help you find out what is at the root of the problem if your cat seems depressed for no apparent reason.