Feline mental health
For this week’s blog post, we’re discussing feline mental health. What you need to know to care for your cat struggling with mental health issues, and the signs to look out for. This post is the first part of this topic, as our next post will be on how cats can help our mental health (look out for that coming out in two weeks!).
I’ve used the ASPCA website for research, so if you’d like any further information head over to their website linked above.
Can cats get depressed?
Whilst we’ll never know for sure what’s going on in our cat’s minds, they are signs of depression to look out for. It can be hard to identify (especially in introverted cats) but here are some common signs that your cat might be depressed:
1. Lack of appetite
Sometimes a lack of appetite can be obvious in pets, but if you don’t notice them eating less, try watching their weight. A sudden drop in weight will indicate something isn’t right with your cat.
2. Sleeping more than usual
It’s certain that cats sleep a lot (I’m pretty sure our beautiful Coco slept for 12 hours straight once), but you might notice they’re sleeping at times you know they are usually more active.
3. Keeping distant
Look out for if your normally very affectionate cat stops seeking out physical contact (things like brushing your legs, head bumping or jumping onto your lap).
4. Decreased grooming
Cats are very well-groomed animals, so watch out if their coat becomes dull or matted.
These symptoms won’t necessarily be an indicator of depression – they can be a sign of an unknown health condition. It is advised to always visit your vet if you notice any of these.
Causes of cat depression
Feline depression is most often a temporary response to a change in their life. Just like us humans, some cats are more sensitive than others. They can experience waves of sadness over things we might view as insignificant. Here are some examples:
- Moving house/apartment (check out our previous blog post for how to help your cat deal with moving house here)
- The arrival of a newborn
- The arrival of a new pet
- Home construction
- A disruption in the family (maybe a divorce or death)
- A traumatic event
Again, not all of these things will necessarily lead to feline depression, but keep in mind any of the signs above.
How to help a depressed cat
If you suspect your cat is depressed, the first thing to do is take them to your vet. They will know the best approach to helping your cat. This could include anti-anxiety medication. Here are some things you can do yourself to help your cat:
1. Stick to a routine
I think we all know that cats do not like uncertainty. They will definitely appreciate a well-stuck-to routine for their food, sleep and playtime.
2. Play with them
Even if they don’t seem up for playing, keep to your routine, engaging with them and their toys might encourage them to play a little and be more active.
3. Shower them with love
A lot of the time, we give our cats love when they come asking for it. Instead of waiting for them to initiate the cuddle time, try seeking them out and giving them attention at random times to show them how much you love them.
4. Cat music
When we’re cat-sitting and notice our kitty customer is shy and anxious, we often play classical music on our phones. A lot of the time it helps calm their anxiety and gives them the confidence to come out from their hiding places.
Anxiety in cats
Similarly to depression, cats may experience anxiety after a change in their environment or lifestyle. Symptoms of anxiety in cats can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy and interest in playing
- Going outside the litter tray
- Excessive grooming
- Changes in behaviour (you might notice your typically independent cat has become irritable or clingy)
- Excessive meowing or yowling
If you notice your cat is experiencing these symptoms, visit your vet for guidance on managing their anxiety.
Cats with depression or anxiety are likely to develop compulsive behaviours. These behaviours can also be caused by boredom, fear, frustration or any other negative emotions. Some of the common compulsive cat behaviours include:
- Repetitive vocalisation without any apparent reason
- Sucking on objects for long periods of time
- Chewing on their own paws/tail
- Pacing back and forth
- Excessive grooming
- Swatting at or pouncing on nothing
Compulsive behaviours can easily develop into a coping mechanism, which can offer short-term relief from any anxiety your cat may be facing. Anything that can cause harm to your cat should be brought to the attention of your vet – otherwise, you may not need to intervene.
Caring for cats with compulsive behaviours
Again, if your cat is causing themselves harm, approach this with your vet so that they can advise the appropriate treatment. Things you can try at home include:
Engage with your cats in ways that you know they will enjoy. Try encouraging them with their favourite toy and some treats you know they love. These things are positive distractions from any anxiety they are struggling with.
2. Don’t reward their behaviour
As much as you might want to give your cat attention when they’re looking cute chasing their tail, this is likely to be misinterpreted as something they should be doing.
3. Don’t punish them
Some of the compulsive behaviours can definitely be annoying (excessive meowing or yowling in particular), but you shouldn’t punish your cat. Any form of punishment will only cause your cat more anxiety or sadness.
4. Be patient
The best thing you can do for your cat is to show them your patience. Don’t force them to do anything and let them take their time.
Feline mental health
I have used the advice and information from the ASPCA website and if you would like further information on feline mental health I recommend visiting their site at https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/cat-depression/#:~:text=Similar%20to%20depression%2C%20cats%20may,Loss%20of%20appetite.
Information in this post has been created and researched by My Three Cats. We do not provide medical advice. If your cat experiences any issues regarding depression or anxiety, please get in touch with your vet immediately.