Although they are often happy in their own company, cats are vulnerable and can experience sadness and depression at certain times in their lives. However, given the solitary nature of cats, this situation can go unnoticed unless we are very aware of the animal’s routines. So, the question is how can you tell if my cat is depressed? And our experts have some tips, and advice on what to do to help them.
If we had to highlight any of the main personality characteristics of cats, it is very likely that we would name independence. According to a study carried out by behavioural veterinary experts from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln (United Kingdom), the cause of this autonomy is that kittens do not need humans to feel safe in their environment, just the opposite of what happens with dogs. This does not mean that cats are antisocial or insensitive: they are just more reserved when interacting with people and other animals.
Why do cats get depressed?
Cats are quite tenacious. They have a very marked personality and are governed by their own routines. In addition, they are very receptive animals to the moods of humans; They easily capture happiness or anger, for example.
Any alteration of customs, any change that happens in the family or any emotional situation that the person or people living with them is going through can cause deep sadness in the animal. If the situation is perpetuated over time or is complex, the cat may fall into depression.
Most common causes for which a cat becomes depressed
Change of address
Cats are usually very attached to their homes. They have their favourite spaces in the house and love to control all the spaces. A move with a cat, whether permanent or temporary (during a vacation), can upset them extremely.
A new family
Although solitary and independent, these animals feel deep family ties. Separation from its orignal human tribe can be costly for the feline to bear.
Expansion of the family
The arrival of a new partner or, especially, a baby is a complicated moment. It must be borne in mind that cats will not only have to share their space with another person, they will also have to get used to their character. With children it can be somewhat more complicated due to the attention they require in the first months. This imposed distance and the loneliness that comes with it can make the cat very unhappy.
Another four-legged “friend”
Sharing space, attention and affection with an unexpected guest may make the cat feel left out.
The death of a family member
Felines incorporate the people they live with into their daily routines. With each one they have their own relationship, customs and rituals. It is frequent, for example, that they only want to be combed by a specific member of the family. Therefore, when someone in the environment dies, cats suffer the loss.
Too much loneliness
Leaving a kitty at home for hours is apparently very simple. With water, some food and a clean litter tray, the cat will be (apparently) happy. However, these moments of solitude can take its toll on the animal.
Bad family environment
Punishment, yelling, mistreatment or lack of attention to basic needs have consequences on the physical and psychological state of the feline.
Disease can alter the character and affect the mood of the cat. Lack of strength, nausea, loss of appetite or pain will most likely cause apathy and decay in the kitty.
How to identify the symptoms of depression in cats?
Knowing what has triggered an emotional outpouring in the cat and has caused it to become depressed is not always easy. Unless they are very obvious symptoms, locating the origin of this sadness will require a good dose of observation. Here are some guidelines that can help you in this task:
The cat shows no interest in anything in its environment, including you. They are not active and remain totally outside of any possible external stimulus.
Does not eat
The situation does not change, even if you offer a favourite delicacy.
Does not wash
Cats groom themselves continually by licking their fur. Losing this habit is symptomatic that something is happening.
If your cat rejects caresses, is upset easily or reacts abruptly, or pulls its hair out by nibbling the skin, this can be a warning sign. Likewise, it is aggressive and irascible, and it cannot be ruled out that it scratches for no reason.
It hides and avoids you
If your cat spends too much time curled up in a corner away from your sight, or doesn’t want to play and avoids being petted.
Does not relieve itself in the litter tray
For no apparent reason, your cat stops using the sandbox and goes anywhere.
Sleeps more and is tense
The posture during sleep is not relaxed, nor does your cat lie on their back.
How can I help my cat overcome depression?
Company, attention, patience and much, much love. These four tools can help alleviate the depression suffered by the cat. In the end, the goal is for the animal to feel loved and valued. These are some of the tips to achieve it:
Don’t punish them.
Talk lovingly and without yelling.
Increase physical contact, but without overwhelming them.
Play with the cat daily.
Let the sun shine, open the windows so your cat can lie down in the warmth.
Recognise the effort and affection when your cat brings you an “inanimate” present, however unpleasant it may seem to you.
Find a safe place for them to hide: a box or the bottom of a wardrobe are good places.
If you see that the situation does not improve, ask your vet for help.
Oceanogràfic veterinary staff and UCV clinicians diagnose a respiratory problem in a sea lion
The veterinary team from the Oceanogràfic de la Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències and specialist clinical staff from the Veterinary Hospital of the Catholic University of Valencia (UCV) have collaborated in the diagnosis and treatment of a female sea lion that suffered from respiratory problems due to advanced age. An intervention that has concluded successfully despite the complexity of handling and anaesthetic maintenance of these animals.
The procedure took place on March 30 at the facilities of the marine centre and took place for about two hours, in which they worked together to carry out the treatment in complete safety for both the team and the animal.
Domingo Casamián, graduate-specialist in veterinary cardiology and cardiology of small animals, and professor and head of the Cardiology service at the Veterinary Hospital of the UCV, has reported that the Oceanogràfic veterinary team contacted “on suspicion that Selkie, one of your sea lions, could have a heart or respiratory problem. So, we worked as a team bringing together our expertise as veterinary cardiologists and yours as a marine mammal veterinarian to diagnose and treat Selkie.”
