Does your cat get the winter blues? I am not sure anyone knows but if you do please leave a comment. It is a topic worthy of a discussion even though it might be inconclusive because people suffer from the winter blues quite a lot so what about cats?
Dr. Rosenthal, in a study published on the NCBI website, states that 6 percent of Americans – mainly living in the northern states – are affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) “in its most marked form” implying there is a higher percentage overall; indeed another 14% suffer from a milder version of the winter blues. In Oslo, Norway, the prevalence of SAD is reported at 14% compared to 4.7% in New York City.
The general conclusion is that SAD affects a lot of people. Does it affect our cats? The answer starts by trying to find out what causes it.
“The syndrome is linked to a lack of light” (Dr Rosenthal)
A medical clinic in Sweden has a “light lounge”, a room with eight colorful chaise longues swamped in bright lights. Sixty to eighty percent of SAD sufferers benefit from light therapy.
The staff at Petplace.com state:
“Do our cats suffer from the same malaise? Probably not”
They aren’t sure. They say cats have a hormonal response to seasonal changes although it is “quite minimal”. For indoor cats the change in seasons is muted. Does this mean that indoor cats are less likely to receive the benefits of sunlight if cats do suffer from the feline equivalent of human SAD?
There are at least two feline processes dictated by the presence of light.
The shedding of fur by a cat is not due to seasonal temperature changes but is influenced more by changes in ambient light. The more the cat is exposed to natural light the more the cat sheds fur. It makes no difference if the cat is neutered or not. This process tells us that cats respond to ambient light levels.
In people, vitamin D is created (synthesised) in the skin by the action of sunlight on the skin – in fact the ultraviolet B rays convert cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D. For both cats and people vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the small intestine.
Dr Morris (of Catwatching fame) states cats can lick vitamin D from their fur and ingest it but I am not sure this is correct.
“If cats have been in sunlight they increase their grooming even more….because the action of sunlight on their fur produces essential vitamin D.”
We are told that the domestic cat needs to be fed vitamin D because they can’t create it in their body. But if he is correct then a lack of sunlight means less vitamin D and the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in humans are vague such as tiredness and general aches. Could these symptoms be linked to the blues? There appears to be an overlap with SAD because tiredness is a symptom of depression.
The Vitamin Council state that:
“Researchers are now discovering that vitamin D may play an important role in mental health and in depression. Vitamin D acts on the areas of your brain that are linked to depression….”
Perhaps SAD is linked to levels of vitamin D in the person. Sun is the essential ingredient for the making of vitamin D.
I have this simple viewpoint that going outside in the sun makes me feel good. That applies to almost anyone. Is this the opposite to SAD? If so do cats feel the same way when they go out?