Cat lovers, cats mental health, information

Cats and Depression

Staying in dark, quiet places spells trouble if it is becoming your cat’s habit.

Cats do like dark quiet places to rest, but if you notice they’re spending more time away from the family than usual, your cat may be becoming depressed. If you’re like me and your cat or cats are not merely pets, but family members, you’ll notice their absents rather quickly.

Sax is my Maine Coon. He’s the one with his face showing in the photo. We traveled to another town to get him not knowing our choice would be him. I was looking for a black and white female as I was told they have dynamic personalities. This little girl kitten wasn’t looking for me. She pushed all of her legs against me in protest to cuddles. It’s unusual for a cat or kitten to push me away. My friend calls me Dr. Doolittle when we walk. Neighbourhood cats follow me, dogs strain leashes to get head rubs. Meanwhile, the only striped kitten of the litter had his sights fixed on me and my hubby. We held him and he loosed the purrs instantly. (Wrap ’em up!) He rode in the car like  he owned it, and he has no adjustment period at his new home. He was in and that was that. He lives up to his name, too, entertaining us with his personality and antics.

Sax became more aggressive with me as he got into his teenager-type years, I was his cat friend. I played hide and go seek with him, I roughed him up on the bed for a good ole cat fight simulation, and I taught him many tricks, words and phrases. I let him chase me, and I chased him. But it became apparent he needed another cat to chum with and do cat stuff, like the mutual washing. I adore my cat, but I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy cat fur on my tongue. Ew—haha. That’s reasonable, isn’t it?

We adopted a rescue. Sax growled for four days. I kept Purrla in a separate room when I wasn’t present. Purrla was the size of a large muffin when I brought her home with blue eyes. Tender loving care was showered upon her as she was abandoned by her mother. When she finally meowed with her teeny voice, the gentle giant realized she was a baby cat and took over from there. He taught her the life of cat ways, washing her and often sitting on her to clean her back feet and her bottom after using the litter box. He showed her how to open the cabinet by the stove, how to toss a catnip toy around, and she was shown how to change the pitch of her meow to get treats. It was sweet to watch.

All was well for years. But Purrla has totitude. She goes out of her way to take swings at him, and she is trying to take over what was first his domain. Instead of fighting back, he tolerates her. He’s a big boy, he could send her rolling, but he takes the abuse.

I recently noticed his absents at night while bingeing on Netflix by the fireplace. In the day I was looking for him, too. He decided my writing lair closet was his safe place.

My husband didn’t agree cats could get depressed. It’s a good thing I know they can.

I went and got Sax to come downstairs with Purrla, me and his dad, who is of course my husband. If he left and went back to the closet, I’d turn on the light, sit with him and gently speak to him, petting him and scratching under his chin, backs of his ears. I’d pick him up and carry him back downstairs. I’d do that a few times a night if necessary. In the day I kept bringing him out and talking almost constantly to him. I’ve been doing this for a couple weeks and the improvement is vast. His eyes don’t look sad now. He’s starting to come when I call him. He’s been sleeping in areas I’m in during the day. He walks faster, he plays with toys, he asks for treats, and his appetite has improved.

Purrla is being disciplined and she’s adjusting her little black and red coat attitude. Yes, it is possible to train and discipline a cat. No, really. Expect a scratch and spit here and there, and you’ll be shunned with tail flicks, but it is possible to reroute their behaviour. Notice she isn’t cuddled up to him? I’m sad they aren’t good buddies.

I caught Sax’s descent into depression early. I’m no stranger to depression, so I could relate to his wanting to hide in dark, quiet places. It’s true. Our beloved fur babies can become depressed. Watch for hiding, appetite decrease, and, although it may seem weird, look at their eyes. Their eyes change shape slightly with cat’s facial expressions, so depressed cats look a lot like they do when you’re loading them up for a vet trip. Also, their tails tell a lot. A cat walking around with their tail up is good. Tails close to the legs indicates unhappiness of some sort. Whiskers, too. Straight out to the side or perked forward is good, pointing to the floor, not so good.

Am I a cat specialist? No. Do I research and learn because I’m a devoted cat mom and the subject has interested me since childhood? Yup. That’s it. I’m a hopelessly committed cat lady.

Here’s to furry mental heath, and ours, too.

Thanks for reading.

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