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Do Cats Get the Winter Blues? Seasonal Affective Disorder in Cats

After the holiday season ends, the festive lights come down, the tree is stored or discarded – and we wait for some hopeful sign of spring through the gray months of January, February, and March, the winter blues can set in.

Many of us get the winter blues while waiting for warmer temperatures and sunny skies to return. Some of us mope around the house, whining, and making nuisance of ourselves with our restlessness.

Others get seriously depressed to the point where daily activities are difficult to perform. If these feelings are deep enough, the condition is called “seasonal affective disorder” or “SAD.”

SAD is a disorder different from “the blues,” those moments when we feel generally down. Although not fully understood, SAD is though to be caused by a lack of bright light affecting hormonal balances. Affected people may have bouts of unexplained crying, desire for sweets, excessive fatigue, lethargy, depression, anxiety, and mood swings.

Do our cats suffer from the same malaise? Probably not. While they do get depressed, cats aren’t known to suffer from SAD. More likely, your cat is mirroring your own feelings.

Cats do have a hormonal response to the change in seasons but generally it is quite minimal, especially for indoor only cats that see a minimum change in the seasons. Cats that no longer have an open window or are allowed to go on a screened in porch may miss the opportunity during the winter months but not so much so that they seem “depressed”.

The clinical signs of depression include the following symptoms:

It is very important to note that ill cats will often appear depressed. If you see your cat suffering from the above symptoms, have him checked out by a veterinarian to rule out any physical cause.

So if you see your cat acting a little out of sorts, if the weather permits, open a safe window or encourage your cat in a little playtime. Get out the catnip and engage your cat in some play!