Is Your Cat Sad? Signs and Causes of Cat Depression - CohaiTungChi Tech (2023)

Many people mistakenly believe that cats are aloof, unemotional creatures that have no particular attachment to their owners. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, felines have a wide range of emotions, including fear, sadness, contentment and affection. It can at times be difficult to distinguish a cat's emotional state, due to their subtle facial expressions and body language, but that doesn't mean your kitty doesn't have feelings. And while ideally your cat is happy and content most of the time, you should also be able to recognize when your cat is feeling blue.

Cats can become sad or depressed due to various reasons. Some common causes of cat discontentment include illness, boredom, grieving of a lost family member or pet that they were bonded with, or injury. Oftentimes, cat owners don't notice if their cat is feeling down, shrugging off a loss of interest in play or a cat sleeping longer than usual as normal or just “part of getting older.” However, these are common symptoms of feline depression.

It's important to keep an eye on your cat if it's become unusually reserved or quiet. Learn more about the frequent causes of depression in cats, the signs to look for, and your best course of action.

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Signs of a Depressed Cat

A picture is worth a thousand words. So is the look of your cat. Pay attention to some signs of possible depression in your cat.

  • Vocal clues or changes in vocalization: Your cat may meow more or less than usual. These are very audible indications that your cat may be unhappy. These unhappy noises are usually low-pitched, mournful yowls. Purrs do not always indicate happiness, and an unhappy kitty might purr more as a way to comfort themselves, as well. Other cats that are normally vocal may become quiet, while quiet cats can turn up the volume.
  • Body language: Sometimes your cat’s body language can clue you in on their unhappiness, and there are many eye, ear, fur, and body positions that can indicate this. Ears held back, tail tucked, hair standing on end, and other body signs are all forms of silent communication that your cat may be unhappy.
  • Aggression or fear: Sad cats tend to be more reactive and act out with aggression or fearfulness. If you notice behavior changes that result in your cat being scared or abnormally aggressive then they may be sad.
  • Clingy or hiding or changes in personality: A sad cat may lose interest in the activities that used to engage it, become reclusive, and hide. Naturally quiet cats can become clingy or demanding, and the fear of strangers that many cats seem to share can become heightened when a cat is sad.
  • Excessive sleep: Cats normally sleep a lot, but sad or depressed cats sleep even more. If there have been changes in the location of a favorite nap spot this can also indicate sadness, especially if the new spot is hidden or out-of-the-way.
  • Poor grooming or changes in grooming: This can be a sign of unhappiness and ill health. Cats that do not feel well or are depressed often stop grooming themselves, leaving very unkempt looking coats.
  • Not eating or change in appetite: If your cat has stopped eating or you’ve noted a sudden change in appetite, it may be unhappy about something. Sad cats may snub foods they previously enjoyed and may even lose interest in their favorite treats.
  • Spraying or changes in bathroom habits: A sad cat may use their own scent to feel better by urinating in inappropriate places. There are many reasons for urinating outside of the litter box but stress, depression, and sadness are high on this list. Your cat may urinate in high-value areas such as lookouts, your bedroom, or places where the scent of a deceased pet or missing human lingers in order to spread their own scent. Also, if your cat soils outside of the litter box, this should raise a red flag.
  • Excessive scratching: If your cat is sad or depressed, it may start scratching furniture or other objects more than usual to relieve stress and mark its territory.

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Reasons Why a Cat Gets Depressed

There can be several reasons why a cat gets depressed. However, if your cat is not behaving normally, is less active than before, is refusing to eat, appears to be in pain, or has stopped grooming itself, it's a good idea to take your pet to the veterinarian for a full checkup to rule out potential health conditions that could be causing these behavioral changes. If your vet gives the cat a clean bill of health, then it's reasonable to assume that sadness or depression could be the underlying cause of the issues.

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Illness

Just as you might feel blue when you are sick, especially if your condition is painful, illnesses, especially chronic or painful ones, can cause your cat to become depressed. The cat may not be its playful self if it hurts to move around. The cat might feel nauseated, refuse to eat, have a hormonal imbalance, or have no energy due to the illness. Conditions such as fatty liver disease, FIV, FeLV, upper respiratory diseases, diabetes, hypothyroidism, dental disease, and others are all serious health problems that can affect your cat’s happiness level. If you suspect your cat is depressed because it is sick, then you should schedule a visit with your vet as soon as possible.

