Not Feline Fine: Dealing with Feline Depression
We all have bad days and we all get the blues. It’s true for cats, too, so all cat lovers need to be aware of the signs of feline depression.
We often call on our feline family members to lift our moods. After a long day at work or during family crises, the soft purr of a cat can soothe frazzled nerves, and the cathartic feelings one gets when a stroking a cat cannot be denied. Yet not many pet owners realize that cats can and do suffer from occasional bouts of feline depression. It is in these days of doldrums that our furry family members need us the most.
As a matter-of-fact, it is important to always observe your cat’s behavior to determine her normal behavior patterns and personality type. Then, if feline depression does set in, you’ll be able to distinguish what may be wrong. A cat’s personality is usually innate, yet many environmental factors, as well as mistakes made by her owner, can exasperate her natural instincts.
If a normally sociable and affectionate cat suddenly becomes reserved and shy, you may be dealing with feline depression. Likewise, if a playful and fun-loving cat turns independent and aloof, there may be issues you need to address.
Knowing the qualities and quirks your cat possesses will be key to diagnosing feline depression. Cats have an innate need to interact with people, yet the degree of interaction varies with each cat’s unique personality.
Here is how to tell if your cat may be suffering from feline depression, and what you can do about it.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
As with any abnormal behavior, it’s always best to consult with a professional first. If you notice one of these signs of feline depression, it’s time to visit the vet.
- Aggressive behavior outside of your cat’s normal personality that is threatening or harmful to humans or other pets. Sometimes,feline aggression presents itself in body language such as an arched back, tail curved under or to the side, or claws unsheathed and ready for action.
- Lack of grooming can be another indicator of feline depression, as most cats groom meticulously.
- Loss of appetite is often one of the first symptoms of illness in cats and can be your first clue to a problem. It can also have a serious impact on an cat’s health if it lasts 24 hours or more, and may be a sign of feline anorexia.
- Often tied closely with loss of appetite, weight loss is another possible sign of feline depression. Weight loss is considered clinically important when it exceeds 10 percent of the normal body weight and is not associated with fluid loss.
- Lethargy is a nonspecific sign associated with many possible underlying systemic disorders. It may have little to no impact on the affected cat, however its presence may represent feline depression and even severe or life-threatening illness. Lethargy of more than a day’s duration should not be ignored, and should be addressed, especially if it persists.
Reasons for Feline Depression
Boredom is a common cause of feline depression, especially for indoor cats. Although the indoor environment may be safer, it may not be that interesting to a curious cat. Thus, it is important to create an environment that is enriching and stimulating — and one that helps supplement what cats normally would get outside. This can include planting cat grass in a sunny location, adding bird and squirrel feeders near a convenient window-side perch for entertainment, and providing scratching posts and feather or string games for activity.
But boredom isn’t the only cause of feline depression. Here are some other causes to be aware of:
- Death of a companion pet or a beloved family member
- Changes in weather — cats aren’t known to suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but your cat could mirror your own feelings
- New people in the environment and/or changes in the environment
- Major changes in routine or getting off the normal daily schedule
- Environmental toxins, such as household cleaners, medications, and even some plants
- Age-related mental deficiencies
If you suspect your cat may be suffering from feline depression due to any of these conditions, there is help and there are things you can do. Some of the signs of feline depression can also be signs of other physical conditions, so again it’s vital to discuss the changed behavior with your veterinarian, especially if the symptoms have persisted over several days.
How To Deal With Feline Depression
At the first signs of feline depression, there are things you can try to break your cat out of her funk. If you notice your cat exhibiting strange behaviors, try:
- Spending more time with her — at least 30 minutes of play per day is ideal
- Introducing new cat activities with toys or perches
- Leaving blinds open for a well-lit environment
These actions are often the first things your veterinarian will suggest for combating feline depression. Understand that cats are very emotionally-oriented creatures — several factors will affect them. But, when given enough time and love, your cat should be able to adjust to anything.