My Cat Seems Depressed

Depressed cat loses appetite but it is not funny

A depressed cat loses appetite but it is not funny

When people search for information about cat depression they are not sure whether a cat can become depressed – they often joke about it judging by funny cat pictures. People are also unsure about the symptoms of feline depression. However, when they search for information on the internet, sometimes they partly answer their own questions.

For example, people might search for “cat depressed won’t eat” or “depressed cat sleeping all the time” or “cat depressed hiding in litter box lethargic”.

The answers about cat depression are hinted at in these search terms – the last one clearly indicates a cat who is stressed due the presence of another cat and has retreated to her litter box smells for comfort. The Cat Channel website has a checklist. It is partly correct but I don’t agree with all of it. For example they say that excessive vocalization can indicate depression because it is the behavior of a cat who has lost a close companion. In this instance, I don’t think excessive vocalization is an expression of depression but of anxiety and loss. Depression follows. The same can be said about aggression. Aggression is not a sign of depression but the cause of a cat aggression may also cause depression (poor and hostile environment).

I also believe that we have to be careful in assessing cat depression from the feline perspective rather than the human perspective.  We believe that cats are more able to live in the moment. This tends to shut out the sort of baggage that people carry around which can cause depression in humans. Cats don’t over-analyze the meaning of life which in humans is another source of depression.

This leads to the question about what causes cat depression. I think it’s important to check out the causes rather than simply listing the behaviour traits of a depressed cat.

In the index of books about cats, in my experience, you don’t see reference to depression in cats. You have to dig deeper than that. Many references to cat depression are as a symptom of feline illness. When a cat is ill she is likely to be depressed which means she will eat less and become lethargic. These are the symptoms of depressed people as well. There is a lack of motivation to do things including eating. A depressed cat may also groom less. When cats are ill they might find a quiet place where they can hide so another behavioral trait of a depressed cat is finding such a place.

In finding a place to hide there is an overlap with another reason why a cat might become at least unhappy (because depression might be too strong a word).  If the environment in which she lives, for any reason, is unsatisfactory and causes constant, chronic stress then a cat might find a place to hide (a cat might also scratch more). Anxiety and stress can lead to depression if the cat is unable do anything about improving her environment. This is a lack of control and once again we can refer to human behaviour because a lack of control for humans is also another powerful reason for depression.

A typical reason why a cat might become depressed for environmental reasons is because she is bullied by a more dominant cat and has no place to hide.  Another reason is that the environment is wholly unsatisfactory, for example, the home of a cat hoarder where the cats are forced together in unhealthy conditions and neglected.

There are then two major influences which can depress the mood of a cat: the environment and her health.  The major signs of depression in a cat are lethargy and a loss of appetite. Lethargy affects all aspects of behavior; even an unwillingness to be disturbed which may result in unfriendly behavior towards the cat’s caretaker.

The signs of cat depression are observable provided the cat caretaker is observant and is familiar with her cat’s normal behavior. This is part of good cat caretaking. Changes in cat behavior tending to lethargy should be treated as a sign that there may be health issues that require checking out. A veterinary visit is usually demanded. If cat health is assessed as good, the cat owner should ask some tough questions about the environment she has created for her cat(s).

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My Cat Seems Depressed — 27 Comments

  1. great post. . . I am always monitoring mine for any changes of any kind — since I have 12. . .I am fortunate that they all get along. . . I have an occasional hiss or swat, but never anything serious. . . and, of course, the “youngins” like chasing each other through the house!! What a treat they are. . .I just love ’em to pieces!!! ♥♥♥♥

  2. My Cassy, was like this for awhile back 2008, and I think at the Time she was Grieving in some way. She came right after she decided to go Wild for awhile. I tried, her on some cat Anti-Depressants for awhile Which worked for abit. I was going though my own Trauma at the time so i think she was feeling i didn’t want her or something. Also I note that when the weather is really cold Esp Black Cats they seem abit more sader. Also when its been raining for days on end.

          • Yea I do believe so. It was just strange, I guess as at that time. I didn’t understand at the time why she wanted/needed to go away. I think she wanted to enjoy her freedom before she got older as she would of been 5 or 6 Years. Also there was a stray cat that was visiting the house at that time. Which i think he had scared her away. At least now It’s good to know the warning signs of when a cat is Depressed, and also why cats go off.

  3. Cat depression is probably usually cat illness. Monty seemed depressed on Saturday, didn’t want to go out, sat by the back window all day, didn’t eat much. But he drank water and was not dehydrated. The vet showed me how you can grab the loose skin at the scruff of the his neck and gently pull it up a little, scrunching it in your hand. If it snaps right back into place the cat is fine, but if it kind of stays pulled up the cat is dehydrated. After a bad bout with hair balls a few years ago Monty was dehydrated and the vet showed me this evidence of it in how his skin reacted.

    We decided maybe he’d been eating too much grass so we kept him in on Sunday. His appetite appears I be normal and no barfing, so he seems ok. His poop was normal last night, but I caught himself dragging his butt on the carpet like he had an itchy behind. I’m wondering if he has worms again. I should have saved that poopy in a plastic bag to take to the vet to test for worms. I jut let him out so now he’ll poop outside and I won’t get my sample.

    He has been barfing his breakfast, but then he eats the barf. I’ve been letting him outside first now, then he comes in for tuna, goes back out, comes in for kitty food, goes back out. It is a routine he likes. I think he was so excited to go out that he was eating too fast and barfing.

    I am going to keep a close eye on him and see if I can’t get a poop sample to the vet soon. He is energetic today. But I never would have taken his lethargy for depression. More likely a tummy ache. I was gone all day working on Friday and when Monty doesn’t get fed frequently throughout the day he decides he is starving and will start eating lint, clumps of dirt, hair and whatever else he finds on the floor. Maybe he had a bunch of carpet lint and fuzz stuck in him.

