Sad Cat Is Sad

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

By Helen Jablonski

Printer Friendly
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.

Printer Friendly

 Give us your opinion on
Sad Cat Is Sad

Submit a Comment   Join Club
Earn 1,000 points! What's this?
Reader Comments

Mark    Indianapolis, IN

8/23/2014 10:13:13 PM

We have 3 cats, all siblings, and added a 4th cat. This only lasted a few hours until we sent the newest home with my mother in law. Two of the three hissed and we're generally upset at the new cat. The third cat couldn't care less it was here. Since we sent the new cat away, the two that were upset have since turned towards the cat that was ok with it and hiss towards him. They've never had issues at all getting along until this. They don't fight or act aggressively other than hissing. Is this a sign of depression or anger and will this pass with time? They're 2 years old and have always had each other so it's sad to see the 2 turn on the other....

Ana    International

8/22/2014 2:44:51 AM

Wendy: Something similar happened to my female cat after our dog died. It seems she got depressed, didn't want to eat and disappeared during the day. What I did is to give her all the love I could, in order to make her feel that she was not alone. I even had to feed her taking food with my hand and putting it near her mouth, then I talked to her softly and caressed a lot, until she started eating. That worked for me. It seems that she is still sad, but at least now she is eating by herself and stays more at home. I advice you to get your cat back home and try to give a lot of attention and love, never leave it alone and feed with your own hand. I hope this will work for you too. At the vet your cat could even feel more lonely and even abandoned.

Patrick    International

8/16/2014 4:27:11 PM

When my cat lost her playmate (neighbours cat) she wandered around lost and was very vocal for about a month, even in her sleep. It tapered off slowly over the following months. It's a very distinct noise and rather distressing to an owner, knowing you can't really help them grieve.

Carolyn    International

8/14/2014 5:10:51 AM

My Daughters cat is not playing and hides under the bed a lot since she overheated and had to go to the vets, she eats ok but is really not herself

View Current Comments


Top Products

ADS BY GOOGLE