Depression in cats is more common than you might think. While cats have developed a reputation for being some of the “moodiest” domesticated animals around, some cats actually show signs of being clinically depressed, or “down in the dumps” in a way that affects their physical health and quality of life.
Is your cat depressed? How can you tell, and what should you do?
Here’s what the friendly vets at Vetted want you to know about depression in cats.
The Signs of Depression in Cats
Feline depression is nebulous and it’s difficult to spot. Much like humans, cats manifest their depression in myriad different ways. Some symptoms are physical while some are a little harder to pin down.
A few of the most common signs of depression in cats include:
- Loss of appetite or interest in food
- Avoidance behavior or prolonged periods of hiding
- Increased lethargy and/or lack of energy
- Sudden displays of aggression
- Increased sleep
Depression is difficult to diagnose because it’s so complex. The person best equipped to spot depression in your cat is you. If you notice any slight but significant changes in the way your hat is behaving either physically or socially, it’s best to call the vet.
Talking With Your Vet
It’s never a good idea to try to treat your cat’s depression yourself. First and foremost, your cat needs to see a vet to ensure her symptoms aren’t indicative of illness; many of the signs of depression overlap with symptoms of common cat illnesses and viral infections.
Your vet will evaluate your cat comprehensively to look for signs of physical ailment like pain, weight change, dilated pupils, and more. She may even want to draw blood or take a urine sample to run some additional tests.
Treatment of Depression in Cats
The symptoms of depression in cats almost always stem from some diagnosable cause. Your vet will likely talk to you about any recent changes in your lifestyle that may be impacting your cat. Did you move to a new house? Start a different job? Go through a divorce?
Some cats become depressed through a lack of stimulation. Boredom is a trigger of depression for cats and humans alike! Your vet might recommend increased periods of playtime between you and your cat, or advise you to shower her with extra love for a few weeks to see if her behavior returns to normal. It’s not uncommon for an unstimulated cat to quickly bounce back when circumstances change.
In a lot of cases, feline depression is caused by pain. It’s a particularly common condition among senior cats for this reason, so your vet might talk to you about what to watch for to spot any ongoing discomfort. Afflictions such as hyperthyroidism, arthritis, and obesity can all cause chronic pain in cats.
Remember that feline depression doesn’t have to be forever! Treatment for depression in cats is all about trial-and-error and it’s often the simplest changes that make the most difference. At the end of the day, a loved, fed, well-exercised cat is always the happiest.