To humans, it seems that cats have it made. They get food served to them around the clock, on demand, and sometimes even in bed! They get to sleep while we plug away at work, spend hours cleaning our house, and prepare both the human meals and the feline ones. That’s why learning that our cat struggles with depression surprises so many of us. How could such content, sweet angels have worries like depression? The answer is about as simple as that to a human’s depression, because they’re quite similar. Allow us to explain!
What Causes Depression in Felines?
Like us, cats don’t need a “reason” to develop depression. By that, we mean that the onset of your cat’s depression, if you become fortunate enough to pinpoint it, often won’t make sense to you. For example, if your cat develops depression right after you take an extra hour each day at work, it may never cross your mind that that’s the reason. I mean, to us, what’s one whole hour? However, for your feline, an hour could be the difference between finishing naptime just as you arrive home from work, and waking up in a house that’s still dark, too hot or too cold, and food/water dishes that are empty. Or, perhaps he or she is just so accustomed to you coming home at a certain time that the abrupt change overwhelms your baby. As with some people, variations in daily schedule, even minor ones, often has harsh effects on cats.
Another thing that can begin, or speed up, the onset of feline depression, is the arrival of a new pet or baby. Since it’s such a joyous occasion for us, we often just assume that our cats will be happy for us and join in the celebration. This is NOT true! Many cats feel as though the new tiny critter threatens his or her spot in the household and, more importantly, in your heart. We often tease our furballs about “pouting,” but some cats feel deserted, unloved, and unwanted when the new family member arrives.
Too many other causes of feline depression for us to list them all. One of my babies is suffering from this illness right now, but the cause is more apparent. We adopted a young puppy we found wandering all alone in the middle of a busy street. The other cats weren’t too fond of him at first, but my poor Bear made fast friends with the puppy. As the dog grew, he started playing rougher, but Bear rarely minded it. The poor pup died a few weeks ago; he ended up with worms and parvo at the same time, before we could get him to the vet. Bear looks and meows for his buddy every single day. In fact, he bolts outside every chance he gets, thinking he might find him playing in the yard, as he often did. Bear NEVER went outside before this; he seemed to detest the idea. So, pinpointing his depression proved easy for us, although it kills me to see one of my babies suffer so, and be unable to just snap my fingers and take away that pain! However, we can help with the second most important thing to know about the condition: how to help your poor cat. Except for medications and/or vet prescribed treatment plans, these tips often serve a universal purpose in relation to feline depression.
Things You Can Do to Ease Feline Depression
Spoil, spoil, spoil. We know; this often goes against everything many of us spend our lives learning. However, this is one time you should not deprive your baby of special snacks, a small bite of tuna, or extra catnip. He or she needs to feel as much love and support from you as possible during this difficult time. Since we don’t know just how much of what we say to our babies they understand, we must show them in ways we know they do get. Compare it to indulging in your favorite treat or activity when you feel sad or you’ve had a rough day. This is what this spoiling does for your cat. If the severity of your cat’s depression rises so high that they stop eating, or they throw up everything they do eat, this is especially important. The resulting physical effect of depression CAN kill your cat, if not monitored and tended with great care, so feed him or her ANYTHING he or she will eat, until they put on some weight and feel a little better. It could literally save your baby’s life, and you’ll be grateful in the end! Plus, you’ll get extra snuggle time, and we can’t complain there!
Spend extra time with him/her. To some, it may seem silly to postpone weekend plans or take time off work just for an animal. We, of course, know better! However, we also know that’s not always as simple as “just say no.” Bosses often aren’t terribly sympathetic about our ailing pets when they needs us to work longer, harder hours. Friends and relatives who don’t have pets, don’t like animals, or just haven’t met THEIR soul pet yet, may have similar feelings about you “ditching” them for an animal. As with the spoiling, though, they really need this from you. You can earn the forgiveness of friends or peeved bosses. You can’t regain the life of that precious baby.
Break the rules. This may sound a bit like spoiling, but it’s not! Some people allow their pets the occasional bit of table food or an extra half hour romp outdoors. However, they wouldn’t dream of letting him or her on certain pieces of furniture, or to sleep in a certain bed. If you’re one of these kitty parents- tough. Your cat needs to see that you would do ANYTHING within your power to help him or her heal. Bedclothes and furniture covers can always be cleaned. You can never undo the damage done to your cat by continuing to forbid him or her to join you on the furniture when he or she needs you most.
Do NOT make any sudden new changes for a month or so. The last thing with which we feel like dealing when we’re upset, or hurting is changes. Your cat feels the same way! We know that sometimes, those changes are out of your hands. That’s where the tips listed above will come in extra handy. However, any changes you can postpone for about a month or so (maybe a little longer, depending on the severity of the depression), please do so! Again, people can forgive you. You won’t forgive yourself if your baby gets worse because of a major change during this time!