Injury

Injuries may limit your cat’s ability to do things it once enjoyed. Pain after an injury can also keep your cat from feeling as happy as it usually is. Make sure you are following your veterinarian’s recommendations regarding pain relief after an injury or medical procedure. If your cat seems to be in pain, but you aren't sure why, schedule an appointment to have it checked out as soon as possible. Even old surgeries and injuries can cause lingering pain or discomfort in your cat and may require chronic pain relief.

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Loss of a Loved One

Losing a family member is always tough for everyone involved, and your cat is no exception. When a family member (human or animal) passes away or moves out, your cat may grieve and become depressed. This is usually only a temporary behavior, and with some time, your cat will likely return to its normal temperment. If your cat is depressed because another cat in the household has passed away, it may benefit from a new cat friend (or it may not). Be cautious in adding another animal companion too soon to the family after the loss of a pet, however. Time is usually the best remedy for major changes in household dynamics, but there are also natural remedies such as pheromones sprays and nutritional supplements that can help your cat be happier in the meantime.

Boredom

While it's safer and healthier for your feline to remain indoors, an indoor-only cat that is not provided with sufficient stimulation can become bored, which easily can turn into depression. Think of how you'd feel if you were cooped up inside forever with nothing to do. Your cat is no different. Make sure your cat has a variety of activities to stimulate its mind and provide exercise. A variety of toys, cat furniture and climbing opportunities, treats, and perhaps a window to gaze out of are all easy ways to help ward off feline depression, boredom, or sadness.

How to Help a Sad Cat

If your kitty is feeling blue, and you've already taken care of any possible health conditions or injuries, then you might wonder what else you can do to cheer your cat up. Luckily, there are quite a few way to help a sad cat feel happier.

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  • Spend time every day bonding and interacting with your cat. Petting your cat, allowing it to cuddle on your lap, talking to it, and just paying attention to your kitty's antics all help it to feel loved and content.
  • Provide your cat with an assortment of toys, and rotate the selection frequently so the cat doesn't tire of any one particular toy. Many cats especially enjoy leaping and chasing a “cat dancer” with ribbons or feathers attached to a stick that you maneuver about for your cat to attack.
  • Along with a healthy diet and fresh water, you can offer your cat a small treat each day. This gives your cat something to look forward to and enjoy. Most cats will quickly learn when it's treat time and will come running if you offer the goody at the same time each day.
  • Carefully consider getting your cat another animal companion. Some cats are happier being the only pet in a household, while others love to cuddle and interact with another cat or even with a dog. Take your cat's temperament, age, health, and activity level into account before deciding to bring home another pet.
  • Create entertainment for your cat by hanging a bird feeder near a window that the cat can easily look out of. Both you and your feline will enjoy watching backyard birds visit the feeder, and their movements will provide your cat a great deal of excitement and stimulation.

FAQs

How do you know if your cat is sad or depressed? ›

Signs of a Depressed Cat

Changes in body language, including ears held back, tucked tail, and hairs standing on end. Meowing more or less than usual or making low-pitched, mournful meows. Lack of energy or a decrease in activity level. Retreating from humans or other family pets.

What causes cat depression? ›

Cats often suffer from depression as a result of major changes in their routines, such as the death of a family member or companion animal, loneliness or a change in their environment.

How do cats show sadness? ›

Cats alter their behavior when they mourn much like people do: They may become depressed and listless. They may have a decreased appetite and decline to play. They may sleep more than usual and move more slowly, sulking around.

Do cats cry when depressed? ›

While cats certainly do have emotions, such as grieving or depression, they will never shed tears to show those feelings. If you are concerned about your pet's emotions, look for other signs such as lethargy, withdrawal, or disinterest in food.

Do cats get depressed when left alone? ›

Short answer: yes. When their needs for companionship are not met, cats can become depressed. They can also get separation anxiety. Unfortunately, feline separation anxiety often goes unnoticed until it becomes severe.

Does catnip help a depressed cat? ›

So apart from tasting great in tea, catnip is reputed as having a therapeutic value in treating nausea, anxiety, depression, insomnia, congestion, as well as gastric upset. Its impact comes from volatile oils which can restore balance to multiple organ systems.

