Sad Cat Is Sad

Spot the signs of a depressed cat with this checklist of common cat depression symptoms.

By Helen Jablonski

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Sad Cat
A dip in your cat's activity level could signal depression.
Cat Hiss
Hissing cats who have never hissed before might suffer from depression. Also, those that vocalize after the death of another cat might be mourning the loss.
Depressed Cat Food
A cat who has lost interest in food might be blue.

It’s human to feel down, blue or even depressed sometimes. Believe it or not, your cat can feel this way, too. Behaviorists first recognized depression in cats in the 1990s.

"Cat depression is an abnormal behavior in which the cat shows a change in activity, change in vocalization and usually a decrease in appetite,” says veterinary behaviorist Katherine Houpt, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y. "Depression in cats is not very common, or at least it isn’t recognized as a quiet, less active cat doesn’t bother the owner.”

Cats can become depressed after a major disruption in their lives, such as moving, adding or losing a family member, or having their owner’s schedule change. The most common cause of depression in cats is the loss of a friend.

If you think your cat may be depressed, go through our Cat Depression Checklist:

1) Cats normally sleep a lot, but you will notice if your cat’s activity level decreases, he lacks energy or seems to be asleep all the time. Does your cat sleep more than usual?
Yes No

2) Has your normally friendly and outgoing cat started to hide under beds, cower in corners and generally avoid interacting with her family and companions?
Yes No

3) Does your cat seem less interested in his daily meals and fail to empty his food dish as he used to?
Yes No

4) Has your cat stopped grooming herself?
Yes No

5) Has your cat started spraying or stopped using his litter box properly?
Yes No

6) Is your cat more aggressive, exhibiting uncharacteristic biting, scratching or hissing behaviors?
Yes No

7) Excessive vocalization often occurs when a cat loses a close companion, whether it’s another cat, dog or person. The cat will roam around the house meowing, as if trying to find her missing buddy. Does your cat cry or meow more than normal?
Yes No

All of these symptoms could indicate that your cat is depressed or has a medical condition, so it’s important to take your cat to your veterinarian for a thorough checkup. If the vet gives your cat a clean bill of health, then discuss the possibility of depression and what you can do about it.

"Generally, we think that depression is associated with a poor immune system,” says Houpt. Because a distressed immune system can leave your cat susceptible to other illnesses, try to alleviate his depression as soon as possible.

If your cat displays any of the behaviors on our checklist, don’t worry. Talk it over with your veterinarian and make an effort to give your feline friend some extra love and attention. Petting, grooming, playing with and talking to your cat will help her feel loved.

Remember, your cat depends on you for both her physical and emotional care.

Helen Jablonski is a feline behavior consultant and freelance writer in Malvern, Ohio.  She shares her life with her fiancé and their eight cats.

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Reader Comments

nira    Woodbridge, ON, CA

7/31/2015 5:50:04 AM

gives somthings i did not know before. informative

Michelle    International

7/30/2015 7:09:29 AM

My cat used to go out alot and not see him till nifht but now when he comes in he stays in alot more walking around house meowing and looking in spaces for something. He has gone off his fooa little as well what could be wrong

Sharon    Elyria, OH

7/27/2015 11:02:32 AM

Does anyone know how long it takes for a cat to get over the depression. I'm spending and lot of time with him and she's worrying me because she's not herself giving its only been one day since we've been home I took her to my daughters in Columbus she did not have a good time and I can tell she's depressed with everythin do for her does anyone know how long it will take for her to become Bella again

Lisa    International

7/22/2015 7:15:21 PM

I raised my cat and his brother since birth. He's now six years old - we've moved three times during his life and we lost his brother :/ about two O three years ago. I finished Highschool and when I started going to college I decided to move in with my boyfriend and his family. Sadly I couldn't take my cat with me. My cat didn't really like people but he loved me. My parents said he was really sad for a long time :( I always regretted it. A year and a bit later I moved back home but my cat couldn't recognize me. Not until I moved back into my old room. Now he sleeps with me all the time. But he gets sad when I'm gone too long. At one point he peed and pooped on my bed when I was gone for three days - and he only does that when he's upset. He gets jealous of the other cat and he doesn't really do anything anymore. He's always on his own. If I don't cuddle him enough before I go to bed he sleeps on the opposite end of the bed and faces away from me. I'm just wondering if my cat is depressed? Some of the things you mentioned he used to do when I moved out - like cry for no reason and wait for me outside my door. My dad said it took him a long time to stop doing it. He lost appetite too. I'm unsure what to do?

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