How Cats Help Improve Mental Health
By Chelsy Ranard, The Catnip Times
For cat people its no question: the whiskers, the fuzzy faces, the meows, and the head nudges let us know our cats are definitely beneficial to our mental health. The rest of the world, however, has some catching up to do. Those who dont have cats are missing out on the cats appeal. The reality is that behind all of the warm cuddles and purring is an animal that improves mental health by decreasing stress, offering companionship, purring the pain away, and serving as a therapy animal.
Cats are Fuzzy Stress RelieversAdopting a cat is basically like adopting a walking, meowing, sassy, stress reliever. Cats are shown to relieve stress in a number of different ways by simply being themselves. When youve had a hard day, coming come and spending some time petting a fuzzy feline can cause your body to produce stress reducing hormones. When you do so, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease and your anxiety levels normalize.
Many people benefit from a relationship with a pet. Both cats and dogs along with a slew of other stress reducing activities, have helped college students during finals week because they offer powerful stress relieving properties. Hospitals and nursing homes are other common places where cats are helpful to patients in stressful settings. Sitting with your cat and petting them can have a lasting, positive effect on overall health.
Cat Depression May Stem From The Death Of A Human Or Another Animal
Despite a reputation for being aloof, are social animals who form strong bonds with humans or other cats, Ingrid says. As a result, feline depression often sets in after the loss of a companion.
Its important not to force attention upon your grieving cat, but do provide her with extra attention and cuddles if shes open to receiving them. Offer kitty the same love and compassion youd want after losing a loved one.
Signs Of Depression In Cats
The one word that best sums up the signs of cat depression is withdrawal.
A depressed cat withdraws and ceases doing things they used to enjoy. Thus, if your feline stops doing something that usually makes them purr, you may have a sad cat on your hands.
Be alert for signs such as:
- Loss of appetite and disinterest in treats
- Sleeping when they would usually be awake
- Lack of grooming. You may notice this as a dull, dry, or knotted coat
- Withdrawal from tactile exchanges such as head bumping or lap cuddles
- Intermittent tummy upsets
- Altered habits such as not coming to greet you
- Loss of interest in favorite toys
- Weight loss or gain
These signs are general hence check that your cat is not ill before assuming theyre depressed.
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Lethargy And Excessive Napping
Though it is normal for cats to sleep up to 16 hours per day, a sudden decrease in energy or sleeping more could be indicative of depression in your furry feline friend. If your cat is suddenly sleeping during times of the day when they are normally wide awake and playful, they may be suffering from depression. While many cats are lazier than others, be aware if your cat suddenly becomes more sluggish and starts to sleep more often during the day. As with humans, depression may cause your cat to oversleep.
Seek Professional Help First
It is a well-known fact that cats are masters at hiding illness. Occult illness must be ruled out by a thorough veterinary examination and consultation prior to treatment for behavioral depression of cats.
After a diagnosis of behavioral depression has been established, prescription antidepressants along with behavioral modification techniques may be suggested by your veterinarian.
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What If A Healthy Cat Appears Depressed
If the tests show that your cat is healthy, the explanation for the symptoms you are observing is probably stress. That stress may come as a result of an addition to the household of a new family member or pet, the loss of an old family member or pet, moving to a new home, or some other major change.
In this way, cats can be quite like humans. Think of the things that are causing you stress , and ask yourself if it could be the same thing that is troubling your cat.
If you can identify the sources of stress, do your best to remove them, at least for your cat. Putting the cat in as familiar an environment as possible can help, as can introducing new pets or family members to the cat on a gradual basis, giving them time to get used to the idea.
Aggression Directed At Other Pets Or Humans
A depressed cat may become more aggressive. Even the sweetest, most lovable cats may start acting aggressively if they are suffering from depression. It isnt uncommon for depressed cats to want to be alone, biting, hissing, or growling at anyone who dares to invade their personal space. If your cat exhibits this type of behavior, it is important to take them to a veterinarian who can figure out if your cats sudden change in behavior is a result of depression or some other medical condition.