Do indoor cats get depressed? ›

Because cats enjoy roaming and exploring, keeping them inside can lead to boredom. Some indoor cats also experience depression and separation anxiety. To prevent these issues, you must take steps to meet your cat's needs.

What music do cats like? ›

The cats reacted most positively to classical music, followed by pop. Heavy metal, though, raised their heart rate and increased their pupil size; in other words, rock music stressed them out. As for when to play music for your kitty, any time is a good time.

How do you know if your cat is unhappy? ›

Signs when your cat is not completely comfortable may be:
  1. Scratching in your home on door frames, walls, furniture.
  2. Peeing outside the litter box. ...
  3. Hiding more often from you or visitors to your house. ...
  4. 2 or more cats in the household are fighting.
  5. Changes in appetite, either not eating enough or eating too much.

How do you know if cat is lonely? ›

Signs That Your Cat is Lonely
  1. Increased sleep. Cats are nocturnal creatures, so it's normal for them to sleep away a larch chunk of the daytime hours. ...
  2. Litter box problems. Peeing outside the litter box can either be a health or behavioral problem. ...
  3. Destructive behavior. ...
  4. Aggression. ...
  5. Increased vocalization.
Jul 6, 2020

Can cats see you cry? ›

"Your cat is most likely staring at you while crying because they're trying to make sense of what they see and hear," McGowan says. Your cat might not understand human crying, but she'll gather as many clues as she can and use them to adjust her behavior.

Do cats care if you cry? ›

Cats may not be emotionally intelligent enough to realize that you need comfort when you're sad, but they are receptive to the concept that you're paying them attention. If your cat associates your sadness with love and attention, it's going to seek you out at your low points.

Do cats know you cry? ›

Can cats sense emotions? Cats can sense how people are feeling, so your cat actually can tell when you're sad. “Cats can definitely sense when you are sad because they are highly attuned to your normal behaviors and moods, and if there is a change, they sense it,” Dr. Wooten told The Dodo.

What do cats enjoy the most? ›

Cats love sleeping and napping.
  • Cats love grooming themselves and being groomed. ...
  • Cats love a clean and private bathroom space. ...
  • Cats love — and need — to scratch. ...
  • Cats love high places for watching and hiding. ...
  • Cats love a stimulating environment. ...
  • Cats love their humans.

What makes a cat most happy? ›

Playing regularly with a cat and providing their entertaining toys can easily satisfy their stalking instinct, keep them stimulated and provide the exercise they need to stay healthy and happy. It also keeps local wildlife safe!

How does a cat laugh? ›

No, your cat cannot technically laugh, but they have other signs to show that they are happy. Purring is your cat's main way of expressing that they are happy. Some people even consider purring as equivalent to cat laughter.

Do cats get their feelings hurt? ›

Famously independent, sometimes falsely assumed to be immune to feelings, cats are in truth super-sensitive to emotions, sound, and stress. Perhaps because felines lack the eager-to-please openness of their canine colleagues, humans overlook the big and small ways they can break a cat's spirit.

Do cats miss their owners? ›

Quite often, when owners go away, their cats seem also to disappear. Whether they are hiding or are having their own vacation, disappearing can be a sign that a cat is distressed and misses their owner. Illness. Some cats become unwell with the anxiety of their owner's absence and the change in their daily routine.

Do cats get mad at you? ›

Ears flattened back against the head and slightly sticking out—”like airplane wings”—are a sure indicator your cat is upset, Shojai says. Don't worry too much but do keep your distance. “An all-out attack toward people isn't terribly common and, when it happens, may actually be a redirected aggression,” she explains.

What do cats think about all day? ›

After several years, they can still remember people, places and events from the past. So maybe next time you find your cat staring blankly at a wall or closet, it may be possible that she is thinking of the past and replaying it over and over again.

How do you let your cat know you love them? ›

15 Ways to Say I Love You to Your Cat
  1. Blink Slowly and Gaze Lovingly Into Her Eyes. ...
  2. Mimic Her Voice. ...
  3. Let Her Rub On You. ...
  4. Groom Her. ...
  5. Don't Skip the Vet. ...
  6. Give Them Space. ...
  7. Gently Massage Them. ...
  8. Give Them Boredom Busters.

