Cats can experience depression for a number of reasons. It’s important that pet owners know the cat depression signs to watch out for so they can help their cat when they’re feeling blue. Here are some common signs that a cat is feeling depressed, along with what might be causing the depression and how you can help your cat feel happy again.
Common Cat Depression Signs
The most common cat depression signs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Poor grooming habits
- Abnormal or intense vocalization
- Excess sleep
- Lack of interest in play
A Depressed Cat Might Have Changes in Their Eating Habits
One of the primary signs that your cat is experiencing moodiness or depression is a change in eating habits. This most often manifests as a loss of appetite or a decrease in food intake. This is obviously a concerning cat depression sign because it can cause your cat to lose weight and suffer negative health impacts.
The only way to know if your cat is experiencing a change in eating habits is to know their typical eating habits. It’s important to keep your cat on a very healthy diet and monitor their caloric intake so they don’t become overweight and so that you can tell if something changes. Cats can be very stoic, so sometimes a loss of appetite is the only indicator you’ll have that something is wrong. If you’re worried your cat is eating less, watch them carefully at meal times.
Cat Depression May Cause Poor Grooming
A depressed cat will usually neglect their normal grooming activities, such as licking their fur and scratching at their scratching post. These are healthy, natural, and instinctive activities for cats to take part in, and when they don’t follow their personal grooming behaviors, you will probably see negative results in their fur and possibly their skin.
A cat who has stopped grooming regularly might get mats in their fur or even skin conditions like hot spots or rashes. Their coat might also appear dingy or dull, and they may start losing clumps of hair.
Vocalizing Is a Common Cat Depression Sign
Your cat might also tell you that they’re feeling depressed by vocalizing in excess. If you have a normally quiet cat who starts to meow and cry loudly and consistently, it may be because they are feeling depressed.
A depressed cat won’t be purring – the sound itself will obviously be a forlorn one, often low-pitched and sad. It’s also worth noting that, if your cat is often vocal with you and they suddenly stop, this can also be a sign of depression. Changes in your cat’s vocal communication can mean they are experiencing a mood issue like depression.
Changes in Sleep Schedule Can Indicate Depression
While cats are known for being very sleepy creatures – the typical adult cat sleeps between 12 and 20 hours a day! – changes in your feline friend’s sleep schedule should be concerning. If your cat starts to take more naps, sleep longer at night, or generally seem more tired and sleepy, it might be a cat depression sign.
Changes in your cat’s sleep schedule can be hard to pinpoint because cats naturally intersperse their sleep at random times throughout the day. While some cats keep to a predictable routine, such as a morning and afternoon nap, other cats will just catch their shut-eye when they can throughout the day. If you notice your cat is not awake and active at their typical times – such as when they expect you to fill their food bowl – they may be experiencing depression.
Depression Will Cause a Normally Playful Cat to Be Uninterested
Apathy is another common cat depression sign. Cats need mental stimulation and play daily. If your cat has stopped showing interest in their favorite interactive toys, or is hiding from the family and isolating themselves from interaction, they may be feeling depressed or even physically unwell.
Reclusiveness or lack of interest in play is an easier behavior to spot as far as cat depression signs go. If you try to tempt your cat with a feather toy or a laser pointer and they repeatedly rebuff your advances to play, you should be concerned about their mental health – especially if they are normally playful and engaged.
Change Is Usually the Cause of Cat Depression
If your pet is demonstrating cat depression signs, it is likely because of some change in their environment or lifestyle. Cats are creatures of habit, and even the smallest trigger can cause them to descend into moodiness or depression. Changes that can cause depression in cats might include a new baby in the house, the loss of a pet, rearranged furniture or a move to a new house, or even a change in your schedule and availability for attention.
If you suspect your cat is feeling depressed, take a moment to consider the past few weeks or months and anything significant that might have changed for them. You’ll probably be able to identify a cause for your cat’s depression pretty quickly. If you can’t, you might need to consult your veterinarian. It’s possible the cat depression signs you’re noticing, such as appetite loss, less grooming, and changes in sleep, are actually signs of something different – possibly a health condition that needs treatment.
What to Do If Your Cat Is Depressed
The way you handle your cat’s depression will depend on what is causing this emotional change in your feline. Some ways you can support your cat through depression include:
- Ensuring they have familiar items around them
- Keeping their schedule consistent
- Introducing new games and toys
Try to Provide Your Cat with a Familiar Environment
You may be able to address the issue of your cat’s depression by providing them with some familiarity in their environment. Especially if the cause of their sadness is a recent change, such as a new home or a baby in the house, you can try to recreate something familiar to assuage their depression.
For example, you can arrange some of their familiar old items in a corner of the new home so they feel more comfortable. This might be some of their favorite toys or a blanket from the old house or even a piece of furniture they will recognize, such as an armchair.
If you move to a new house with a cat, there are a number of ways to ensure the move goes smoothly. Try to keep their diet consistent, and don’t introduce any new foods during or shortly after the move. You should also keep their litter box, cat litter, and sleeping space consistent whenever possible. The more familiar items your cat has around them, the less likely it is they will become depressed in your new home.
A Consistent Schedule Is Important for a Cat
Some cats might struggle with a constantly changing schedule or a really busy home life with lots of coming and going. If your schedule changes in a dramatic way – such as kids going back to school after summer break or you returning to the office after working remotely – your cat might experience depression. If this is the cause of your cat’s blues, one way to assuage their discomfort is by keeping their schedule as consistent as possible.
Changes in the family schedule don’t have to mean changes in your cat’s schedule. Have a consistent time for meals, playtime, and even treats. You can organize your cat’s schedule around the parts of your schedule that rarely change, such as dinner time and breakfast, or your return from work. Make an effort to maintain consistency so your cat knows what to expect and feels that part of their life is reliable, even if there are changes happening around the house.
Introduce New Mental Stimulation Techniques for Your Cat
One way to pull your cat out of a depression is by introducing new toys or games that will get them engaged again. Boredom can be a direct cause of depression, so if your cat isn’t feeling stimulated by their existing toys, try something new. This can be simply getting a different colored or textured version of an existing toy, or trying a new type of toy or game all together. Maybe even introduce some catnip-filled toys for a little extra pick-me-up in your feline’s day. If you can find a way to get your cat excited again, they might start to feel less depressed.
Watch Out for Cat Depression Signs and Monitor Your Cat’s Habits
Of course, there are also causes of cat depression that you can’t fix, such as the loss of a pet family member that was your cat’s best friend. Like humans, cats can experience depression from grief and loss, and oftentimes, they can recover fully. If you can’t fix the problem, just be sure to monitor your cat’s behavior carefully and make sure the depressive episode doesn’t go on for too long. If you’re worried that your cat’s physical health is being impacted negatively by their depression, consult your veterinarian immediately.