Often times a depressed cat goes unnoticed until the depression is so severe, the cat becomes physically destructive to themselves. When identifying signs of feline depression, you have to be aware of your cat’s normal daily behaviors. Once you are aware of that you can better understand your cat and what they may be feeling inside. Here are the most common signs of feline depression.
If your cat isn’t a territorial or aggressive sprayer and this habit starts suddenly, it is a red flag for feline depression. Peeing outside of the box is also another thing to keep an eye out for. It doesn’t always have to be spraying but rather replacing urinary habits in other areas of the house. This can take place on towels and clothes, blankets, beds, corners, doors, sofas, and so on. When a cat, especially a female, starts peeing on soft surfaces (like plush rugs) this is also a sign of a urinary tract infection. Be sure to rule that out as well with a visit to the vet.
Just like in humans, cats who are depressed can lose their appetite. This typically happens slowly not suddenly. When a sudden lack of appetite happens, it is more than likely due to a serious medical condition and your cat should be seen by a vet ASAP. To rule out depression weight loss, keep an eye on your cat’s eating habits. Offer them their favorite food/treats. If they take that no problem, look into changing their food to something they will enjoy better. Some cats are very picky eaters.
Sleeping a lot is very normal for a cat but when excessive sleep, laziness, weakness, and lack of interest are accompanied by it, it is a sign of feline depression. This usually happens to cats who have been away from their owners for a number of days. Even after having them back, it takes time for them to perk up. This is a hard sign to watch for. You have to pay extra close attention to their sleeping habits to rule out this sign.
Some cats are natural chatters. They like to vocalize their needs because they see how we get our needs met through speaking. When a typically quiet cat starts excessively meowing or yowling for no reason, it can be a sign of depression. This happens quite often after a cat loses a close companion, be is a human or an animal.
When a cat who is typically not shy starts going into hiding it is important to find out why. This can be a sign of depression but also be a sign of physical pain. If your cat starts hiding, especially from you, it is very important to rule out any serious medical issues. Age plays a role in this as well. If your cat is older, they could be preparing to pass away.
Hair pulling, excessively licking/cleaning, and nervous chewing of the skin is a form of anxiety seen in cats and dogs. When you notice this habit suddenly, it is very important to address why your cat has this anxiety as this behavior can become progressively worse over time. To try to keep them from doing this, dilute some lemon juices (fresh) with water, and dampen the area. It is also beneficial to keep lavender-scented candles, incense, and deodorizers in the home. Lavender naturally eases anxiety and stress in all mammals. In extreme feline depression cases, cats will even lose the desire to groom themselves. This is also another behavior to keep an eye out for.
See a Veterinarian First
Always rule out physical health issues that can be causing these behavioral changes in your cat before assuming it is an issue of feline depression. Many different health issues such as arthritis and crystals can cause a cat to be in a lot of pain.
What can be done about feline depression?
Depending on the underlying cause, different approaches owners can take to ensure their cat feels better. A little bit of TLC is often enough to help. Some of their favorite food, some fresh air, plenty of attention and some time set aside for play. Often times, cats who do not get outdoor play or exploration are more prone to depression and issues with anxiety. While medication is an option, I would only use it as a last resort as medication for depression in cats is known for having several side-effects, some of which can be severe.
Have an indoor-only cat? There are many things you can do to keep an indoor-only happy. Read Keeping an Indoor Cat Happy to get some ideas to improve your cat’s mood!