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

Denise    International

3/21/2015 12:01:22 PM

My 7 yr old male doesn't seem as happy as his normal self a few months ago he was attacked very badly and now has gucoma in one of his eyes, he has done so well and we are proud of him for being shuch a good boy, we think he has lost confidence as before which is natural for what he has been through, anything we could be doing to help get him happyier than he is, any advice PLS x

Kat    Cypress, TX

3/20/2015 7:47:49 PM

??????????my cat just died and my female cat is acting very different so we have been giving her lots of love

Nate    Hudson, FL

3/16/2015 12:12:19 PM

I like it.

Sandra    International

3/14/2015 4:50:36 AM

So me and my fiancée adopted a 9 year old beauty from an old woman who had him and his brother. But when his brother passed away, the old woman got a dog and he got very depressed (the reason we took him before she put him down).. He was really skinny when we got him but as soon as he got used to us, he got fatter and really enjoyed life.
But then after maybe 6 months, we we asked to take care of 2 kittens (4 months old maybe) who had lost their mom.
And everything was fine between the cats for a long time. 2 months passed and our now 10 year old had lost a little weight and he seem a little off. We moved once after we got them but he didn't have any problems with the new home. It was in the new home where he started to lose weight...
He is fine otherwise, he eats, doesn't sleep more than usual and he seem to love the kittens (he licks then and sleeps beside them and such) and of course he tells them when he wants to be alone..
But I'm worried about him since he doesn't seek the attention from us as much as he did before, and sometimes he leaves when the kittens comes near..
Is he ok?

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