Cats can also suffer from depression. How to recognize the signs of depression in cats, and what to do to solve this serious problem.
Although depression and mental illness in general are considered uniquely human problems, other animals, including cats, can also suffer from this disorder. The brain of humans and cats is indeed remarkably similar, particularly the part of the brain that controls emotions. The thought patterns of these furry pets are very similar to humans, partly due to the similarity in neurotransmitters in both species. For this reason, cats can suffer from many of the same mental illnesses as humans. It is important as owners that we understand the signs and symptoms of depression in cats so that we can get the help that our feline friends need.
Possible symptoms of depression in cats
1. Change in appetite and lethargy
Cats are extremely food motivated and are usually enthusiastic about meals. As with humans, depressed cats can become uninterested in food (or totally disinterested). We may notice that they don’t come when we call them for dinner, or that their bowl stays full if we let them manage their meals on their own. Our cat may start to lose weight if he doesn’t eat. If we notice that our cat is not eating or losing weight, we make an appointment with the vet. In any case, depression is only one of the possible causes of loss of appetite or weight loss in cats.
On the other hand, some cats may start overeating due to depression. This symptom is rarer than loss of appetite, but it does happen in some cases. If your dog suddenly starts acting as if he is hungry more often or asks for food more frequently, or if we notice that he is suddenly eating too much, it could be a sign of depression in the cat. We may notice that the cat begins to gain weight, especially if it suddenly becomes less energetic as well as wanting to eat more. Again, we discuss these symptoms with the vet to rule out all possible causes for these changes in behavior.
Although it is normal for cats to sleep up to 16 hours a day, a sudden reduction in energy or increased sleep could be indicative of depression in our feline friend. If the cat suddenly begins to sleep during the hours of the day when he is normally awake and playful, he may be suffering from depression. While some cats are lazier than others, be careful if your cat becomes lazier than usual, and if they start sleeping more often during the day. As with humans, depression can make cats sleep too much.
2. Loss of hair and poor hygiene
Kittens can overdo their hygiene due to anxiety, which is often related to depression in cats. While it is normal for cats to lick each other often, it can be cause for alarm if we notice that our cat is licking more than usual. If so, we may notice small bald patches, skin irritation, and even rashes where they have licked off the fur.
Depressed cats may also stop grooming themselves, or they may even groom themselves less effectively. We may notice that our cat’s fur has become dull if it stops licking. The coat can also become oily, develop dandruff, or become knotted. Cats that normally keep themselves clean after using the litter box can start to get dirty backs. If our cat suddenly stops grooming, and has no physical limitations that could cause it, he may be depressed.
Stress can trigger litter box problems in cats, and stress has been linked to depression. Cats often spray outside their litter box to mark their territory. If one of our cats suddenly starts having this behavior, it could be a result of the tension between them and other pets in the family. This tension between animals can lead to stress, anxiety and depression in cats.
It is important to manage territorial disputes between cats before they cause mental health problems. Cats can also stop using the litter box when they suffer from depression. And if not using the litter box is usually due to the litter being too small, a change in the type of sand, or if the litter box is not cleaned sufficiently, it can also be the result of depression if we have not made any changes to the litter box. and we continue to clean it regularly.
3. Antisocial or aggressive behavior
Some cats hide more than others, but if our normally social kitty suddenly starts hiding, it could be cause for alarm. A depressed cat may start hiding in a way that is difficult to find, to avoid having to deal with humans or other pets. If our furry friend usually enjoys spending time with us in the living room, but suddenly begins to be little or not present and available, he may be suffering from depression.
Cats are also different from each other in terms of shyness and cuddles: maybe some may not enjoy our cuddles, unlike others. If our previously cuddly and affectionate kitty suddenly becomes more distant, we may want to look for other signs of cat depression. If our cat usually likes to be stroked or sat on your lap, but now walks away from you or hits you when you try to pet them or sit next to them on the sofa, you may want to take them to their vet to be evaluated for depression.
If our normally quiet furry dog suddenly starts meowing or making other sounds more than usual, he may be suffering from depression. Depressed cats often cry, scream, or hiss in response to mild stimuli. They can also make noises at random times throughout the day – our kitten may meow or make other noises in an attempt to communicate that something is wrong. If, on the other hand, our cat is usually talkative, we need not worry if he is meowing excessively, especially if he is making happy-sounding sounds.
A depressed cat can also become more aggressive than usual. Even the sweetest and loveliest cats can start acting aggressively if they suffer from depression. It is not uncommon for depressed cats to crave being alone, so they will start biting, hissing, or growling at anyone who dares to invade their personal space. If your cat exhibits this type of behavior, it is important to take him to a vet, who can understand if our furry friend’s sudden change in behavior is the result of depression or other medical conditions.
How to intervene
If we think your cat may be suffering from depression, it is important to take him to a vet – only a trained professional can correctly diagnose his condition. And because it is so difficult to administer medications to cats, the vet will likely recommend non-pharmaceutical approaches, using antidepressants as a last resort.
If we seem to notice signs of depression in the cat, we should make sure that we provide him with sufficient attention and mental stimulation. Make sure to play with him / her every day and give lots of attention. If we’re out of the house for long periods of time, let’s make sure our kitty has some kind of entertainment. This could be created with the curtains left open so our furry friend can look out at bird feeders, specially designed DVD programs featuring birds and other animals that cats find interesting, or mentally stimulating cat toys, such as puzzles that give prizes (in food, of course) when the cat manages to solve them.
Synthetic pheromones can also have a calming effect on cats. If our cat is depressed or stressed, the vet may recommend using these products, in spray or with a diffuser. Some vets may also recommend light therapy for cats. There are UV lights specially designed to help reduce the symptoms of winter blues in cats. We ask our vet for details, and if he thinks this approach is suitable for our kitty.
If other approaches don’t work, the vet can prescribe an antidepressant for our cat. Vets usually recommend an SSRI, such as fluoxetine (Prozac) for cats, because this particular antidepressant drug is generally well tolerated in most animal species, including cats, dogs, and humans. If our kitty is prescribed an antidepressant, be sure to monitor him for any side effects.