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Is My Cat Sad or Depressed? 8 Signs to Look For (Vet Approved)

sad looking cat lying down

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Vet, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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No one wants their cat to be sad. Most cat owners go out of their way to make their felines happy and comfortable. Behavioral changes similar to those experienced by humans with diagnosed clinical depression are the reason why some cat owners think their cat is suffering from depression. 

Clinical depression is a medically recognized and fairly common mental health disease of humans. Feelings of sadness and behavioral changes, such as lack of motivation to perform regular activities or disruption of sleeping patterns are some of the signs of this disease. Depression is considered a multifactorial disease. Sometimes depression is caused by a clear emotional trigger such as the separation or loss of a loved one, financial difficulties, etc. Clinical depression can be also caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. What is certain, is that depression in humans can be easily diagnosed due to our ability to verbally express our feelings. 

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Can My Cat Suffer from Depression?

Cats, just like any other animals, are sentient beings and can suffer from mood disorders. Because cats can not express themselves verbally, it is wiser to avoid evaluating them using humanized adjectives or characteristics and instead focus on evaluating them from a more cat-friendly perspective. This will help you better understand and provide the needed solutions for your beloved cat’s “depression.”

Cats are more sensitive to life events and changes than we might be. For instance, a change in their schedule can completely knock a cat off balance, while it likely wouldn’t cause serious problems for most people. 

Of course, you can’t help your cat handle these changes if you don’t know that they’re being bothered to begin with! Here are a few signs that your cat is a bit sad and may need some attention

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The 8 Signs Your Cat May Be Sad or Depressed

1. Sudden Aggression

angry domestic cat growling
Image Credit: pixbull, Shutterstock

Cats that are stressed will often be less able to deal with other stressors, which may lead to increased aggression. They may have been able to put up with your puppy before. But with the added stress, they may begin to lash out against your dog more often. 

In many cases, they will also begin lashing out against you. Even the smallest thing may seem to set them off. 

That said, this only applies to new and sudden aggression. If your cat has always been a bit high-strung, then them going about their normal behaviors isn’t likely a sign of depression. Furthermore, if your cat never got along with your puppy, their aggression isn’t a symptom of sadness.


2. Lack of Grooming

All cats tend to groom themselves regularly. If your cat suddenly changes their grooming behaviors, it could be a sign that they are “depressed” or stressed. When your cat is worried, they may not feel motivated to groom themselves. 

A lack of grooming can also be caused by underlying health problems. Therefore, any sudden changes in grooming behaviors should prompt a visit to the vet. Cats are good at hiding their symptoms, so sometimes, the only sign that they are sick is a change in their behavior.


3. Changes in Vocalization

Cats that are depressed often change how often they meow. This may be an increase in vocalization or a decrease in vocalization. Either way, it could be a sign that your cat is stressed or sad. 

Of course, many things can cause vocalization changes. For instance, female cats that are in heat will often yowl in an attempt to attract a mate. Illnesses can also cause increased vocalization. 

Typically, changes in vocalization alone aren’t enough to indicate “depression.” However, if they are paired with other signs, it could be a good indication that your cat is “depressed.”


4. Changes in Personality

a sad looking cat sitting on the grass
Image Credit: ivabalk, Pixabay

Any sudden shift in personality can be a sign of depression or a different, underlying issue. For instance, if your lovable cat suddenly starts hiding under the bed, there is likely something wrong. Alternatively, if your usually aloof cat suddenly seems needy for attention, it could also signal a problem. 

“Depression” can easily cause personality changes. However, other things can also lead to changes. Cats that suddenly hide may be sick. After all, in the wild, cats would need to hide and heal when they fell ill. 

However, if your cat is otherwise fine, any sudden change in their behavior could be a symptom of “depression.”


5. Change in Appetite

Preferably, your cat should eat the same amount of food every day. You don’t want your feline to suddenly stop eating or start eating too much. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you keep an eye on your cat’s eating habits. A change in either direction could be a sign that something is wrong. 

Depressed and sad cats may stop eating quite as much, or they can start to eat more. Some felines may feel stressed and try to eat up the food while it is available, while others may hide under the bed and not come out. Some cats eat so much that they may vomit. 

Typically, this is due to the cats’ “feast or famine” mentality. Cats will often overeat when they think that the food may not be there in the future.


6. Inappropriate Urination

If your cat starts spraying or begins to use the bathroom outside of the litter box, it is a clear sign of sadness. When cats are stressed and depressed, they often feel the need to control their surroundings. One of the ways that cats do this is by marking their territory as theirs. It is a common stress response. This behavior is often seen as simple misbehavior, but it is often a cry for help. 

Inappropriate urination can also be a sign of a UTI. Therefore, be sure to speak to your vet right away if your cat suddenly stops using the litter box.


7. Lack of Interest

shorthair cat lying on table, looking sad

Image Credit: 9lnw, Shutterstock

To play and run around, cats need to be carefree. If they’re stressed out or otherwise depressed, they may not want to play like they once did. They may also not be interested in treats or other things that they used to get excited about. If they usually meet you at the door for cuddles, they may not do that anymore. 

Often, this lack of interest will line up with other behavioral issues. For instance, a cat may nap all day instead of playing. They may stay hidden under the bed instead of coming to eat treats when you call. Either way, it is an obvious sign that your feline may have something wrong with them.


8. Changes in Sleep

tired sick cat
Image Credit: natata, Shutterstock

Cats that are depressed or sad may sleep more. Of course, cats sleep long hours, anyway, so excessive amounts of sleep may not necessarily be an issue. 

That said, sudden changes can indicate a problem. If your cat suddenly starts sleeping much more than they used to or forgoing activities that they used to enjoy just to sleep instead, it could be a sign of an issue. 

Similarly, if your cat suddenly stops sleeping at all, it can be a clear sign that there is a problem. Your cat may be too stressed to sleep like they are supposed to, which can lead to further depression or sadness.

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Conclusion

Depression is recognized in humans due to our ability to express our feelings. As sentient beings, we can assume that cats can get depressed, just like we can, and the behavioral changes and signs are quite similar to the human signs of depression. However, many signs of depression are also signs of an underlying illness, and cats can not speak to express their pain or discomfort. Therefore, it is essential to take your cat to the vet if they start acting strangely. If the vet gives them a clean bill of health, it may just be a sign of your feline being depressed. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry. 

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Featured Image Credit: pasja1000, Pixabay

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