Whether it’s from losing a loved one, shifting apartments, or struggling with illness – all of these situations can result in a depressed cat.

So if you’ve noticed your little buddy not seeming like themselves lately, you might’ve wondered: is my cat depressed? What does cat depression look like, anyway?

Because in a nutshell: yes, much like dogs, cats can and do experience depression at certain times and events. And left untreated, it might worsen their health and well-being for the long term.

Now with all that said – how to tell if your cat is depressed? And how can keeping track of your cat’s activity actually help you catch on to the signs of depression early on?

We’re going to cover all that and more in this post – so you can help your little buddy live their best, happiest, healthiest life by your side. Let’s get started.

Can cats get depression?

Yes – like humans, cats can also get depressed.1 And the causes may range from benign and temporary – to more serious ones.

But something you might also be wondering could be: is my cat depressed…or just lazy? Or tired? Or some combination thereof?

A tired cat sleeping in bed

Well, before we all panic, ask yourself:

  • How active is my cat in general?
  • Are they sociable by temperament?
  • How long has my cat seemed out of sorts or less cheerful or active than usual?
  • Have I just made a big change to my cat’s routine? (Like shifting apartments or mealtimes?)
  • Has my cat just had a long day of playtime or spending time around other pets or people?

How do I know if my cat is depressed? Or just…well, tired? (Or lazy?)

In general, the key difference between a depressed cat and just a tired one is how interested they are in engaging or taking part in your regular activities together. (Including mealtimes, playtime, or just cuddling time.)

  • A tired cat might be on snooze mode, but they’ll still respond (even if that’s just glancing your way) when you bring out their food bowl or call out their name.
  • A depressed cat might not respond to any of these activities. (Or they’ll take forever to do so.)
Two tired cats lying by a window

Another key sign to look out for is a sudden change in your cat’s regular behaviors.

  • If they’re active and sociable by temperament and you now see them in a slump – it could indicate something’s wrong.
  • On the other hand, it can be easy to miss out on the signs of depression in cats that are more “chill” by temperament and less active in the first place. So it’s important you stay vigilant for a change in their habits as well.

Now with all that said – what might cause your cat to get depressed in the first place?

The most common reasons behind “cat depression”

In many cases, your cat’s sad slump might be temporary – like if you’ve introduced them to a new environment. But in other cases, it might indicate something’s seriously wrong and even warrants medical attention.

So here are some of the most common reasons you now have a depressed cat at home.

Your cat has lost a loved one

As aloof as your cat might be, they do love you and are attached to you and your family members. You’re their primary caregiver, after all. (Yes, no matter how independent they might seem otherwise.)

Which is why your cat might seem “sadder” – more solitary and withdrawn – if a loved one passes away. (Or, on a lighter note, simply moves away for college or shifts apartments.) Much like humans, cats can and do experience grief, loss, and loneliness if someone they feel connected to is no longer around.2

A woman hugging a white cat

Now this might not just be someone in your family, but also other pets (including dogs!) In these cases, your cat’s depressed state might be temporary.

Your cat is adapting to a change in routine

Change can be stressful, even for us humans – and especially so for cats! Which is another reason you might find yours depressed or out of sorts, if you’ve, say:

  • Moved apartments (especially from a bigger to smaller space)
  • Switched up your work routine (like, for example, starting a night shift – and not being around during the “usual” times)
  • Introduced a new pet at home
Two kittens playing by a perch next to a window
  • Just brought your new baby home (and don’t have as much time for your cat)
  • Kept them indoors for safety reasons (especially if they’re an outdoor cat used to wandering the neighborhood)
  • Kept them at a boarding place (or at a pet sitter’s) while you’re out on vacation

⚠️ Besides the stress of change, it’s possible your cat might feel you aren’t giving them as much attention as earlier. (Which can make them feel neglected and lonely as a result.)

And unfortunately, feeling abandoned is one of the prime reasons why cats run away from home.

A woman and baby playing with a cat by the window

But as they slowly settle into a new routine, you might find your cat adjusting and getting back to normal over time. (Just make sure to give them an extra cuddle or two throughout the day to reassure them you still love and care for them.)

Read more:

Your cat is experiencing chronic pain

As your cat approaches their grand-puss or senior cat years, they might be more likely to develop painful, mobility-affecting conditions like arthritis. Which can be both painful to deal with – and also limit how active your cat can be throughout the day.3

Over time, this can lead to your cat feeling depressed, since they’re no longer able to jump up to their favorite perch or window (or on your lap) as easily as before. Experiencing chronic pain can also worsen their feelings of depression. (Both in humans as well as cats!)