What smell helps cats with anxiety? ›

Lavender, which has natural sedative properties, may help soothe an anxious cat. Copaiba, helichrysum, and frankincense are also considered safe for cats. Before using essential oils, even in the form of diffused scents, around your cats, check with your holistic veterinarian for recommendations.

What calms cat anxiety? ›

If you see that your cat is getting stressed, then make sure they have a quiet, safe place to go indoors or in the garden. Spend some time playing with your cat, especially if outdoor access is restricted. Food activity toys are a great way for them to get mental and physical stimulation.

Do depressed cats sleep a lot? ›

Most cats love sleeping and would sleep for 12-16 hours a day. However, depressed cats may sleep for even longer periods. They may also change their location where they usually take a nap.

Should you leave TV on for cats? ›

To make them feel less alone, simply leaving the TV on for background noise or using a pheromone plug-in can help your cat to stay calm. If you believe being alone makes your cat anxious, it's worth testing this to see if they are calmer when you return.

Do house cats feel lonely? ›

Because of the attachments they form, the answer is yes; cats can feel lonely! While each kitty has a unique personality and needs, the following signs could indicate a lonely cat: Destructive behavior. Loss or increase in appetite.

What is a cat afraid of? ›

In the home, cats are often scared of noisy household appliances, especially if they didn't become accustomed to them as young kittens. Vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers, printers, washing machines and hairdryers are common culprits.

What do cats see when they watch TV? ›

While some cats are not bothered by the small screen, others will watch intently, particularly programmes featuring other animals. Some studies have indicated that cats are able to identify imagery on TV, as we know that they can distinguish between outlines, patterns and textures.

Do cats like being picked up? ›

In addition to being petted, do cats like to be held? Sometimes. Most cats love to snuggle, and they're typically responsive to being held if you introduce them to it gradually. The best way to approach your cat for a hug is to start with a few soft pets, then carefully pick them up.

Is it OK to have one cat? ›

If you are just looking to get one cat, your future feline pet will not be severely deprived if you do not get another with it. A cat can live a happy life as the only cat in the house. At the same time, cats are more social than we may have at one time believed.

Is it better to have 2 cats? ›

Pairs are Happier

Despite their independent natures, cats are social creatures that need companionship to thrive. Left alone, a cat can develop behavioral problems, and in some cases, even show signs of depression. Cats in bonded pairs, on the other hand, are more likely to be better adjusted.

Why do cats headbutt? ›

Headbutting is a way for cats to mark you with pheromones and bond with you. However, sometimes headbutting can be a way for cats to seek attention. As a general rule, cats like to be scratched under the chin and on the head, so a cat may just be presenting their head to you for some attention and good scratches.

Do cats worry about their owners? ›

Cats form attachments to their owners that are similar to those that dogs and babies form with their caregivers. You really are more than just a source of food to your cat: A study published Monday finds that cats see their owners as a source of comfort and security, too.

Why does my cat stare at me? ›

As well as being a method of communication, staring is also a sign of a close bond between you and your cat, as they are unlikely to hold eye contact with someone they don't like or trust.

Where your cat sleeps on your bed and what it means? ›

If your cat sleeps on your bed, he may choose a position that lets him see out your bedroom door more easily. If he's curled up in a ball under your bed or in a quiet corner, then he may be hiding. Cats who sleep under the covers might love being close to you, or they might be hiding to feel safer.

Do cats recognize their names? ›

According to a study1 published in 2019 in the journal Scientific Reports, cats do, in fact, recognize their own names. The lead author of the study is a behavioral scientist named Atsuko Saito from Sophia University in Tokyo, whose prior research2 demonstrated that cats can recognize their owners' voices.

Do cats like to be kissed? ›

It depends on the cat.

Some cats are socialized as kittens to be held and kissed, while others haven't had that exposure and might be put off by a kiss as an expression of love. So, some cats like it and some cats don't—but there are ways of detecting the category into which your feline friend falls.

What are cats saying when they meow? ›

The standard meow is mid-length in duration and mid-pitched in tone and is the “asking for something” sound. The mewl, a short high-pitched meow, usually means “hello,” and can be accompanied by rubbing against your legs. A long, drawn-out meow usually means that your furry friend wants something specific, like dinner.

