You probably don't have difficulty reading dogs because they're pretty much happy all of the time, unless of course their owner goes on vacation, or they're rehomed and moved to a different environment. When something changes suddenly in a dog's life, it can be obvious that he or she is depressed.
Cats on the other hand, are not as easy to read. Unlike dogs, they don't put big smiles on their faces and wag their tails every time their owner comes home. They're naturally "cooler" and calmer than dogs, and don't show their feelings the way dogs do.
Do cats get depressed?
Certainly, but probably not the same way humans do. With humans, depression is a multifactorial disease, which can be situational, for example, caused by a divorce or a death in the family, or it can have medical causes.
Since we can't ask cats what they're feeling, we must pay attention to the clues they give us in their daily behavior and make assumptions based on that information. Some of the clinical signs that veterinarians look for are:
- Loss of appetite
- Avoiding people
- Less active than usual
- Abnormal behavior, such as hissing
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in litter box habits
Possible Medical Causes for Abnormal Behavior
If your cat is not acting like themselves and seem lethargic or uncomfortable, they may not be depressed, but may have a medical condition that's making them act like it. Medical conditions, such as GI cancer or kidney disease can lead to nausea and a poor appetite, which can mimic depressive symptoms.
One of the most undiagnosed conditions in cats is pain, especially in older cats. Usually, the cat is in pain and that's the reason why the cat is acting depressed. Often, a cat is terminally ill and their owner is concerned that they are depressed.
If you suspect that your cat is depressed, we urge you to consider an underlying medical cause. In many cases, it's not sad behavior, it's sick behavior that the owner is observing.
If your cat is showing signs of depression, it would benefit your cat to have them seen by a veterinarian right away. To find one near you, scroll through our directory!