A sad cat is just, well, sad. We love our cats and want them to be happy but sometimes they aren’t. That’s when we caregivers need to intervene. The first step on the road to making a sad cat happy is recognizing the signs of cat depression. I have tried asking my cat how she’s feeling but I usually get the silent treatment. If I’m not snubbed then I get a yowl that could mean almost anything. Without understandable verbal signs, we have to rely on behavior.
Before we get into things, I want to emphasize that cat personalities are diverse. All the signs here may be present in a perfectly happy cat who has just always “been that way”. What we are focusing on here is a change in behavior. Now, let’s explore the main things you should look for and possible stressors.
Lethargy and Sleep
Cats are lethargic by nature and sleep a lot. Like, A LOT. But, a sad cat will sleep more and not run around with the vigor they once had. Learn your cat’s sleeping patterns. If there is an increase in the amount of sleep hours, especially combined with a change in the location of naps, you may be dealing with a sad cat.
A happy cat cares about his or her appearance. They will keep their fur well-groomed. A sad cat may stop grooming altogether or drastically reduce it. A sad or stressed cat may also obsessively groom themselves. Be on the look out for bare spots. A good rule of thumb is: a clean cat is a happy cat.
Cats are creatures of habit but a sad cat may lose interest in their regular food and turn their nose up at their favorite treats. Any significant changes in diet may indicate depression or even an illness. If food aversion persists, you should visit the vet.
Is your cat normally quiet and now they won’t shut up? Or is your mouthy cat suddenly quiet? In either case, this change in behavior could mean your cat is sad.
My cat, Laila, yells at me every time I come home from a trip. Yes, she has a cat sitter, but it isn’t the same. It really feels like she’s mad at me. She gets over it pretty quick and quiets down once she’s had some serious cuddle time.
Loneliness and Isolation
Is your social cat suddenly not social anymore? Cats that hide from humans and other pets may be feeling sad. Although cats love to hide, isolation is different. They no longer involve themselves with the family and seem to prefer to be alone. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you – that’s sad for everyone.
I have what anyone would call a needy cat. She HATES to be alone. She had many homes before she found her forever home with me at the age of two. We’ll never know but I think this made her the clingy cat she is today. She needs people around and if they aren’t, she’s sad.
If you have a needy cat like I do, when you spend time away, dedicate some kitty quality time once you get home. That does the trick for me.
There are many stressors that can cause changes to your cat’s behavior causing them to exhibit signs of sadness. It can be as simple as a change to their food or litter. Or, it can be something bigger like a loss of territory (house move) or the loss of a companion – human or animal.
Sad Cat or Bored Cat?
Cats, like zoo animals, need enrichment. Don’t mistake sadness for boredom. If you have been neglecting cuddle/play time, been absent, or your outdoor cat has been kept inside for a while, there’s an easy test to check for sadness. Cuddle, play and let them outside. If their mood improves and they no longer show the sad cat signs, pat yourself on the back. You’ve solved a problem.
If you have limited time to play, consider an online game for cats. They get entertained and you can set it and forget it. Just don’t do this too often; your cat likes to play with YOU!
IMPORTANT: Most signs of cat depression can also be signs your cat is sick. Trust your gut. You know your cat better than anyone. If you have any doubt, make an appointment at the vet. Although the vet can be its own stressor, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Let’s put an end to all sad cats. Every cat should be a Laughing Cat!