Litterbox problems sometimes indicate depression in cats.
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Reasons Why A Cat Gets Depressed
There can be several reasons why a cat gets depressed. Cats can grieve. They bond with human and non-human family members and can grieve when the dynamics of the relationship is lost. No matter the reason why, be sure to give it extra time and attention until its happiness level improves. If pain is the culprit, then take your cat to the veterinarian.
How Your Own Behaviour Can Affect Your Feline Friend
As cat owners we must be aware of how our own behavior might affect our pets as well. Every owner knows just how much cats can be sensitive to our own moods.
They can often tell if we are sad, depressed, unwell or angry. If you are afraid during a thunderstorm or when fireworks are going off outside, your cat will pick up on the feelings of fear you are giving off.
So try to act confident and as if everything is normal. Another thing to bear in mind is how we react to nervous cat behavior.
It is very hard to resist petting and comforting them if they appear to be in distress in any way, but it is possible that by doing so, we are in fact reinforcing their scared cat behavior and making them feel that there really must be something to be afraid of. By stroking and comforting the cat we can be ‘rewarding’ the behavior so they learn to repeat it! Distraction can be a much better option, for instance a game with a piece of string or feather can help to take the cats mind off of the cause of their fear.
In extreme cases prescribed medication may be necessary and your vet is best placed to advise about this.
Alternative therapies such as homeopathy and plant essences can be tried, and special cat behavior training techniques can be used, but these need to be taught by a specialist.
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Changes In Physical Health
If an active cat starts to develop arthritis and can no longer jump up to their comfy spot on the couch, bed, or window, it can be depressing and lead to a loss of enrichment. As a result, your cat can become depressed.
In situations when a cat experiences a sudden loss of a limb or an eye, or they start losing their sight, that would totally affect how they navigate in the world. Some cats may adjust really well, but an older cat may take longer to adjust and may become depressed.
Do Cats Have Emotions
It is difficult to assess what those mournful eyes mean since our feline friends cannot tell us what they are feeling. Even though cats cannot verbalize that they are happy or sad, astute pet owners interpret their pets emotions based on behavior. With these interpretations in mind, it is commonly acknowledged that cats do feel happiness, sadness, possessiveness and fear. They also get angry and nervous. And despite the fact that cats are often aloof, they are social animals that form attachments to two and four-footed family members. And they do indeed mourn.
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Ask Yourself: Is My Cat Depressed
Have a think about your cats circumstances and the chances of them developing depression.
One of the many things we love about cats is their independent spirit. Cats choose who they love and receiving their affection is a great honor. This is an example of how cats like to be in control.
Cat behaviorists explain that depression occurs when a pet experiences events beyond their control. This might be moving home, the loss of a companion, or an owner returning to work.
Any stressful event that affects the cat can trigger the blues, including:
- Arrival of a new pet
- Loss of an owner
- Owner going on vacation
- Building work in the home
Any stress may trigger depression, which also includes a cat not being able to do catty things. A cat unable to climb, hunt, play, or claw can become frustrated and depressed.
Do a quick risk assessment on your cat. Has their life changed recently in an unsettling way?
Giving Your Cat Medication
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Using Bonding Techniques And Tlc
How Do You Help Your Depressed Cat To Feel Better
Katherine Houpt, VMD, PhD, DACVB is an emeritus veterinary behaviorist at Cornell University. She emphasizes that you must be patient. Enrichment and attention are key to help your cat. Consider some of these ideas to help improve your cat’s mood:
- Offer your cat special treats to entice her to eat
- Try out some new interactive toys and games to stimulate her brain
- Move a window seat to a new location so she gets a new view
- Add on a catio to your home if you can
The goal is to keep your cat active!
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Pet Loss And Kitty Considerations
The surviving pets often begin to act differently when their companion cat or dog first becomes sick or starts to decline. For people, this can be a time of preparation, and some of our grieving may be done well in advance of the pets actual death. Dr. Barbara Kitchell, a veterinary cancer specialist, says that grief counseling often is part of what caring veterinarians naturally do.
