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Helping Kitty Cope with Cat Depression

when kitty hasn't been the same lately...

 

Now we’re really getting into Fall. The fun of bright leaves and pumpkin-scented everything is giving way to grey days, more time indoors, and definitely more stretchy things to wear.  The colder months also bring darker moods. Some people start experiencing major depression around this time of year, to the point where medication and regular visits with a therapist are the only ways to cope until Spring.

 
Turns out cats can get sad too.

Photo by James H. via Flickr.


what's wrong with kitty?

Whether kitty is going through Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D: a type of depression that comes with the colder months due to lack of sunlight), or going through something else, cat depression is as real and varied as kitty and their reasons.  Cats like to play it cool generally, so if something is going on you’ll have to look for signs that may not be so obvious at first glance. 

Signs could include:

  • Vocal cues: kitty may either be more or less vocal than usual, and if they are making any sounds, listen for low-pitched mournful yowls. Purring can also be a sound kitty uses to comfort themselves, not necessarily because they’re happy. 

  •  Body language: Body language is a dead-giveaway when something’s not right. If kitty’s ears are held back, their tail tucked under, or their hair standing on end, you’re right about looking into what’s wrong. 

  •  Aggression or fear: Did your cuddly fur baby turn into a scared (or angry) fur baby overnight? Sad kitties tend to be more reactive and lash out with fear or aggression. Depression is a possibility, but also check with your vet to see if anything physical is going on (ie if kitty might be in pain). 

  • Clingy, Hiding or Changes in personality: A kitty that’s suddenly more interested in achieving recluse status instead of playing with their favorite toys, getting way more attached to you than usual and being especially afraid of strangers could be a kitty that’s going through a round of sadness.

Photo by Bondesgaarde H. via Flickr.

  • Shoddy or changes in grooming: Not caring about appearance is always a sign things aren’t good on the inside, and cats tend to stop grooming themselves when they’re going through the motions. 

  • Loss of appetite: If kitty decides to stop eating suddenly, or if you’ve noticed a sharp change in appetite, they may be unhappy about something — especially if they’re not interested in their favorite treats anymore. 

  •  Spraying or changes in bathroom habits: In order to feel better, cats sometimes spray or pee outside their litter boxes since the smell brings them comfort. This is especially the case if they start marking spots in spaces where a deceased pet or missing person used to be, they’re covering up the loss with their own smell.  

  •  Excessive scratching: We all have our nervous coping habits (that aren’t the best if we’re being totally honest), and for cats, they scratch everywhere to relieve stress and mark their territory. 

  • Excessive Sleep: Cats love sleeping, but there’s a limit even for the sleepiest of kitties. If you noticed they’ve changed their favorite nap spot, and sleeping way too often (for them), they might be feeling sad.

 

If you and your vet agree that your fur baby may be going through a depressive episode, the best ways to bring kitty through the dark days are time, and doing little things to help get their mood up. If this is your first time helping kitty through this experience, try to remember that this takes time — to figure out what actually helps, and time for kitty to feel like their usual self.

 Here’s a few mood boosters if your cat is going through depression, on top of being with you.


lots of sunshine

If you happen to live in a state that gets winter, you know the warmer sunny days are few and far between. If the weather’s causing kitty to feel sadder, try putting their bed in an area that gets a lot of natural light. That way, they absorb as much happiness and energy while lying down. 

go outside

 

It’s getting colder, but it’s not frigid! Feel free to let kitty breathe in that crisp Fall air and get a bit of exercise with you outside. If your furry friend is used to going outdoors, try not to have them go out at night when it’s much colder (they’ll be more likely to try and get warm in more dangerous spaces, like inside car engines). If kitty’s an indoor cat, have them out with you on a lead. We promise, this will do you both a load of good! And speaking of exercise…

 

exercise

 

 Digging up kitty’s favorite toys and coaxing them to play gives them a much needed energy boost, and lets them know how much you care by giving them the extra attention! Making time to play means keeping your furry friend stimulated, gives you both something to look forward to, and keeps the sadness at bay. 

 

Photo by Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr


don't overfeed kitty

It’s okay if kitty has a bigger appetite than usual (who doesn’t like a little comfort food every now and again?), just make sure that little extra love in the food department doesn’t turn into a lot of weight gain. Being overweight puts kitty at risk of diabetes, liver disease, arthritis, cancer and respiratory and bladder problems. A good way to keep the furry one from packing on the pounds is setting up a puzzle feeder, and keeping up with their nutrition by making some Scruffy Paws goodies part of their regular diet. 


We can’t stop the seasons changing, and we definitely can’t stop the downsides that come with the changing seasons, but we can make sure we do what we can to take care of ourselves — and kitty!

Photo by Jennifer Williams via Flickr

Stephanie Pollard
Writer. Pet Enthusiast. Ambivert.

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2 comments

  • Loved this, thanks!

    Denise
  • Thank You so much for such an informative article. I thought it was very interesting with good advice. I think my little buddy might be a little depressed so this information came at just the right time for me. Thanks again and enjoy the rest of the week.

    Bea Mary Prettyman

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