Is Your Cat Sad? Signs and Causes of Cat Depression

Updated: May 24, 2022

Every pet has its own personality – especially cats! Some cats are free-spirited, some are outgoing, some are mischievous, but when your cat that’s all fun-loving suddenly becomes socially-distant, quiet, and aloof, this might raise some concerns: cat depression and cat sadness.

Is My Cat Depressed?

Do cats get depressed? Unfortunately, cats can suffer from depression. Most pet parents do not know the reason for cat sadness and why their cats suddenly become depressed. In this article, we will help you identify the signs and causes of cat sadness and cat depression and learn the best action plan how to make a sad cat happy again for the rest of their nine lives.

Signs of Cat Depression and Cat Sadness

The sudden change of behavior and personality of your cat means a lot of things and pet parents will begin to ask “Is my cat depressed?”. Listed are the tell-tale signs your cat may be dealing with cat depression.

"The noises your cat makes are vocal clues that they may be unhappy. A cat’s unhappy noise is usually low-pitched yowls or purrs that sound distressing."

  • Unhappy noises. The noises your cat makes are vocal clues that they may be unhappy. A cat that’s sad lets out unhappy noises that are usually low-pitched yowls or purrs that sound distressing. Contrary to what most pet parents believe, a cat’s purr doesn’t always mean they are happy and loving it. As a matter of fact, The Spruce Pets states that depressed cats purr more often for comfort. In other cases of depressed cats, vocal cats suddenly become quiet, and usually silent cats will get louder.
  • Body language. Body language is much more than a cat with sad eyes. Cats communicate and give clues through their body language. Depressed cats may have held back ears, a tucked-in tail, and many other body positions that indicate they are not happy. If your cat is frequently exhibiting this body language, it can be one of the signs of depression in cats.
  • Inadequate grooming. Cats love to groom themselves every day, but poor grooming may indicate that your sad cat does not want to do so and does not feel well, resulting in a dry, coarse coat.
  • Too much sleep. While it is normal for cats to sleep a lot, depressed cats sleep more often and longer. A sad cat may also opt not to nap on their favorite sleeping spot anymore.
  • Decreased to no appetite. Just like how we, pet parents, do not want to intake anything when we are extremely unhappy and depressed, a sad cat will do the same, too! Depression in cats may exhibit itself as a loss in their appetite for the treats or food they love, may have little to no appetite, and may even not eat at all.
  • Sudden aggressiveness and fear of things. You may notice your cat suddenly becomes aggressive or develops a fear of certain things they were once okay with before as a sign of sadness or depression.
  • Becomes clingy or reserved. Depression in cats may also show a loss in interest in the things they used to love and engage with. With depression in cats, you may notice your furbaby become super clingy, may develop sudden separation anxiety with you, or may suddenly become reserved and aloof.
  • Spraying. If your cat who litter-box trained or always find their way out to do their business suddenly begins spraying (and urinating!) in inappropriate places, it may be a depressed cat that you are dealing with. Depressed cats may want to use their own smell to feel better and find comfort. When your cat does this, it’s best to have them wear quality cat diapers, like these from Pet Parents®, to still be able to keep both your house and your cat away from messy cleanups. Your cat will be able to spray, but you don’t have to worry about the mess from spraying or accidents as the diapers are there to prevent them.
  • Behavioral changes. A depressed cat will go through a lot of changes in behavior. Your cat may not nap at their favorite spot, may not want to snuggle with you, may pee outside the litter box instead, and so many other things! This is why it’s better to be safe than sorry. Cats peeing outside the litterbox can result in a unpleasant surprise later. You can protect your floors by placing Pet Parents® Pawtect® Pads underneath your cat’s litter box in case your cat decides to pee outside the litterbox or catch any “misses”.
  • Use these tips to know how to tell if a cat is sad. One or more of the items mentioned above can be signs of cat sadness and depression. If you notice these, you will want to find the possible reasons and how to make a sad cat happy again.

    depression in cats, is my cat depressed?

    Why Your Cat is Depressed

    Knowing why your cat is sad and depressed is the first step to be able to know how you can manage cat depression. As American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® states, depression in cats is often your cat’s response to certain changes in their life, even if it seems like small things.