A senior cat sitting on a desk chair indoors

💡This is one reason why vets recommend tracking your pets’ activity – or how much they can keep up with you during walks and playtime.4

Because once you’ve got this data at hand, you can catch on to a drop in your cat’s activity that much faster – and get them to a vet for a checkup before their condition worsens.

Your cat is experiencing a loss of their senses

Whether it’s a result of an accident, injury or ageing, cats might also be vulnerable to a loss of their senses – including their eyesight, hearing, or limbs.5 Which can leave them feeling disoriented and unable to move around as easily as before…resulting in a thoroughly depressed cat.

(You might notice them shuffling along, less graceful in their gait, or bumping into furniture more often, or not responding as quickly when you call for them.)

  • Now, in many cases, a younger cat can adapt to the loss of a limb or an eye – even if it affects how they get around.
  • However, a senior cat might take longer to adjust to a change like this. As a result, they may feel depressed from not being able to move around as easily as before.
A one-eyed cat eating from a food bowl

⚠️ Senior cats are also vulnerable to cognitive degenerative diseases, like dementia. Which usually begins as a change in their sleep cycles – leaving them feeling confused, out of sorts, and less interested in their usual activities.6

So with their sleep data at hand, you can catch on to a dip or a spike that much earlier – and take action quicker.

Read more: Cat Dementia: Signs, Treatment & Outlook

Your cat might be sick or injured

A sick or injured cat isn’t likely to draw much attention to themselves. It’s just what their ancestors might’ve done – i.e. hiding away to manage it themselves. (Else they’d be easy prey for other predators.)

Which, unfortunately, means you might miss out on the signs they’re struggling until it’s too late.

Because if your cat’s health is deteriorating or they’re struggling with an injury that isn’t easily visible, you might see them in a bit of a slump – much less active than before.

A sick cat lying in a sunny patch on the floor

(On the other hand, a cat that’s struggling with a health issue might also seem more aggressive than before – hissing, clawing, or batting at you when you approach.)

💡So rather than letting your cat’s health worsen, you can pre-empt a sickness or injury by tracking their daily activity. Whether that’s noting it down in a journal to discuss with your vet…or having actionable data at hand with an activity monitor that’s specifically built for pets.

Because now with this data at hand, you can have a more productive conversation with your vet. (Plus, save a ton of money by preventing your cat from getting sick rather than paying for an expensive medical procedure.)

The 4 main signs of depression in cats – and what you can do

Much like other mental health difficulties, cat depression can be easy to miss. So with a little vigilance, you can catch on to these warning signs early on.

Because when you observe them closely, a depressed cat is likely to show…

Little to no interest in regular activities

Now if your regularly sociable and active cat has a sudden change in behavior, it might be easier to pick up on. But if your cat is on the more relaxed side, you might miss out on them – until it’s too late.

So keep an eye out for:

  • A drop or loss of appetite – or if your cat just seems more reluctant around mealtimes
  • Lack of interest in playtime or interacting with you or your family members
  • A drop in how often they venture outdoors (especially if they’re an outdoor cat). Or they might stick to one room in your house, if they’re an indoor cat – or one spot in your backyard.

In many such cases, your cat might simply not be 100% comfortable with their environment yet. So they might be reluctant to eat anything in an “unfamiliar” place – or venture outdoors, away from safety.

A depressed cat sitting on a couch next to a woman

What to do

  • Give your cat some time to adjust – and introduce them gradually to whatever’s “new” in their environment. (Whether that’s a new pet, a new house, or a new outdoor territory for them to conquer.)
  • Make sure to also spend some quality time with them – just the two of you. So you can help them ease into their new environment quicker.
  • Use a calming pheromone or even some catnip around your new space. These can help cats relax better and are perfectly safe for them to be around.
  • Bring in some new toys and games around your house to keep your cat engaged. If they’re happy and busy occupied with a distraction, they might adjust to their new environment that much better.
A cat sitting with a string toy on its head

When to drop by your vet

Now, on the other, hand if you haven’t made a big change to your cat’s routine and you:

  • Notice their slump persisting
  • Notice your cat peeing more often in their litter box – or around the house
  • Hear your cat vocalizing less (i.e., they’re quieter than usual – no longer meowing as much)

…then get in touch with your vet. They might be able to prescribe you natural supplements that can help combat depression, or even psychoactive medication, if necessary.5

A pair of vets examining a cat at a clinic

⚠️ A change in your cat’s peeing habits could indicate they’re marking “territory” around their new space…or it could be a painful medical condition like urinary tract infection (UTI). Make sure to drop by your vet if you notice these signs.

