Feline depression is a condition that affects cats just as people. When a cat is depressed it could be a symptom of a physical or psychological issue.
If you want to discard a health condition you need to take your cat to a Vet and get it checked properly, including blood tests, x-rays and abdominal ultrasound for an accurate diagnosis.
Cats are pretty good at hiding pain or when they feel sick, it’s part of their surviving skills so they don’t show their vulnerability to a possible predator. If you see your cat not acting the same and you haven’t taken it to a Vet in a while, do it. A physical check is essential when trying to determine the causes of depression behavior in cats. Neurological conditions, such as tumors or inflammatory diseases of the cat’s nervous system can lead to a severe behavioral change in cats and it’s necessary to discard these conditions.
In this article, I refer to the type of feline depression that is not related to a physical condition. Cats, just like humans, experience periods of depression that can be only a temporary state or a long-term situation and the depression can be mild or severe. For example, a mild depression could be triggered by a change in the cat’s food and severe depression could be caused due to the loss of its owner.
Observe Changes In Your Cat
Just as people, cats have their own personalities, they enjoy a routine and if they feel confident and safe in their territory they are happy. So if you see changes in your cat’s personality or routine, he is telling you something.
10 Signs That Your Cat Could Be Depressed (or stressed)
1. Your cat doesn’t want to be close to you anymore (e.g. he doesn’t wait for you at the door as he always used to)
2. Decrease in grooming or stop doing it.
3. Sleeping much more, day and night time.
4. Lack of appetite, that tasty yummy food is not that interesting anymore. Instead, obsession with chewing non-food items may occur (feline PICA).
5. Your happy cat now doesn’t show any personality and acts with lethargy.
6. A decrease in playing or not interested in playing at all.
7. Your cat is acting aggressively (hissing or attacks on legs when you walk by, for example).
8. A significant increase in hiding, you don’t see your cat around anymore.
9. Doing its business out of the litter box
10. Self-inflicting hair loss.
Again, you need to discard a physical condition if your cat shows some of the above symptoms before considering feline depression due to environmental issues.
POSSIBLE CAUSES OF FELINE DEPRESSION
Separation or Loss
Cats really feel the loss of a family member and they experience separation anxiety that leads to depression for quite a long time. The more attached the cat to the person who leaves home or passes away, the longer the cat’s depression lasts. Cats are creatures that connect with humans at home so when they experience a loss of a member, they feel a change in their environment that they can’t process or understand.
If You Have Moved Recently
If you moved to another house or apartment your cat will have a hard time adjusting to this new environment. Cats are territorial animals and moving to a new home is like you waking up one day in a foreign country without money and not speaking the language. So it’s really traumatic for a cat to change the physical space they have been living because it means the absolute lack of confidence and domination of its territory, it’s all new. Fortunately, there are efficient ways how to relax your cat when you move to a new home.
New Pet Or Human
If you add a new pet to your home, let’s say a dog or a new kitty, your cat may or may not accept this new member. If the new member is another cat and it doesn’t get along with your kitty, one or both cats will start fighting or showing depressive type symptoms.
The same could happen with a new dog or any new pet that will be part of the household. But not only a new pet can cause your cat depression; if a new human is added to the family, this also can create behavioral problems in your cat.
Lack Of Attention
If you are working extra hours or if you are experiencing depression yourself, most likely you won’t show your cat the same affection or attention your pet needs. This could cause serious depression in cats, especially breeds that particularly need attention, such as Burmese, Tonkinese, Siamese or if your cat just happened to be a loving or highly energized feline.
Cats are mistakenly conceived as animals that don’t need human attention and this can’t be farther from the truth. Cat’s don’t need you to walk them, but they certainly need you to pet them, love them and mostly play with them.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Believe it or not, the lack of sun affects cats and they can become depressed during winter. The lack of sunlight lowers the levels of melatonin and serotonin which leads to sadness in humans and also in cats. This phenomenon occurs not only in outdoor-indoor cats but also in only-indoor cats. Felines are more sensitive to changes in sunlight than humans so your indoor cat will be affected as well.
WHAT TO DO TO HELP YOUR FELINE FRIEND
You need to stick with a routine for your cat to feel comfortable and confident. Also, providing your cat a stress-free home it’s a good start. You need to focus on the following elements if you want your cat to be happy and loving again:
Play With Your Cat
If you stopped playing with your feline friend for any reason you need to start spending time with your kitty again and play with it every day.
Your feline friend needs desperately to play every day, your cat has lots of energy that should be spent hunting outdoors but as he can’t do that, he needs to do it by playing.
Play with your feline friend at least 15 minutes every day. Your cat will really appreciate this playtime and he will feel so good being a cat. The importance of playing with cats is usually underestimated and this is not fair to our feline friends.
Spoil Your Cat
You can relax your cat by doing a massage to its body (yes, that works!). Brushing and grooming your kitty also it’s a very good idea. Cats, as people, have a sense of relaxation and pleasure through things like this. Do it with your cat and you will see amazing results.
Provide A Stimulating Environment
If you are out of your home for most of the day you can make it easier for your cat to be alone. Your cat needs to have a window to look outside, this is very important. Contemplating the wildlife outside keeps cats visually connected with the outside world.
Investigations discovered that cats can distinguish the owner’s voice from other voices, but leaving a radio or TV on still can make your cat feel accompanied (source). Also, make sure to leave some interactive toys for your cat to play while you’re away.
Cat Tree Or Perches
Provide your cat a place up high where to lay down, such as a cat tree. Also, it’s important to provide a hiding place for your feline friend if your cat currently doesn’t have any special area in the house to hide, you need to create one or getting a cat tree with a hiding lounge.
If you decide to create a special area for your kitty it needs to be away from human traffic and specially created for your cat. If you just added a new cat to the household you need to create a special area for each, where both feel non-invaded and happy. A window perch is a great idea to provide your feline friend a view to the outside while relaxing at the same time.
Adapting Your Cat To The New Member Of The Household
The new family member needs to play with your cat on a daily basis to build trust and connection. If a new pet is added, their territorial areas need to be delimited for each pet so they both feel happy. If the new family member is a cat, it’s important to set up the litter box properly, having one litter box for each cat. If the new member of the household is a dog, the food and water bowls need to be separated, and if possible, in a different room. I wrote an article about how to keep the dog out of the cat’s food where I explain the steps you can take to avoid this problem.
Anxiety and depression often walk together. In the worst scenario medications are prescribed to deal with this problem, but it’s the last resource.