Veterinarian wrong to say that cats are depressed and irritated by their owners when at home too much

There is a report by the Express newspaper of a woman, whose name is Joanna, tweeting the following: “Today the vet told me that since Covid, they have had to treat a number of cats with depression caused by irritation that their people are at home all day.”

She thought that it is “the most cat thing I have ever heard. Apparently, dogs do not have the same problem.”

The idea is that cats like to be left alone. If during periods of Covid social distancing, when people are home all the time, cats are forced to be together with their human caregiver for long hours it can be irritating and ultimately depressing for the cat. That’s the argument.

Picture of the saddest cat
Picture of the saddest cat. This is Luhu living in China. Picture: Instagram.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

In general terms, this has got to be entirely incorrect. I am surprised that a newspaper is publishing it. This is the advice apparently of one veterinarian. We don’t know their name or their qualifications. And often veterinarians are not very knowledgeable about cat behaviour. In a decent home with a decent human caregiver, domestic cats want to be with their owner. They might not necessarily want to be on their lap or lying next to them but they like it when their human is around. These are domestic animals. They are meant to like it and they do.

In fact, the true situation is quite the opposite. There are far too many domestic cats left alone all day while their owner is understandably at work. They come back late and throughout those 10 or 12 hours their domestic cat is waiting for them to come home. They are likely to be stressed and depressed. They can develop idiopathic cystitis under these conditions especially when they combine long hours of separation with eating dry food which is likely because the owner is away all day.

I have never heard of a veterinarian or anybody saying that a cat is fed up with their owner because they are round the home too much. Of course, if the home is a disaster for a domestic cat, they will want to get away from it but this statement isn’t about those sorts of circumstances. Perhaps anxious cats are being brought to this veterinarian because the environment in which they live has deteriorated during Covid. Perhaps their owner has become stressed and anxious for fear of getting the disease or they contracted it an become ill and short-tempered. Perhaps they brushed off their cat’s advances. The routines and rhythms were broken.

Perhaps the owners became stressed with each other and were fighting as they were forced together for days on end under social distancing rules. Their cat or cats have picked up on the deteriorating atmosphere and become anxious themselves. These are more likely to be the real causes.

Sad cat
Described by the photographer as a “A sad cat in Ulus, Ankara Turkey”. This is an outdoor, community cat but he does look sad. Photographer: Atasoy.emrah

Just don’t believe it. Domestic cats get depressed for many reasons but not being with their human caregiver unless they are being abused by that person. Cats can become anxious for a variety of reasons often because of antagonism from another cat. But the most likely reason for a depressed mood is the long absence of their owner. Or if they are abandoned and stuck in a rescue facility. Being a noisy rescue center after being in nice home is going to make a cat depressed or at least anxious which is close to depression as an emotion.

It is depressing to me to read about the misinformation on the Internet concerning, for instance, the so-called independence of the domestic cat. Cats do like a bit of space sometimes and they do like to be left alone sometimes but so do people. It’s normal. Don’t interpret this as aloofness and a desire to be alone all the time.


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