    • Sounds like tapeworms, Ruth.
      Do you see anything that may look like rice around his butt?
      Tapeworm tabs are available OTC.

      • Tapeworms are caused from ingestion of fleas and their eggs.
        If Monty is completely flea-free, then there is another problem.
        But, I have to say that many people think that their cats are flea-frea. It’s not really true in the U.S.
        If a vet diagnoses tapeworms, you can, logically, assume that your cat is flea ridden and treatment is required.
        Money and time can be reduced by treating yourself.

        • I have to say that many people think that their cats are flea-free. It’s not really true in the U.S.

          Yes, agreed, it is easy to miss a minor flea infestation. You need a flea comb and to comb it through the area at the base of the tail. That is were the flea dirt is. Small flecks of black material. I know you know all that. It is just for visitors who might not be so sure.

          • People are in denial in thinking that their cats are free of fleas.
            Spot that small piece of rice looking thing around their butt and tell me what you think. I can hardly believe that anyone would take their cat to a vet for a simple tapeworm issue that would cost $75 when it can be simply treated with tabs sold everywhere for at less than $15 (and, 3 tabs/ bottle no less)
            And, yes. sometime, I will write an article about easily accessible meds for cats.
            Vet bills are outrageous and simple things can be cured without vet intervention.

            • There is nothing by his butt. He has used the carpet as toilet paper before after a bout of diarrhea. Just because last night’s poop was normal doesn’t mean he didn’t do some runny ones in the garden. I will take a poop sample to the vet as soon as he does one inside. They can check for worms.

              Every time the vet checks him for fleas he comes out flea free. I check him too, and he’s never had one or any sign of flea “dirt” either.

              My guess is he ate a bunch of grass or carpet lint or both, it irritated his GI tract and his butt got itchy from diarrhea.

              Monty is now quite upset with me for picking him up, setting him on the picnic table and right where all the neighbors and other furry creatures dwelling in our yard could see, I pulled up his tail and closely inspected his butt. He was asking to go in to go in to be fed. How could Mom get it so wrong? Humans are stupid.

  4. I’m learning about cats more and more, good post, My Sir Kitty is a winer , cry for everything, and he won’t stop until he gets what he wants, we have tried locking him out of the bedroom , squirting water at him, and just ignoring him. none of this works, he is redpoint siamese and I have heard that they are just volcal for everything. the more he gets comfortable with us the the attributes of his character he shows us.
    I just want to spank him sometimes, but I know aggressive behaviour will not work either.
    What would be your advise.
    Debbie

    • Hi Debbie. You are right, the more comfortable he feels with you the more naturally he will behave and if he is confident enough to ask, he will. You know that Siamese cats are like this. They are vocal and loyl. I wouldn’t punish him for it. It is normal behavior. Punishment does not work. It will just alienate him. The “experts” say to ignore the demands but it does not work for him.

      Tell me, what is he crying for? It has to be food and attention. Attention means play really. Does he cry for a certain kind of favorite food? How much time do you spend with him per day?

      • I have a vocal cat too Debbie. He just is, and he won’t change. Usually, picking him up and sharing some snuggles quiets him down. Playing with a tease works too. He also follows you around, practically tripping you when you walk, all the time talking. Frankly, I think you get used to it, but if it is getting on your nerves you might want to think about re-homing him and getting a quiet moggie. Of course, my Marvin is the quinticential moggie….and he is loud and talks all the time. The difference is, he lives mostly outside. He lived outside on his own for the first many years of his life. I’m not sure how many. Probably ten. I know I won’t change him. And, I don’t really want to. He has a big personality. I respect that.

        If you read further on this website the are numerous articles on why it is not okay to punish a cat. You might want to look those over. Spraying, isolating etc. is not the answer. More interaction is. Good luck. I hope you two find a way to live together in harmony.

    • Debbie your kitty sounds alot like my rebel. He does the same thing and complains and moans alot. I wouldn’t squirt water etc at him though. Alot of times its down to attention. He usual calms down after food or lots of time together. Hes very vocal but also very sensitive. Is your kitty a Orange Kitty?? As it seems Orange Kitty seem to be more Vocal.

  5. Depressed?
    I believe that only boredom or neglect could classify a cat as depressed.
    Again, we are assigning a HUMAN emotion to a cat.
    I agree with Ruth when she writes that a cat appearing to be depressed is really ill.
    No cat exhibits malaise, poor appetite, and disinterest without being plagued with a malady.

    • I think at the time with Cassy she was experiencing some Grief as at the time I was going though some Trauma in my life. I believe she probably sensed what I was going was going though. Plus the place we were living at i dont think she liked it. Even though had a huge Backyard was like living in the country. I think alot of the reason was when we were there was a stray cat and possibly scared her, may even possibly hurt her. I’m just not sure. Which is why she went wild i believe. I really wish i had of been so glued on to what was happening. I know now for sure the warning signals. It really felt like she wanted to leave me forever.

        • Yes i agree. I know shes gone, but it does make you aware of future situations. There was a cat that looked alot like Ruth’s cat Joseph same colors,Came on the property when he saw me he ran off.

  6. Thank you for all of your advice, yes I know it is all for attention, we work, he sleeps, if we go out in the evening he sleeps some more , he comes to bed with us but only stays there until 4am that’s when my husband gets up for work. Crys until he gets me up, sometimes I can stand it only for an hour, I feed him and then he sits with me until I go to work.
    I really thought cats were more in depended , but it seems this breed needs lots of attention. He doesn’t play with toys on his own and only plays for a few minutes with me. He also is not a cudler , so it’s hard to give him loves. We’ll manage with a lot of patience . Thanks again.
    Debbie

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