One of the reasons that we love our cats so much is that they are sentient creatives who are social and interactive, with unique personalities. Anybody who has owned a cat will know that they have their own likes, dislikes and quirks and that is what makes them so interesting, engaging and lovable.
So why do people seem surprised that a cat can be depressed?
Causes of depression might be, for example, a change of environment, the loss of a companion or owner, something in their environment that is unsettling them, or some physical problem.
Symptoms of depression in cats typically may include any of the following:
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of interest in playing with their toys
- Less interest in interacting with feline/canine housemates or family members
- Increased vocalizations
- Decreased interest in going outside (if allowed outdoor access)
- An increase in the amount of time spent sleeping
- A decrease in the amount of time spent grooming (they have an unkept coat or mats)
- Increased frequency of urination in the litter box
- House soiling or not consistently using their litter box.
When cats arrive at APROP, we have to remember that they have been removed from their normal home and find themselves in a very different and alien environment, away from everything and everyone that is familiar to them. So hiding for days, constantly sleeping or not moving or eating much, being very vocal or pooping on the floor rather than the litter tray is not that unusual. And let’s be honest, if we were wrenched from everything we knew and loved, we might get depressed and do some of those as well, although hopefully not pooping on the floor!
Ensuring that there are no physical issues is important, but if that is not the case, we have to give them time and sensitive care to help them come to terms with their new situation. The APROP cat cuddling volunteers are an important part of this process as they have the time to spend with the cats, sometimes just sitting and talking to them if they are nervous of contact, until they are more comfortable with us spending time with them.
Most cats improve over a few days or weeks, but some – particularly if they are older or have a less confident personality – may take much longer. Some cats never show their real personality in the shelter, but once they find a permanent home they can sometimes change out of all recognition.
There have been a few cats like that at APROP over the past few years, and I suspect that is the case with at least one of the cats at the shelter at the moment. The challenge for us at APROP is how to find somebody to adopt a more “challenging” cat that is potentially depressed in the shelter in anticipation of them improving in a proper home situation. This may need a leap of faith or, more prudently perhaps, a foster arrangement for a while so that we can all see how things work out. But it needs a special person to take on the challenge.
If you are interested in joining the APROP Cat Cuddling team or would like to know more about fostering “challenging” cats, please contact Christine Thorpe Tel/Whatsapp 602242031.