What age is a cat old? ›

Cats in the mature stage are the human equivalent of 40-50 years old. Mature cats tend to be less active than adult cats. They may need special considerations based on physical issues. Yearly veterinary exams will help identify arthritis, weight or dental issues, which are more common in mature cats.

What does it mean when a cat sleeps between your legs? ›

If your cat likes to sleep between your legs, it's most likely a sign of affection and means your cat feels safe and comfortable with you - Normal and affectionate cat behavior. Nevertheless, if you don't want to sleep with your cat, there are plenty of alternatives that will provide you both with happy sleeps.

Will my cat miss me after a week? ›

Research has shown that cats don't show signs of separation anxiety when their owner is away. Some cat owners know this: you return from a holiday but your cat acts pretty indifferently! Other cats even behave like they are "offended" and pretend not to see you at all.

How can I tell if my cat is unhappy? ›

Signs when your cat is not completely comfortable may be:
  1. Scratching in your home on door frames, walls, furniture.
  2. Peeing outside the litter box. ...
  3. Hiding more often from you or visitors to your house. ...
  4. 2 or more cats in the household are fighting.
  5. Changes in appetite, either not eating enough or eating too much.

How can you tell if a cat is happy or unhappy? ›

You'll know your cat is happy if they show affection to you and want to interact with you. A content kitty loves scritches, snuggles, head boops, and lap sits. Every cat is different, of course, and some prefer to lay near you rather than on you. In general, though, a happy cat shows it by being close to their human.

Is my cat not feeling well? ›

Cats that are ill will usually show changes in overall appearance, energy level, sociability, coat appearance and/or amount of shedding, appetite, litterbox usage, breathing, or discharges from the eyes or nose. In general, any sudden change should alert you that your cat needs veterinary attention.

Do depressed cats still purr? ›

While purring often means a cat is content, depressed cats may purr more than usual to comfort and soothe themselves. Additionally, excessive purring can also indicate that a cat is unhappy.

Can cats be mad at you? ›

If a cat is mad or annoyed with you, they might leave the area you're in or sit and stare at you from across the room, just observing your movements. Sometimes it's best to just give your cat some space to calm down, especially if there is something that is stressing them out.

What do cats do when they are depressed? ›

Cats experiencing depression may show: Decreased appetite. Loss of interest in playing with their toys. Less interest in interacting with feline/canine housemates or family members.

How do you tell a cat you love them? ›

15 Ways to Say I Love You to Your Cat
  1. Blink Slowly and Gaze Lovingly Into Her Eyes. ...
  2. Mimic Her Voice. ...
  3. Let Her Rub On You. ...
  4. Groom Her. ...
  5. Don't Skip the Vet. ...
  6. Give Them Space. ...
  7. Gently Massage Them. ...
  8. Give Them Boredom Busters.

Does a cat trust you if it sleeps next to you? ›

Sleeping near you

If your kitty likes to sleep near you - or even on you - this is an indication that they have total trust in you.

What does it mean when a cat licks you? ›

Your cat is expressing her affection for you.

Your cat's licking may be an affiliative behavior, which is a friendly, altruistic behavior. Mothers groom their kittens, and cats may groom one another, which is called allogrooming.

Can cats cry? ›

Cats don't cry tears when they're sad or in pain. But Halls says whether your cat is experiencing emotional or physical pain, they'll exhibit behavioral changes that could include vocal crying. The sound of a cat crying is typically longer in duration and lower in frequency than day-to-day cat chatter.

Can my cat be mentally ill? ›

Can cats have mental disabilities? Cats can have mental disabilities. Diagnosing and treating those disorders is difficult as most cats don't express mental disorders the way people do. However, there are treatments available for cats, and human families can adapt to a wide range of mental disorders in cats.

Why is my cat sleeping next to me all of a sudden? ›

Your Cat Is Looking for Security

Because of their position in the middle of the food chain, they may feel vulnerable while they're sleeping. Sleeping next to you helps them feel more secure in their ability to sleep because they know they have an extra layer of defense if a predator comes their way.

Why is my cat ignoring me all of a sudden? ›

Many cats will choose to ignore something they perceive as a threat, or that they are stressed by. If you have punished or swatted your cat in the past, or even yelled at them, they may now see you as a potential threat. Your cat doesn't know if your intentions are good or bad, so they try to ignore you.

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