Does my cat have seasonal depression?

Posted by Argos May 15th 2020. Tagged: pet illness and winter pet care

The early nights and winter weather make it easy to become lethargic. It’s harder to get outside and the lack of sunlight can result in seasonal affective disorder (SAD) for many people.

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that causes symptoms like low energy, loss or increase of appetite, sleep disturbances and feelings of sadness. It usually starts in the late autumn or early winter and doesn’t go away until it gets sunnier in spring and summer.

Can cats get depressed?

Just like us humans, your feline friends can feel the effects brought on by the lack of sunlight. Have you noticed your cat experiencing excessive fatigue, night-time restlessness, or drastic changes in their appetite? These are cat depression symptoms and may be signs that your cat has seasonal affective disorder.  

Depression in cats

Cats are sensitive to changes in light and the lack of sunlight causes a decrease in serotonin, the chemical neurotransmitter in our brains that affects our mood. Without enough sunlight, both you and your cat also fail to develop enough melatonin, the chemical regulating sleep cycles. This can result in depression, drowsiness and sometimes anxiety.

Bouts of cat depression can also happen because they’re not exercising enough. Without exercise, they can become restless and irritated. This happens especially if they are left alone for long periods.

How to help my depressed cat

If you believe your cat may be suffering from low mood, there are several changes you can make around the house to help them overcome this. Here are our 5 top tips for getting your cat’s mood back on track:

  • Move your cat’s bed near a window
  • Try out light therapy
  • Get your cat moving
  • Don’t overfeed your cat
  • Encourage your cat to spend time outside

1. Move your cat’s bed near a window

Where does your cat usually lounge? Is it in sunlight? Elevating your cat’s bed into a well-lit area that’s exposed to natural light can help cut back on their kitty blues. If your cat is acting a bit more laid-back than usual, this is an easy way to help them absorb as much sunlight as possible.

2. Try out light therapy

If you’ve never heard of light therapy before, it’s not as “new age” as you’d think. Just because daylight is scarce, it doesn’t stop your cat’s body needing sunlight. To combat seasonal affective disorder, you can purchase a SAD lamp which is an artificial light mimicking sunlight.

Whether you have an indoor or outdoor cat, the lack of sunlight will affect their mood and behaviour.  All your cat has to do is sit or play near the light to reap the benefits and ease their symptoms. What’s great about these lights is that they have the same effect on humans!

3. Get your cat moving

If you are still asking yourself “is my cat depressed?”, you should pay your feline friend some extra attention when they’re low in mood.

We suggest having a scheduled playtime with them. This ensures that you’re giving your cat enough attention and they’re getting the proper mental and physical stimulation.

Simply grabbing their favourite cat toys to play with them each day will give them something to look forward to. It can also help in avoiding any bouts of boredom that may be making them depressed.

4. Don’t overfeed your pet

You might notice that your kitty has a bigger appetite than usual. However, it’s important to prevent them from packing on any winter weight. Being overweight puts your cat at risk from diseases such as diabetes, liver disease, arthritis, cancer, bladder and respiratory problems as well as a shorter lifespan.

To prevent this, make sure your cat is exercising enough and you’re feeding them the right food for a balanced diet. You can always book an appointment with your vet to ensure your pet is on the right diet.

You can also make your cat’s meals more fun by encouraging them to work for their food. A puzzle feeder will prolong their dinner time, so they don’t feel dissatisfied.

5. Spend time outdoors

On the rare days it’s sunny outside, you should enjoy it with your feline friend. If your cat is used to going outdoors, avoid letting them outside at night when it’s much colder. If you do, they might be prone to finding dangerous places to collect warmth, such as inside the engines of cars.

If you have an indoor cat, you can put them on a lead to bring out with you. They’ll get to enjoy some physical activity as they explore and soak in the sunlight, hopefully raising their mood.

While seasonal affective disorder is a temporary form of depression, our new pet insurance offering includes behavioural support. Visit www.argospetinsurance.co.uk to find out more.

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