Caring for Your Emo Cat
Pets can get depressed. I know. I have a sad cat. She's not as sad as she used to be, but she still has periods of depression. She'll lay with her tiny black head resting on her paws and look up at me mournfully as I pass. I can practically hear her sigh. Depression is actually normal in animals, just like it is in humans. It's a normal response to anxiety. No one, I suppose, can be happy all the time. But, prolonged depression can be a sign of illness or can lead to the illness itself. But, don't worry, if you do have a sad cat or dog, there are some things you can do to cheer them up.
Morwen was first sad as an adolescent cat. At four months old, she developed mammary hyperplasia and false pregnancy. The vet recommended that she be spayed immediately and her mammary swelling went down within a few weeks. But, she was sad. Her little body was flooded with hormones that made her highly emotional. She didn't play, she ate less, and she laid listlessly looking out the window. Fortunately, Morwen's unhappiness resolved itself without her having to be given anti-depressants. Once her kitty hormones calmed down, she was back to her usual spider-chasing self. But, I've noticed that she seems to have little bouts of depression. They last a day or so. The vet assures me that there's nothing wrong with her. She's just sad sometimes. If it rains a lot and she can't go out on the deck, if the other cats steal her toys, if I accidentally buy the wrong flavor of cat food, she's liable to plop down on the floor and give me the sad eyes. She sometimes continues the sad eyes for a day or two, but then she's okay again. I'm sort of a sad person myself, so I don't fault her for her less than cheerful demeanor.
Caring for your emo cat...
I've talked to my vet a lot about my sad cat and about pet depression in general. Cats and dogs, especially indoor ones, seem more sensitive to depression. New people, new pets, new food or litter, or even new furniture can cause them to be blue. Changes, especially for cats, are viewed as invasions of their territory and sometimes result in a loss of their confidence and depression. Older cats, that are even more reliant on routine, are more likely to get depressed than young kitties. And, pets do grieve. A loss of a person or another pet upsets them--as does tension within a household. Fighting or even your depression can cause your pet great anxiety. But, what can you do? You certainly can't promise Fido or Fluffy that you'll never weep again or that you won't yell when your three-year-old Crayolas the living room wall. But there are lots of things you can do to ease stress for your pets.
Depressed cats tend to want to cocoon themselves. So make sure they have a safe place to go for a day or two. You can create a cat nest using a cardboard box or buy a carpeted cat cave at your local pet store. Dogs react just the opposite to depression. They want more attention, not less. So, make sure your sad dog has lots of "you" time. Both cats and dogs need to know that their house is safe and that you love them. Be patient. Most depression only lasts a few days. Make sure their favorite and most-tempting food and treats are available to coax them to eat and just wait. There are also several over-the-counter calming agents available for cats and dogs. You can get herbal calmatives for both cats and dogs at your pet supply store. Some are food additives, but you can also get plug-in pheromone misters that work very much like the oil-based deodorizers you can get at your grocery stores. If your pet is older or allergy-prone, make sure you consult your veterinarian before using any food additive.
For severe depression, you should consult your vet. There are anti-depressants available for your pet. Amitriptyline and Fluoxetine (Prozac) have been used by some vets on anxiety-ridden cats. Therapeutic massage, herbal therapy, and nutritional therapies are also available. Your vet will also want to run full blood work on your pet to make sure that his or her depression isn't driven by an illness. Fever and infections, cancer, FIV, bladder problems, heart disease, lung disease, FIP, kidney failure, and diabetes sometimes cause anorexia and/or depression in animals, as do hormonal fluxes. If your pet doesn't have any health problems, his or her depression is probably caused by some change at home.
Compulsive behaviors, such as pulling out fur or excessive licking, mewing or barking, aggression, and hiding can be signs of depression. Poor appetite, refusal to groom (for cats), excessive sleeping, litter box changes, and loss of interest in play are also signs that your pet is sad. You know your pet best. If he or she acts sad, they probably are. Pets, like people, have emotions. Most of the time, they just need a little more attention from you to get passed a sad spell. Morwen's fine now. She's sitting on my lap watching a moth outside the window. Her little tail is twitching. She may be sad again tomorrow, but today there's a warm lap and a moth. What could be better than that?