We cant know if surviving pets realize their companion animal friends will soon die, but they certainly do act as though aware a change has–or will–occur. In fact, many sensitive cats react to their owners emotional upset and grieve in response to our own changes of behavior over the heartache.
Can Cats Get Depressed
Of course, we cant know for sure what goes on in our cats minds, but they can certainly show signs of deep sadness and depression. Cat depression can be hard to identify, especially if your cat is the loner type who likes to hide. Some common cues that your cat may be depressed include:
- Lack of appetite, which can lead to weight loss
- Sleeping at times theyd normally be awake
- Not seeking out physical contact, for instance, they may stop brushing your legs, head bumping, or jumping in your lap for a cuddle
- Loss of interest in playing or activity
If you notice these signs, you should visit your veterinarian. These same symptoms can indicate a health condition, which needs treatment. Your veterinarian can also advise you on how best to deal with your cats depression.
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A Final Word On Cat Depression
Depressed cats, especially cats who are grieving, will need extra compassion and care from their humans, King explains. Spending extra time with the cat, providing new toys or beds, interactive playtime, and special treats can all help. Holistic modalities such as Reiki, Tellington Touch and other forms of energy healing can be beneficial. Holistic remedies such as Jackson Galaxy Solutions can support depressed cats through the healing process. In extreme cases, your cats veterinarian may prescribe medication.
Why Is My Cat Depressed
If your cat is acting depressed, its important to have her checked out by a veterinarian because symptoms of physical illness can often mimic depression.
Many times, a cat that is acting depressed is actually experiencing a medical condition thats causing pain, nausea or some other type of discomfort. Because signs of depression are also signs of myriad health conditions and diseases, its absolutely vital that you have your cat examined by a veterinarian to rule out a medical cause for acting depressed.
If the reason for your cats depression is not medical, your vet can help you figure out what might be causing it. Many cats are very sensitive and can become easily stressed by changes in their environment, disruptions in their routine and changes in the family dynamic. Stress can lead to unusual cat behavior that mimics signs of depression.
Another reason some cats exhibit signs of depression is if they are under-stimulated and bored. Keeping cats indoors is recommended for their safety, but staying inside all the time can be boring for cats, which are designed by nature to hunt, pounce, scratch, climb and explore. Some cats that are no given enough opportunities to play, climb and exercise might start to become depressed.
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Encourage Your Cat To Play
Sometimes the signs of cat depression can be a manifestation of boredom, says Neely. If you engage cats in enriching play theyll be healthier and happier.
Imagine how cats hunt in the wild for their prey. They stalk, pounce, climb, leap into the air, all the while using their keen senses of vision, smell, and hearing, she says. Allowing them to imitate these behaviors indoors will help keep them entertained and happy.
Give your cat toys they can play with by themselves as well as toys you can use together. Electronic cat toys that move on their own and/or mirror the appearance of prey are all great tools for engaging your cat.
Laser lights, such as the Ethical Pet Laser Exerciser, are also fun, says Morgan, but be sure to give your pet something to catch. Chasing a light constantly with no reward can make a sad cat even more frustrated.
A Cat Provides You With A Purpose
Its extremely common for anyone suffering from depression to feel as though theyre all alone. You feel trapped and alone in your own little bubble, and you can often think theres no reason for you to be around anymore. Its a very sad thing to think about, but thats the harsh reality of what were dealing with here. Too many people suffer in silence, meaning their loved ones have no idea until its too late.
A pet cat can really change your whole perception of things. Suddenly, you go from being alone to having a constant companion. More than that, your life now has a purpose you want to look after this cat and give it the best life possible. Your life has more meaning, and this means you no longer have just yourself to think about. When you feel depressed and start locking yourself in your own head, your little cat will come along and remind you of your purpose. Having something to focus on and devote your life to can help you ease the symptoms of depression.
This is a serious mental health issue that needs to be spoken about more and more. Finding different ways of treating depression can increase the chances of people curing themselves of this condition. Getting a cat is one idea thats definitely worth considering.
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