Categories: mental health

Can domestic cats have schizophrenia?

As I understand it, no authoritative words have been written which tell us that animals can and do suffer from schizophrenia including of course domestic cats. It appears that schizophrenia is a uniquely human mental illness. That is not to say that domestic cats and other animals cannot suffer mental illness although with respect to domestic cats I’m convinced that we are guessing when we diagnose genuine mental illness in cats. I don’t count anxiety or sadness as a mental illness.

Photo in public domain/fair use on Pinterest.

Sometimes veterinarians including cat behaviourists such as Jackson Galaxy diagnose depression in domestic cats and advise anti-anxiety or anti-depression drugs but I’m not convinced that they are convinced that the cats they are prescribing the drugs for will actually benefit from them. It is hit and miss.

In all the books that I’ve read about cat health there is no mention of schizophrenia in domestic cats. In fact, there is no mention of mental health. This is because veterinarians probably tread very carefully when they venture into the area of the feline mind. We just don’t know. And you can’t guess when you are prescribing drugs as the life of a pet is in your hands.

There is an interesting article on the Scientific American website entitled, “Why Don’t Animals Get Schizophrenia (and How Come We Do)?”

The author confirms that veterinarians do prescribe mind altering drugs for cats and dogs but, to quote:

“But there’s at least one mental malady that, while common in humans, seems to have spared all other animals: schizophrenia.”

Scientific American

It’s been suggested that as humans have more complicated social human thoughts and genetics which support higher cognition, there is more to go wrong.

“Fulton” formerly Nancy is looking for a nice home after being senselessly beaten by a deranged man.

“Complex function begets complex malfunction”.

There is something in that. A domestic cat’s thought processes are relatively clear of all the baggage which inhabits the human mind. Domestic cats do have emotions, they can feel sad and happy, anxious and relaxed but it is still work in progress as to whether they can feel the higher emotions. Their mentality is more straightforward, thankfully. I would rather be a cat for this reason. Their minds are clear. They are instinctively driven to do certain activities in the day and they always do them routinely. This arguably protects them from the complex mental health condition called schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition and a type of psychosis. People who suffer from it are not always able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality. They may hear voices, have reduced social engagement and lack of motivation combined with false beliefs and confused thinking. It not the sort of condition I’d expect a cat to suffer from.

If you disagree with me, please say so in a comment. I welcome well argued disagreement.

Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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