Do Indoor Cats Get Depressed?

Indoor cats can and do become depressed. We firmly believe that cats can live happy and healthy indoor lives if they are given the right care. However, improper care of your cats or uncontrollable circumstances can lead to your indoor cat becoming depressed.

Depression can be a sensitive topic and it has only recently begun to be taken more seriously in humans. As with most cat related science, the research is not very thorough. But experienced vets and owners have clearly experienced their pets having a chronic low mood before. Depressed cats may seem less interested in everything for an extended amount of time. This is bad for your cat and can be worrying to you as an owner. We hope that this article can help house cat owners understand the needs of their cats as well as their own responsibilities to their well being.

How can I tell if my Indoor cat is depressed?

Depressed cats will generally be uninterested in one or many of their favorite activities. The most obvious of these is eating. Depressed cats will often show a lack of interest in food. They won’t let themselves starve but they may begin eating much less than normal and leave food in the bowl or skip meals. They could also start ignoring their favorite foods and treats. Over a long time this could cause uncontrolled weight loss.

They will be less interested in playful activities. They may ignore you when you try to start play with their toys. If they have a particular spot next to a window they watch the world from, they could stop showing interest in what happens outside.

They might ignore signs of affection for you and other cats in the house. They may ignore or avoid pets from humans and stop grooming other cats. They may also stop grooming themselves which will cause their coat to appear more dull than usual.

Depressed indoor cats will commonly begin to ignore their litter box and begin leaving their waste elsewhere. They may also showing other poor waste related behaviors such as spraying on objects around the house.  

Although its normal for cats to sleep for most of the day, depressed cats will spend even more time than usual laying down. Depressed cats may also stop showing signs of being happy such as purring or kneading.

Unfortunately, all of the symptoms of depression in cats can also be caused by medical complications. If you have noticed any behavioral changes in your cat you should book an appointment with your vet so you can rule out problems with your cat’s physical health.

Symptoms of cat depression

  • Loss of interest in food
  • Loss of interest in play or entertainment
  • Lack of affection
  • Ignoring the litter box
  • Excessive sleeping

Can cats die from depression?

Cat’s can’t die from depression as it isn’t a physical disorder. However, depression can cause other health complications in the long run. As they begin to neglect their own health by ignoring food and exercise, they become more likely to be afflicted by a more dangerous disease that could lead to their death.

If you have worked with a vet to determine that your cat is depressed, its important that you treat the problem as seriously as if it was a physical problem. Indoor cats can be a handful to take care of but they bring us a lot of happiness just by being around. Responsible cat owners should always consider their cat’s needs and work towards them.

Can indoor cats get depressed because they can’t go outside?

Cats can become depressed due to a lack of mental stimulation and interaction. A plain life indoors could cause this so yes, cats can become depressed because they can’t go outside. However, it would be more accurate to say that they become depressed because they are locked in a room with nothing to do. Your mental health would probably suffer if you were shut in a room with nothing interesting to do for your whole life so why wouldn’t the same happen to your cat.

It is rare for cats to become depressed from living indoors, its more common for cats to develop aggressive behaviors due to the lack of stimulation while living indoors. An exception to this could be outdoor cats who have recently transitioned to living as indoor cats. If you have made this change out of necessity, you will need to wait and see if they can adapt to living indoors permanently. You will also need to make some changes to make sure that they have the right conditions to be happy.

When cats get to explore the outside, they can fill in their need for mental stimulation, exploration, and exercise just by exploring the neighborhood and interacting with other animals they meet. These needs can be met indoors without exposing your cat to the danger of the outdoors. Lets look at how you can make the indoors a good environment for your cat to be happy in.

Can cats get depressed when their owners leave?

Despite how they may behave, you are probably your indoor cat’s best companion. You are their source of play, friendship, and food. There isn’t much more a cat needs to be content. At the very least, just seeing you walk around the house is a source of interest for them throughout the day.

Indoor cats are more likely to develop separation anxiety and be overly attached to their owners, leaving them feeling upset when you have to be out of the house. Pedigree breeds such as the Flame Point Siamese tend to be more clingy and are more likely to experience this.

Many cat owners have talked about how their cats have become depressed an owner has left or another cat has moved or passed away. Cats are intelligent creatures and although we often joke about them not caring about us, studies have shown that cats are attached to their humans as much as dogs are. Cats who are missing an owner can become depressed and will need time and care to adjust properly.

You can try to make alone time easier for indoor cats by bringing out passive toys while you are gone. Rotate through these toys so they never get too bored. If you have one indoor cat, you may consider if you would benefit from getting a second cat so your first cat can have a companion all of the time. This is a big decision which can also come with its own consequences. We’ve written an article about getting a second indoor cat, you should also do your own research and planning.

Interestingly, vets have also reported that some cats have become depressed since COVID as many owners have had to stay at home during the day. If you have experienced this its unlikely that your cat dislikes you, although it may feel like it sometimes. Cats are very picky and dislike disruption to their routine. In some cases the shift to constantly sharing their living space is enough to upset them but they should usually come around, especially when they find out spending more time together can mean more treats and pay for them.

What should I do if my indoor cat is depressed?

Before you let your cat explore the outside consider other steps you can take to improving your cat’s indoor life first. Cats who have lived for their whole lives indoors generally do not adapt well to being an outdoor cat and in many cases don’t want to adapt.

Make your house a place your cat enjoys to explore and live in. Cat trees are excellent options for all types of houses as they are cheap and don’t require permanent fixings. They give your cat a new place to explore vertically which lets them survey the room from a new perspective. Creating walkways out of shelving, tunnel toys, and cat hammocks can quickly transform your living room to be exciting for your cat. If you already have these types of cat furniture, you can try moving them about so your cat has a new environment to explore.

Create spaces where your cat can get stimulation by looking at moving objects. Putting a cat tree next to a window is a common solution to this. If you don’t have an interesting view, you can try putting a cat TV video on the TV or a tablet for a couple of hours throughout the day. This will be a source of mental stimulation to keep your cat’s brain ticking over and stop them from getting bored.

If you think your cat is depressed because of a sudden change such as moving to a new house or the loss of another human or animal in the household there isn’t much you can do apart from being around your cat. Keep trying to play with them but don’t force them to be pet or be active if they aren’t interested. Cats experience grief and stress. They will need time to adjust before they feel like themselves again, especially if they have lost somebody important to them.

Most importantly, you should regularly play with your cat through the day in the same way that a dog owner would walk their dog. Its important that you really engage with your cat during this time to get them interested in playing with a toy. Don’t expect good results if all you do is wave a toy in front of their face for a couple of minutes. Experiment with different types of toys and play styles until you find something your cat is interested in. There are lots of great resources for teaching you how to play with your cat.

We also have to stress one last time that any behavior changes in your cat are not normal. If your cat is showing any of the behaviors that we have talked about you should consult a vet before deciding that your cat is depressed. It is always safer to make an appointment for something small than to wait and realize that there is something seriously wrong with your cat’s health. We hope that this article has helped and that your cat returns to their normal happy self soon.