    You might be wondering, “Why is my cat sad?” There can be many possible reasons why your cat is depressed. Here are some of the reasons:

    • Stress and anxiety. Cats are routine-loving animals. They love sticking to plans and if these plans are disrupted, they easily become stressed out and may suffer from cat anxiety that later on develops into depression.
    • Underlying illness. Your cat may be depressed because they are in pain because of an illness. They may not play or move around like the way they used to. Conditions that cause pain in cats include upper respiratory diseases, fatty liver disease, hypothyroidism, dental problems, and many other pressing and life-threatening diseases. If you think your cat is depressed because they are sick and in pain, bring you furbaby to the vet immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
    • Traumas and injuries. Trauma and injuries prohibit your cat from moving freely and doing the things they love to. Trauma and injuries cause intense discomfort, and lingering pain, and may cause depression in cats.
    • Loss of a loved one. Losing a loved one is tough for almost all of us, including your cat. So, when a member of the family (whether a human family member or a fellow pet) moves out or passes away, your cat may mourn and may become depressed.
    • New family members. Opposite to what's stated above, your cat may also become depressed if there are new additions in the family - especially if your cat is so used to being the center of attention then suddenly a baby, a pet dog, or another pet cat comes into the picture.
    • Human emotions. Can cats sense depression and anxiety in humans? Actually, they can. Research has indicated that cats can indeed sense anxiety, depression, and other emotional cues from their pet parents.
    • Seasonal Affective Disorder. Can cats get seasonal depression? Just like pet parents, cats can have seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression. If you notice your cat starts acting differently as soon as the weather changes, there is a chance your furbaby is experiencing seasonal depression.

    Other possible causes of cat depression may include:

    • Stray cats in the area
    • Pet parents going out on a vacation or not going home for periods of time
    • Pet parents not having enough bonding time with the cat
    • Family disturbance, such as constant fights, divorce, etc.
    • New pet parents (if the cat has been surrendered to the shelter and is newly adopted)

    how to tell if a cat is sad, helping depression in cats

    cat sadness, depressed cat sad

    Ways to Manage Cat Depression

    Restore your cat’s routine

    Since cats love routines and certainties, make sure you are able to slowly re-establish their day-to-day cycle and the activities they are used to. Feed your cat on time, play with your cat on time, and do many other things on time.

    Try to fill in your cat’s longing for somebody

    A cat who has recently lost a loved one (either a human or a fellow furbaby) is confused and longing. Your furbaby may also be feeling a surge of separation anxiety as to why something so close to them is suddenly gone. To help fill in this gap, make sure you make time for your cat and give them attention, snuggle with your cat more, and give your cat the attention they most especially need. This will help comfort and reassure your furbaby that everything’s going to be okay.

    Keep an upbeat attitude with your cat

    Sometimes, a sad cat will behave in ways that can be frustrating. Spraying, scratching, and other signs of sadness can lead to messes and unpleasant surprises for pet parents. However, it is important not to punish or yell at your cat while they are feeling down. Instead, take some preventive measures to help both yourself and your cat through this time.

    Give your sad cat activities

    Cats are very curious, so it is not good for them to be bored. You can provide your cat with a Forager™ Mat or Forager™ Bowl for their dry food to provide mental stimulation. These are premium snuffle mats and bowls that are meant to hide dry food for an interactive activity for your cat. Being able to snuffle through the mat or bowl will stimulate your cat's brain and entertain them with a rewarding experience. This will help prevent boredom and fulfill your cat's enrichment needs.

    How Can Pet Parents® Help a Depressed Cat?

    A depressed and unhappy cat will be prone to cat spraying, resulting in you being unhappy, too. To be able to prevent your cat from spraying in inappropriate places, have them wear premium cat diapers like the ones from Pet Parents®.

    Pet Parents® washable cat diapers are made to avert peeing and pooping accidents from turning into messy cleanups (and keeping you sane!). These diapers for cats are best for your depressed furbaby who is constantly spraying and peeing on places they shouldn’t.

    Made with soft non-abrasive WickQuick® proprietary fabric, these diapers for cats wick away liquid fast to prevent your furbaby from developing diaper rash and urine burns. Pet Parents® washable cat diapers also have elastic tail-holes that are tailor-made for our bushy furbabies, allowing stretch and comfiness on the tail area but not enough for leaks.

    Additionally, Pet Parents® Pawtect® Pads are your best choice as they can’t be shredded easily by sharp claws or scratching. They are reusable, and overall much more efficient and versatile than disposable pee pads. We know you hate the strong odor of the litter box caused by your cat’s urine not completely “hitting” the bullseye.

    Pee pads placed under litter boxes are intended to catch any “misses” while its odor-eliminating property removes or lightens any unpleasant smell; becoming the ultimate lifesaver for when dealing with this issue.

    Depression in cats is a real thing and must not be taken lightly. If you are wondering, “Is my cat depressed” look out for the signs that your cat is sad. Then, you can help identify what is causing Our cats feel sad, too, and as pet parents, it is our responsibility to make them feel loved, healthier, and happier in all of their nine lives.