A few newsletters ago we wrote about feline depression and introduced a new flower essence: Emotional Sunshine which will brighten up the mood and emotions of a depressed cat. We asked our good buddy and Feline Editor At-Large Sir Issac Newton to chime in with his usual insights and charming wit to talk about feline depression from a cat’s point of view!
Newton’s Purrspective – Do Cats Get Depressed?
The short days of winter have made me think about how sad people can be this time of year. Depression is widely recognized as a serious problem in humans (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/) so perhaps you have wondered if your cat could also be affected. Since you can’t ask Fluffy if she is feeling sad, or is worried that her life is not what she hoped, astute observation is essential. Speaking for myself, I have a delightful personality filled with a host of amusing quirks. If my staff found me hiding under the bed all day, refusing food, or ignoring my favorite catnip toys I would be at the vet’s office in the blink of an eye. All of these behaviors could be symptoms of depression and a legitimate cause for worry.
First, it is important to understand that depression is not a disease in itself, but rather a symptom of an underlying condition. An exam can rule out physical problems which may be apparent only to health care professionals.
Clinical signs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Uncharacteristic behavior (e.g. hissing for no apparent reason)
- Changes in litterbox habits
- Disruption in sleep patterns
If no medical problems are evident then it is time to look at mood related issues. I would start with changes in the household. Have there been additions or losses (either human or animal)? Although we cats have a reputation for being aloof we can closely bond with humans, other cats, and even dogs! This affection is part of our normal balanced routine and a disruption could lead to depression. Losing the companion who shared a sunbeam can be devastating. On the other hand, learning to share with a new addition is also stressful. I know jealousy isn’t productive, but even perceived loss of affection is depressing.
Other changes that could be upsetting include new furniture, food or daily routines. Is Tabby home alone more than in the past? Have favorite toys or beds been lost or cleaned with something irritating to a cat’s sensitive nose? Any change could be stressful, leading to depression.
Even if you can pinpoint the cause of depression you may not be able to fix it (e.g. the change was a new spouse or move to a new apartment). Change is part of life. However, there are things you can do to help restore Kitty’s emotional balance. The therapy is quite similar to that used to decrease stress. Make sure Kitty has a safe space for quiet time, but also provide environmental enrichment and quality time with you. My favorite thing is having my ears rubbed. No matter how bad a mood I am in I just can’t stop myself from purring.
I have to admit that Cat Faeries Legendary Cat Toys are right up there with ear rubs when I need cheering up. Cat Faeries also has a wide variety of products to ease stress – everything from flower essences including the new Emotional Sunshine to mood music for cats to the new cat shaped amethyst geodes (beautiful and perfect to use with flower essences).
Do cats suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the short days of winter? Probably not, but given a choice you will find me napping in a sunbeam.