View Full Version : How To Help A Depressed Cat

June 9th 06, 07:48 AM

How To Help A Depressed Cat

Cats become depressed for many of the same reasons people do. Often
itıs because of a major life change, such as the pet owners divorcing,
the death of a family member or pet, the kids going off to college, or
the addition of a new family member into the household * anything that
significantly disrupts the catıs ability to predict and control its

Pam Johnson Bennett, a feline behaviorist in Nashville, Tennessee, says
the fact that kitty doesnıt have the ³inside story² can exacerbate the
problem. For example, if the pet owners are separating or divorcing,
the cat will not understand why the husband and wife are arguing with
each other, or why certain people have suddenly disappeared from the
house. That can make the cat feel unsettled or depressed.

³During a crisis such as a death in the family or divorce, the cat may
approach its owner, expecting that person to act like he or she usually
does. But the owner may be crying or act very withdrawn and not pay
much attention to the cat. So suddenly everything in the catıs world
turns upside down,² Bennett explains.

If you are feeling down, chances are, your cat will feel the same.
³Your cat can easily pick up on your emotions,² Bennett says. ³If your
cat thinks your world is falling apart, that worries the cat because if
your world is falling apart, it thinks its world will too.²

But you donıt have to have a major crisis in your family for your cat
to feel down-in-the dumps. Lack of activity or exercise, a poor diet,
boredom, or long hours of being left home alone * all can cause a pet
cat to be depressed.

Perhaps the wife who had been a stay-at-home mom goes back to work full
time. Try to monitor how you are presenting yourself to your cat and be
as cheerful as possible when you are around it.

If you think your cat is simply lonely or bored, provide some outlets
to keep it happy while you are away from home. Buy some new cat toys
and put the old ones in storage. Rotate toys occasionally for variety.
Tie a toy to a rope and suspend it from a chair. Leave an empty paper
bag on the floor for your cat to bat around. Buy a window perch for
your cat so it can watch the great outdoors. Fill the food bowl with
some enticing, new flavors. Rub some catnip on the scratching post for
a surprise that your cat will discover when it walks by. Be creative in
thinking of ways to keep your cat entertained when you arenıt around.
When you are home, make a special effort to interact with your cat. Try
to greet kitty the minute you come home from work. Talk to the cat
while you cook dinner. Let it sit on your lap as you watch television.
Take it for a walk after your evening meal. Start a trick training
program. Donıt let a day go by without spending at least a half-hour of
one-on-one time with your cat.

If your catıs depression persists, consult a certified animal
behaviorist or veterinarian who can recommend the appropriate kind of
anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drug. ³The drugs should not be used as
a solution in and of themselves, but as an adjunct to behavior
therapy,² Wright says. ³Once the behavior starts to turn around, then
in cooperation with the referring veterinarian, you can start to wean
the cat off of the drug gradually from week to week.²

Most importantly, donıt just ignore your catıs depression and think it
will just get over it by itself. ³Often when thereıs a reason for the
cat to be depressed, thereıs also a reason for the owner to be
depressed, such as during a family crisis,² Bennett says. ³It may be
hard to think of your cat when your life is in upheaval, but your cat
is suffering too and it needs your help.² Making the effort to cheer up
your cat will not only help it adjust, it may also help you. A snuggly
little kitty can make anyone feel better.

Excerpts taken from the article "The Kitty Blah's" by Rebecca Sweat in
a Special Issue of Pet Life Magazine