Cats are surprisingly emotional little animals. They feel the same way humans feel, and they can suffer the some emotional maladies that humans can. If you suspect your cat is depressed, it's easy to learn how to treat cat depression. Because animals can't ask their owners for help, it's important that you are receptive and know how to recognize the signs that your friend might need assistance.
Signs and Symptoms
The first step to helping your feline friend is identifying that he or she has a problem with depression. Some of the symptoms of depression in cats can include:
- Weight loss and lack of appetite
- Lethargy or excessive sleeping
- Avoidance (the cat hides to avoid you)
- Aggressive or irritable behavior
- Excessive vocalization (especially after the death of a companion animal)
- Licking, biting, or chewing on skin or coat
- Hair loss and bald spots
Because these symptoms can indicate other medical conditions, it's important that you find a qualified veterinary professional to make a positive diagnosis.
Because they can't speak to us, it can be hard to pin down an exact cause for your cat's depression, but some reasons animals can feel depressed include:
- Lack of attention
- Loss of a family member
- Other health issues
The first course of action your vet will probably suggest is that you spend more time with your cat. This will not only show that you love and accept your cat, but will also keep the cat distracted. Use a gentle, reassuring voice so as not to distress the animal.
As with humans, exposure to sunlight or a strong white light source can alleviate depression symptoms in certain cases, as can playing soothing music. Exercise and structure play is another natural option.
Pet stores often stock a number of homeopathic remedies that make work for your pet. These include St. John's wort, ignatia, and chamomile. Topically-applied plant extracts can help sooth the cat with their scents.
Finally, if you suspect the cat is grieving for a lost companion, make sure you have removed all traces of the deceased pet's scent from the cat's living area. Even the slightest whiff of a lost friend is enough to cause sadness. If you are up to it, getting the cat another companion can sometimes help, also.
If your cat is unresponsive to the above, it may be necessary for a vet to prescribe antidepressants. Many of the drugs that are prescribed for people are effective for cats as well, including Valium and fluoxetine (Prozac). It should be noted, though, that most antidepressants have side effects, including vomiting, aggression, and behavioral changes, that should be taken into account before administration.