Why Do Cats Gets Sad (They’re More Like Us Than You Think)

Updated September 19, 2021
Melancholic long-hair cat lying on wrought iron chair

Every cat is unique. Some are more outgoing, whereas others may be on the more reserved side of the spectrum. Regardless of your cat's personality, it can be quite alarming when they are not acting themselves. Watching for signs of depression and learning why your cat is upset can help their process in returning to normal.

Signs of a Sad Cat

Cats are a bit more difficult to analyze than dogs in most cases. If you know your cat well, and observe them, you should be able to notice differences ranging from subtle to distinct. The following are signs to watch for.

Abnormal Vocalization

It's possible that your cat will meow, or whine, more or less than normal. These are all very audible signs that your cat is upset. Low-pitched, sad yowls are characteristic of these unhappy sounds. Purrs aren't necessarily associated with happiness, and an unhappy cat may purr to soothe themselves. Other ordinarily noisy cats may become quiet, while quiet cats may increase their vocalizations.

British Short Hair cat meowing

Aggression or Fearful Behavior

Sad cats are more reactive, and they may behave more aggressively or fearfully. If you see changes in your cat's behavior that make them fearful or aggressive, these could be symptoms of some form of depression.

Observe Your Cat's Body Language

Cats, like dogs, have their own unique body language. Your cat's body language can sometimes reveal signs of depression. Be certain to look at all aspects of body language, including their eyes, ears, and body position. Ears tucked, tail tucked, hair standing on end, and other body cues are all ways for your cat to communicate they are upset.

Clingy or Reclusive Behavior

A depressed cat may become secluded and hide if they lose interest in the activities they used to enjoy. When a cat is depressed, more quiet cats can become clingy or demanding, and mistrust of strangers may significantly increase.

Portrait of tabby cat hiding under wardrobe

Change in Appetite

If you notice a change in appetite, this could indicate your cat is experiencing depression. This could be a complete lack of appetite or eating significantly more than normal. They may also lose interest in their favorite foods or treats. Some cats who are depressed can have the reverse problem and overeat, although this is a rare occurrence.

Lack of Grooming or Excessive Grooming

A cat that stops grooming themselves could be experiencing depression or illness. Cats who are depressed will often stop grooming themselves, resulting in their coat appearing dingy or dull. Pay close attention to your cat's activity during the day to see whether you notice them grooming at all. Look for irritated regions or sores on their body, as sad cats tend to focus on certain places and groom themselves excessively, resulting in hot spots and hairless spots.

Excessive Sleeping

Cats sleep quite a bit as it is (an average of 15 hours per day), but if your cat is sleeping during a time they would normally be awake, this could indicate depression.

Close up of British Short Hair cat sleeping on couch

Reasons Cats Become Depressed

There are a variety of reasons a cat may become depressed. Regardless of the cause, be certain to observe your cat closely and provide them with extra attention until they return to normal. If they appear depressed for an extended period of time or their symptoms worsen, make an appointment with your veterinarian to get your cat back on track.

Illness or Injury

A cat who isn't feeling well or who is in pain may appear depressed. Cats may not be as playful as they once were if it hurts to move around. The cat may also be nauseous, have no energy, or not have any desire to eat. Common conditions that cause depression include Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline Leukemia Virus, fatty liver disease, and dental disease. If you suspect your cat is sick or injured, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Loss of a Family Member

Whether you have recently lost a person or a pet in your family, your cat may become depressed and begin to grieve at the loss of a family member. If this is the cause, it's generally temporary and your cat should return to normal after the grieving period. If your cat is depressed because another cat or dog has passed away in your family, a new furry family member could help get them back on track to happiness. You should always consider this option carefully. Natural remedies such as pheromones can also be utilized during this time period to help your cat get through the difficult transition.

Ginger kitten cuddle with adult tabby cat

Change in the Household

A change in the household -- whether it's a new baby, new pet, new home, or even rearranging furniture -- could cause depression in your cat. Fortunately, once your cat becomes accustomed to the change, they will normally return to their typical state of happiness. To help in the transition, give your cat plenty of attention. Adding pheromones in this situation can also aid in accepting the new normal.

Helping Your Cat Return to Normal

Of course, there are some ideas above for each individual situation, but there are other ways to help relieve your cat's depression, including:

  • Installing a cat perch for your cat to enjoy the outdoors safely.
  • Trying out some new interactive cat toys.
  • Adding a "catio" or outdoor playpen to your home.
  • To combat boredom, make sure your cat has plenty of opportunities for natural behaviors and play.
  • If your cat isn't eating enough, consult your veterinarian about adding chicken broth or tuna water to their food. These options also include liquid in your cat's diet, which can aid in dehydration prevention.
  • Classical music might help your cat relax, especially if their depression is accompanied by anxiety.
  • Keep your mood uplifted; cats can sense your emotions.

Brush or comb your cat if they aren't grooming themselves. Make sure they're urinating and defecating normally, and keep a close eye on their litter box. To give your cat some security, stick to your usual routine as much as possible. This will give them an increased sense of security.

Remain Patient

Patience is key with cat depression. In most cases, depression is short-lived in cats. By helping your cat get through this phase using the techniques discussed above, you can make the process much easier on both you and your cat. Don't be afraid to request assistance from a veterinarian and get your cat checked out to ensure illness or injury is not causing the depression.

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Why Do Cats Gets Sad (They’re More Like Us Than You Think)