It’s human to feel down, blue or even depressed sometimes. Believe it or not, your cat can feel this way, too. Behaviorists first recognized depression in cats in the 1990s.
“Cat depression is an abnormal behavior in which the cat shows a change in activity, change in vocalization and usually a decrease in appetite,” says veterinary behaviorist Katherine Houpt, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y. “Depression in cats is not very common, or at least it isn’t recognized as a quiet, less active cat doesn’t bother the owner.”
Cats can become depressed after a major disruption in their lives, such as moving, adding or losing a family member, or having their owner’s schedule change. The most common cause of depression in cats is the loss of a friend.
If you think your cat may be depressed, go through our Cat Depression Checklist:
- Cats normally sleep a lot, but you will notice if your cat’s activity level decreases, he lacks energy or seems to be asleep all the time. Does your cat sleep more than usual?
- Has your normally friendly and outgoing cat started to hide under beds, cower in corners and generally avoid interacting with her family and companions?
- Does your cat seem less interested in his daily meals and fail to empty his food dish as he used to?
- Has your cat stopped grooming herself?
- Has your cat started spraying or stopped using his litter box properly?
- Is your cat more aggressive, exhibiting uncharacteristic biting, scratching or hissing behaviors?
- Excessive vocalization often occurs when a cat loses a close companion, whether it’s another cat, dog or person. The cat will roam around the house meowing, as if trying to find her missing buddy. Does your cat cry or meow more than normal?
All of these symptoms could indicate that your cat is depressed or has a medical condition, so it’s important to take your cat to your veterinarian for a thorough checkup. If the vet gives your cat a clean bill of health, then discuss the possibility of depression and what you can do about it.
“Generally, we think that depression is associated with a poor immune system,” says Houpt. Because a distressed immune system can leave your cat susceptible to other illnesses, try to alleviate his depression as soon as possible.
If your cat displays any of the behaviors on our checklist, don’t worry. Talk it over with your veterinarian and make an effort to give your feline friend some extra love and attention. Petting, grooming, playing with and talking to your cat will help her feel loved.
Remember, your cat depends on you for both her physical and emotional care.
Helen Jablonski is a feline behavior consultant and freelance writer in Malvern, Ohio. She shares her life with her fiancé and their eight cats.