Cats and depression.

Just curious;

How can you tell that you’re cat’s depressed? What can be done about it?

I don’t even currently have a cat, I just wondered.

I suspect lethargy and not eating would be indicative of depression.
Maybe loss of interest and sleepiness. I don’t know, really that sounds like human behavior. Pet owners, ( me too) tend to put human emotions on our animals. That may be the rub. Cats don’t think like humans. They are good at deciphering our behavior and figuring out how that helps them. That could be ad far as it goes.

My old cat Maxwell surely is showing signs of losing interest in things around him. He’s 19; he has had a long and beautiful life, with abundant game to hunt and plenty of show-offs (and some serious fights!) with other cats, dogs and foxes. I will miss him much when he’s gone, but at least I’m glad that he got this beautiful summer!

He doesn’t eat anything except stock, boiled from oxtail or fish remains, and sometimes a few spoonfuls of ground fish/shrimp. But he still seems to enjoy life, just lying in the shade behind the brush, watching things going by.

I want my own old years to be like this.

Sounds like he has a good owner.

Unhappy cats refuse food and won’t let you touch them; they huddle up and go into hiding. Not sure if you could call that depression. Usually you can connect this behavior to something – they’re ill or perhaps traumatized.

I’ve had cats rescued from abusive situations that were antisocial and afraid. Usually they relax and open up after a period of no drama, good food, and safety, though I had one cat that didn’t become socialized until we’d had her for 10 years. I had another cat that never did accept people after her early negative experiences; I would up rehoming her at a stable, where she became good friends with one particular horse and that worked great, she loved that horse and the horse loved her and she was fine, she never cared for people at all. Sometimes those early experiences are too harrowing for the cat to forgive and forget.

We have a tomcat in the house now who discovered there were feral community cats in the neighborhood – he saw them out the window one day – and he took seeing them badly. He sat in a corner for days and wouldn’t eat and wouldn’t let us touch him. Just kept returning to the window and staring out looking for those cats and being highly offended when he saw them. Didn’t yell at them, didn’t growl, didn’t charge the window, just hunkered down in a puddle of kittycat misery, couldn’t be distracted or consoled. Never seen anything like that before or since. (He did get over it and he’s fine.)

I have seen dogs be depressed but that’s easier to see because dogs are pack animals and people are their tribe and they don’t do well all by themselves and dogs take things badly sometimes. Mostly they want you to be home and interacting with them allatime anyway.

Oh! Some cats just wear out. Sounds like that’s what’s happening with Maxwell. He probably doesn’t have much in the way of teeth going on now, so liquids/soft foods are the way to go. I have pureed protein for geriatric cats and fed them baby food from jars and that has worked well. (Though I had a toothless cat that loved steak so much it didn’t stop her one bit.)

They never get to stay as long as we would want, though 19 years is a good run. I’m glad you can enjoy this time with him, good for both of you!

That’s encouraging to read! :smiley:

I have brother and sister litter-mates, born January 2005 and are doing fine. I live in the woods on a dirt road so they can hunt and/or eat whatever, whenever they want, can come in or out via a pet door at their leisure, and have a hopper full of expensive cat food available 24/7 (they’ve had some digestive problems, but the good catfood has helped a lot).

Depressed? I don’t think so, I’m not even sure what that means unless one is referring to a declawed cat that never goes outside. That would make me severely depressed too, although I realize not everybody has a home like I do and they still want a cat.

They always sleep with me during the winter, but in the summer the (neutered) male stays out a lot. I always worry about foxes, coyotes, etc. but so far so good.

Thank you both for replies! I’m happy as long as my cats are happy, so I guess I’m doing my best!

Yes, dental problems are probably part of it (though Max can chew down on kibble if he’s *really *hungry!) and I understand that it’s inevitable. I wonder, though, if there might be some nutrients lacking in oxtail/fish heads that are essental for a cat? I could probably get, say, pig’s heads or kidneyds for a fair price from the slaughter house! Would they be better, nutritionally, than tails?

My 2 Siamese would love to go out. They never have been. When I walk the dogs I occasionally feel bad for them. I tried to leash train them, never worked out. They are kinda uppity. They have their claws. I would never declaw a cat.
I have fostered many cats. Mostly I have been able to get them into some kind of happy state. It’s never a perfect thing. I just go by instinct.

It is not anthropomorphising to say a cat or dog is depressed.

When you watch your pets you can easily identify recognizable emotions in them. Happy, angry, afraid and so on. Our mammalian brains are more similar than dissimilar.

Even though we may not know what is going through their heads pets certainly can get depressed.