How to Know If Your Cat Is Sad: Signs to Look For

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It hurts to see a sad cat, and owners need to ask themselves not only if their cat is sad, but why and how a kitty can be cheered up. Each cat is different, and not all cats act like happy cat clowns. Losing a best cat friend can prompt the kitty to mourn, and a change in work schedule or favorite person leaving for school might prompt separation anxiety.  

Worse yet, the death or disappearance of a favorite human caregiver due to divorce or separation can plunge a cat into a deep depression.

When we are most depressed over these happenings, it is important for us to watch for and consider potential signs that our cats may also be sad or depressed. ​

Other Reasons Your Cat May Be Depressed

Illness or Injury: Depression may be one of the symptoms of conditions such as Hypothyroidism Once the thyroxine level moves back into normal ranges with the use of supplements, the depression may be magically lifted. 

Fatty Liver Disease can also cause or simulate depression in cats. This may have a merry-go-round effect on the cat's metabolism. The cat may stop eating because he just doesn't feel well, or because of a serious condition such as cancer, FIV, OR FeLV. While depression in cats is serious, Fatty Liver Disease, (the clinical name is Hepatic Lipidosis) can kill a cat quite quickly unless food is introduced quickly, even by force-feeding, through a syringe. 

How To Know Kitty Is Sad

Be alert to these signs of cat sadness:

Vocal Clues: Unhappy cats often become very vocal and literally complain about low-pitched mournful yowls. Actually, the cats who are normally vocal may become quiet, while quiet cats turn up the volume. Purrs don't always indicate happiness and an unhappy kitty might actually purr more as a way to comfort himself.

Body Signs: There are many eye, ear, fur, and body positions that indicate upset cat feelings. Sad cats tend to be more reactive and act out with aggression or fearfulness. A sad cat self-protects himself, often by wrapping his tail around himself, crouching low, holding ears in a fearful or cautions manner (to the side or downward), and droopy whiskers.

Clingy or Reclusive: A sad cat loses interest in the activities that used to engage him. Active cats may become reclusive, and hide. More sedate cats can become clingy or demanding. The stranger danger all cats share to a degree can become heightened when a cat is sad.

Play: Kittens normally are nonstop play-centers, and a kitten's lack of play indicates a health issue. Older cats who normally play may stop when they feel sad.

Sleep: Cats normally sleep a great deal, but sad or depressed cats sleep even more. Changes in the location of favorite nap spots also can point to sadness. Sad cats may either hide and avoid other cats and people or become clingy and want to sleep on top of you or in very close contact.

Grooming: Poor grooming is a cardinal sign of unhappiness and ill health. Cats that feel bad often stop grooming.

Eating: Sadness depresses more than the emotions, and the kitty often loses his appetite.

Sad cats may snub foods they previously enjoyed and may show no interest even in special treats.

Scent Communication: A sad cat uses her own scent to make herself feel better. There are many reasons for missing the litter box, but stress, depression and sadness top the behavior list. The cat may urinate in "important" areas such as lookouts, the owner's bedroom, places where the scent of the deceased pet or missing human linger. Kitty may also turn into a scratching maniac, because scratching and its visual cues and the scent of paw pads serve to relieve stress.