Read more:

A drop in their everyday movement

Now a cat might laze around for reasons besides feeling depressed. But a sudden, sharp drop in their daily movement might signal something’s wrong.

Because, like we’ve covered, cats don’t tend to draw attention to themselves when they’re sick or injured. Which is why it’s easy to miss out on a drop in their daily activity. (Especially if your cat is already on the less active side.)

“Unusually low energy is a red flag for unhappy cat behavior, suggesting a mental or physical problem.”6

– WebMD
A brown cat sleeping in bed

Now while you can jot down your cat’s behaviors, you might lose track at some point. Plus, it’s pretty tedious having to monitor them every minute of the day.

💡 So imagine being able to pick up on a change in your cat’s daily movement – with just a glance at your phone?

It’s why cat parents around the world – just like you – are investing in Tractive’s life-saving technology to monitor their cat’s health.

Because with its built-in motion detector, your trusty Tractive device picks up on your cat’s movements throughout the day – and keeps this data safe for you to check over time.

An outdoor cat exploring a garden with Tractive's Activity monitoring features in the foreground

Which, in turn, can help you figure out:

  • What’s a normal level of activity for your cat
  • Whether your cat’s active minutes have dropped
  • How active your cat is compared to other cats of similar age, size, and breed

And even if you miss a day of tracking, no worries. Our Health Alerts have you covered.

Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive

“It can be easy to miss out on changes in your dog’s or cat’s regular activity – or just if they’re on the move more or less than usual.

So we’ve set up Activity Degradation alerts for when your pet’s active minutes drop significantly.

They can help you intervene in a situation where your pet might be struggling with an infection or even just pain.”

– Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive & occasional pet-sitter

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Other behavioral changes

Now when we think of a depressed cat, you might assume it’s one that appears “sad” – withdrawing from interaction and hiding around the house. And to a large extent, you’re right.

But besides these, cats experiencing depression might also seem more aggressive or even hostile than usual.6

So keep an eye out for:

  • Hiding behaviors: On one hand, your cat might hide in different areas around your house to find a secure spot. This is often another indication they might not be feeling their best, health-wise.
  • Aggressive behaviors. On the other hand, your cat might growl, hiss, claw, or even bat at you if you try and approach them. This is also another sign they might be struggling with pain, an infection, or an injury – they just want to manage it themselves.
  • Attention-seeking behaviors. A cat that’s generally unhappy or feeling neglected might also cling to you and demand your attention more often than usual.
A woman holding a cat in her arms outdoors

If any of these behavioral changes seem to emerge rather suddenly, it could be a sign that something’s wrong.

So keep an eye out for a change from your cat’s usual habits and temperament. It could just be all you need to save their life and ensure they’re healthy.

Read more: Why Is My Cat Hiding? 5 Reasons For A Hiding Cat

An increase in sleep time

Cats tend to be super sleepers – clocking in 12-20 hours a day! However, if your cat is depressed, they might sleep even longer. Or change their favorite sleeping spot to another around your house.

Even more worryingly, a change in a senior cat’s sleep patterns might signal cognitive decline.7 Which might look like sleep disturbances, a drop in your cat’s sleep quality, or generally seeming disoriented or irritable (from sleep deprivation) the next day.

Read more: Why Do Cats Sleep So Much? Cat Sleeping Patterns, Explained!

An irritable looking cat sitting on a blanket in bed

Now you need your rest as well – so how are you supposed to monitor every minute of your cat’s sleep?

Simple: with the same little device that’s keeping track of your cat’s daily activity, of course.

A cat sleeping in the background with Tractive Sleep tracking in foreground

💡Besides Activity Tracking, your Tractive device doubles as a sleep tracker. Picking up on:

  • How much quality sleep your cat’s been getting
  • How often their sleep was disturbed
  • Whether there’s an abnormal change in their sleep patterns

So you can take action – and get them over to a vet for a checkup early.

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More ways you can help your cat overcome a depressed state

Now besides tracking your cat’s sleep and activity or bumping up your quality time, there are a couple of other, practical steps you can take to help them overcome their slump.

Here they are:

Get them a companion

If your cat is mourning the loss of another, fellow pet – give them some time to grieve first.

Then, gradually – and after tons of cuddle time spent with you – consider introducing them to a new “roommate.”