To determine the animal’s problem, the teams carried out an echocardiography of its heart and a chest ultrasound, with which they were able to detect that the problem was located in the lungs, which had a large amount of fluid around them and made it difficult to breathe.
In order to drain the accumulation of fluid, special catheters were used and it was necessary to anesthetize Selkie. “These procedures are routine in dogs and cats -patients that we regularly treat in our hospital- but are very high risk in marine mammals”, stated the head of the Cardiology Service of the UCV Veterinary Hospital.
“We had to adapt – Casamián continued – the procedures that we normally use in dogs because the thickness of the chest wall and the large amount of fat make it impossible to use the same techniques and catheters that we use routinely, but the intervention was successful and we managed to drain all the chest fluid, which allowed Selkie to feel better and breathe more easily.
Lastly, the cardiologist highlighted the Oceanogràfic’s anaesthesia services, which “had a very complex and successful task, since the anaesthetic management and maintenance of these patients is a great challenge and is essential for us to be able to do our job correctly and the animal can survive these interventions”, he concluded.
For her part, Mónica Valls, a veterinarian at the Oceanogràfic, emphasised the “complications when it comes to anesthetising marine mammals due to their adaptation to diving, which is a very important factor to take into account”.
After the operation, Valls explained that “the recovery is being slow, but the whole team, both caregivers and veterinarians, is very dedicated to Selkie and is being monitored to verify that the situation is not getting worse.” Although it is true, it should be remembered that Selkie is an elderly female sea lion and her situation is geriatric.
Vets offer advice for protecting pets from the cold weather
After the temperatures dropped in the UK, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) issued a warning to pet owners to take measures to protect their pets from a series of winter risks that could cause serious illness.
For British vets, prolonged exposure to extreme cold and accidental ingestion of antifreeze and chemicals are among the most concerning.
For this reason, the BVA published a series of tips, which can be useful this winter for all owners, to help keep dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other pets “warm and safe during the winter months.”
“When it’s cold for us, it’s cold for our pets, so it’s important to take extra precautions to keep them safe and warm,” explained BVA Senior Vice President Justine Shotton.
The vet has pointed out that during the colder months, dogs and cats need easy shelter and a cosy den, and while dogs will still need exercise, owners should take precautions to protect them from the cold.
“Antifreeze is a huge danger to cats, so contact your vet immediately if you notice signs of poisoning such as vomiting, depression, incoordination, seizures, and difficulty breathing,” Shotton warns.
He has also stressed that rabbits and guinea pigs are also vulnerable to hypothermia despite their fur, so owners must take steps to ensure that outdoor rabbit hutches are well protected from snow, cold drafts and the winter rain.
“If you have any concerns about your pet in this cold season, please consult your local vet for advice,” recommends the BVA’s senior vice president.
TIPS TO PROTECT PETS FROM THE COLD
Take precautions during and after walks, is the first piece of advice from British veterinarians. Dogs still need exercise in the cold months, but older dogs or those with fine hair should be considered in a coat to keep them warm during walks.
“Wipe your dog’s paws and belly when you come home from a snowy walk to remove any ice or salt and check regularly for cracks in the paw pads or redness between the toes. Grit or rock salt can be extremely toxic to dogs and cats if ingested,” veterinarians warn.
They then point out that antifreeze poisoning must be avoided. Cleaning your pet’s paws can prevent it from ingesting toxins it may have stepped on while outside.
“Antifreeze, in particular, is very toxic to cats, even in small amounts. Aside from its use in automobile radiators and de-icing products, some cases are believed to be related to ingestion of diluted anti-freeze used in ornamental fountains to protect pumps. Store and use antifreeze products carefully and thoroughly clean up any spills.
Likewise, they consider that it is necessary to provide a warm shelter without drafts. In this way, the owner should ensure that the dog’s bed is in a warm place, free of drafts and isolated from the floor of the house and cover it with one or two more blankets.
“Consider keeping older cats indoors during snaps of extreme cold and providing young, healthy cats with easy access to shelter and warmth,” they stress.
HOW TO PROTECT RABBITS, REPTILES AND HORSES FROM THE COLD
Rabbits and guinea pigs should be in a place protected from wind, rain and snow, and at least 10 cm from the ground, is the following recommendation from veterinarians. “Line the hutch with newspaper, put a lot of hay in it and cover it with an old quilt, blanket or tarp,” they point out.
Rabbits need a temperature between 10ºC and 20ºC (the lower temperature assumes rabbits are healthy and living with other rabbits, with plenty of bedding for warmth) and guinea pigs need between 5ºC and 20ºC, avoiding significant temperature fluctuations.
“If the weather becomes very harsh, consider moving outdoor pets indoors, to a well-ventilated space with light and space to exercise,” British vets say.
On the other hand, reptiles and amphibians should be kept in temperature controlled indoor environments.
They also stress that you have to take care of the horses. “Avoid sudden changes in your horse’s management and diet in winter. The use of blankets will depend on the breed of the horse and whether or not they are clipped; the owners must be vigilant to prevent them from shrinking excessively”, they recall.
Finally, you have to check the water sources. “Regularly check water bottles, bowls or outdoor drinkers, as they can freeze when temperatures drop,” they conclude.