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Why Is My Cat Sad?

Reviewed by Vanessa Farner, DVM on July 06, 2021

Many cats are outgoing and active. When you suddenly notice your cat getting quiet and calm, however, it could be a sign of sadness. Many caretakers fail to recognize the signs of a depressed and sad cat. It’s essential for you to know the various causes of sadness in cats and the best ways to make them happy.

Cats are emotional and can get stressed or depressed. The most common signs of an unhappy cat are cowering, hissing, and fleeing. But sometimes your cat may not show obvious signs of stress. This is why as a pet owner you should have knowledge of how cats behave when they're depressed.

Reasons Your Cat Gets Sad

Cats get sad for specific reasons. Your cat may become sad when the expected relationship between you and them is lost. It is important to spend quality time with your cat to keep both of you happy.

The following are other reasons why your cat may become sad:

Loss of a loved one. Just like you, cats grieve at the loss of a loved one. Your cat may have developed a bond with your dog over time, for example. If your dog dies or leaves your home, you may notice the cat looking sad and depressed. This is a temporary behavior, and your cat will recover.

Injury. Your cat may get injured when playing, taking a walk, or just being a cat. If your cat is unable to do things they once enjoyed, sadness may be inevitable. 

Illness. A sad cat could also point you toward an underlying condition that your vet should check for. Some of the diseases and infections that can affect the mood of your cat include fatty liver disease, dental disease, upper respiratory disease, ringworm, and cancer.

Signs of a Sad Cat

Your cat may show subtle signs of stress, making it hard to notice any changes in behavior. To determine if your cat is not well, check for the following possible signs of depression:

Low energy levels. Cats usually sleep a lot. A depressed cat will even sleep more. If you notice a sudden change in your cat's sleeping pattern, it means they could be unhappy. Unusually low energy is a red flag for unhappy cat behavior, suggesting a mental or physical problem.

Grooming changes. Depressed cats usually stop grooming, leaving themselves unkempt. 

Pain. Pain is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions in cats, especially among seniors. It is one of the leading clinical signs of depression.

Changes in appetite. If your cat changes their usual eating behavior, it could be a sign of depression. Sad cats may lose interest in their regular diet.

Change in daily routine. A cat who suddenly changes their behavior might be having stress. Have they stopped using their litter box? Are they abandoning their usual sleeping spot? A sad cat may also lose interest in an activity that initially made them happy.

Aggression. A sad cat becomes more aggressive. Examples of aggressive acts in cats include hissing, biting, chasing, and growling. If you notice such behavior, it may be a good time to see your vet.

How to Make Your Cat Happy

There are several ways you can help make your sad cat happy. They include:

Having playtime. Depressed cats will be relieved of aggression if you play with them. 

Petting your cat. Cats love to interact with their caretakers. A gentle hand on the back of the head and behind the jaw may stabilize a worried cat without restricting its movement.

Using catnip. Catnip is a plant in the mint family that contains a natural oil called nepetalactone that has a unique effect on cats. When cats rub on or chew catnip, it produces a mild natural high that is both harmless and temporary, but that is pleasurable to cats.

Consulting an expert. A board-certified animal behaviorist may be your best bet to cheer up your pet, as they have the knowledge and experience to treat depressed pets.

When to call the vet. If you notice that your cat is showing signs of chronic depression, stress, or illness, you should call your vet. The vet may recommend medical intervention or just a change of routine.

Signs of a sick cat include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Crying or searching
  • A need for extra attention
  • A generally sad demeanor

Caring for Cats

Cats are awesome animals to have. Before getting one for a pet, however, you need to know what they need and how to keep them happy.

Cats' needs. Unlike a pet like a dog, cats do not demand a lot when it comes to companionship, training, and exercising. They are quite low-maintenance. Cats tend to be more independent and can adjust well if you live a busy lifestyle. They can also be comfortable if you live in a small apartment or house.

How to prevent your cat from getting sad. There are a few ways you can prevent your cat from getting sad:

  • Get your cat some toys. Toys will keep your cat busy and tired, thus getting rid of excess energy.
  • Keep cats in pairs. This will help with companionship and making playmates, thus reducing or preventing stress.
  • Let your cat "hunt." Simulating hunting behaviors keeps cats mentally stimulated and active.
  • Walk your cat. Working out your cat will help get rid of their excess energy and stress. Ask for help from a professional animal trainer to help train your cat to walk on a leash.
  • Spay or neuter them. Spaying or neutering your cat can eliminate stress caused by the need to find a mate.

Sad cats may spread their sorrow to others around them. Your cat may be depressed and develop specific changes in behavior due to underlying sickness. Always check for changes in behavior and consult your veterinarian if you notice anything out of the ordinary. Always ensure that you love and care for your pet to help them cope with the rigors of life.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Blue Cross for Pets: “How to help a grieving cat.”

International Cat Care: "Thinking of getting a cat?"

Michelson Found Animals: “How to Recognize Unhappy Cat Behavior.”

MSD Veterinary Manual: “Diagnosing Behavior Problems in Cats.”

National Wildlife Federation: “11 Tips to Keep Your Indoor Cat Happy.”

PetMD: “Can Cats Get Depressed?”

The Digital Age: “6 Simple Ways to Cheer Your Depressed Cat.”

The Spruce Pets: “Is Your Cat Sad?”

Tufts Now: “Is scruffing the best way to handle an upset cat?”

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