Now if your cat has some company at home, it can help keep them occupied and busy – which can help reduce or prevent stress from building up.

With time, your cat might slowly adjust to the new routine of having a playmate at home whom they can now boss around and spend time with.

Two cats playing indoors

💡Just make sure not to rush introducing your new pet to your cat. Even a harmless little kitten might just send your cat’s hackles on the rise if they feel it’s invading their territory!

Get them spayed or neutered

Another source of stress for cats is the reproductive instinct – i.e., the urge to find a mate. Which is also one of the main reasons both male and female cats wander away from home.

There’s some evidence to suggest that spaying or neutering your cat can actually help improve their mood.8 Why? Because, simply put:

  • A cat that hasn’t been “fixed” tends to get stressed when in heat.
  • Spaying or neutering can actually help relieve this stress and reduce some aggressive behaviors that might arise during this time.
A cat balancing on a fence escaping home

A cat’s heat cycle may last several months out of the year – and occurs on a recurring basis. So if you can get yours spayed or neutered, you’re likely to:

  • Prevent them from escaping (to find themselves a mate) – where your cat might be at risk of getting hit by a car, injured by another pet or predator, or stolen by a pet thief.
  • Help reduce the number of strays around the country.
  • Reduce unwanted behaviors that accompany a cat being in heat, including yowling, wailing, biting, or urine spraying to mark their territory.

Read more: Cat In Heat? What You Need To Know.

Make sure you aren’t keeping them cooped up indoors too much

Even if yours isn’t the most outdoorsy of cats, too much indoor time can stress them out.8

Which, on one hand, might look like a depressive slump – or, on the other hand, turn up as destructive behaviors. (Including scratching your couches, carpets, and curtains.)

So with gradual supervised outdoor time, you can help your cat enjoy the exercise and sensory stimulation of being out in nature.

Which, with time, can help keep them healthy – both physically and mentally. Even your balcony, backyard, or a local park will work nicely.

Read more: Should I Let My Cat Outside? What To Consider

A man and cat standing together in a garden

💡Haven’t fixed your cat and worried they might run off while you’re out together outdoors? If you’ve invested in a Tractive device, you’ve got your cat’s safety right at your fingertips.

Because with just a glance at your phone, you can immediately start tracking your moving cat’s location:

  • In real-time,
  • Plus over an unlimited range.
cat territory as shown in the tractive gps app

Pictured here is a map of your cat’s territory (in yellow) – which can help you figure out how far your cat likes to roam.

(Which, in an emergency – like if they’ve gotten lost – can help you figure out where to start looking first.)

And with the blue LIVE button, you can immediately start tracking your cat’s movements in real-time – no matter where they’re off roaming.

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How to tell if your cat is depressed – and keep them healthy & happy

Much like dogs, cats can also experience complex emotions – including grief, loss, pain, and even depression. And given how they tend to mask their discomfort, it can be easy to miss out on the signs, until it’s too late.

Because some of the most common reasons for “cat depression” include:

  • Mourning the loss of a loved one or fellow pet
  • A change in their routine, like moving apartments
  • Health issues, including chronic pain, sickness, or injury
A depressed cat lying in bed

So if you’re suspecting your cat hasn’t been themselves lately, keep an eye out for:

  • A lack of interest in their regular activities, including playtime, mealtimes, and even outdoor hunting times.
  • A drop in their overall movement, which might indicate they’re struggling with a sickness, injury, or pain.
  • Behavioral changes, like hiding, aggression, or even clinginess.
  • An increase in their sleep time.

Because in the long run, these signs can help you tell the difference between a depressed cat – and one that’s just tired.

If you’ve introduced your cat to a new environment, give them some time to adjust – while also spending as much quality time with them as you can. Bring in some new toys and games or even a new playmate, if you can.

But if you’ve been tracking your cat’s sleep and activity and have noticed a sudden change, it might be time to drop by your local vet.

Both for your cat’s health and well-being – and for your peace of mind.

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Tractive CAT Mini GPS tracker with collar

Track your cat’s wellbeing

See how they’re doing at a glance with Wellness Score. Know if they’re getting enough exercise. Spot nap patterns. Detect issues early and keep them healthy.

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Want a vet’s take on how to monitor the signs of depression in cats? Here’s Dr. Jace King from the Washington Family Veterinary Clinic weighing in:

And if you’ve found this post helpful, share it with a friend or a loved one – and let’s help build a safer, kinder world for our furry friends together.