Thursday, December 25, 2008

Even cats get the blues

I know I suffer from depression but I have been noticing the striped one has been hypersleeping as well. Could it be the rain and snow and sleet that has blanketed so much of the US has made her feel lethargic, or is she picking up signals from me, who is currently in the grips of my worst depression since 93? I don't know, but I found this article and it's fascinating.

Preventing feline wintertime blues.

Although cats might not be formally diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, the mood disorder that causes some people to experience symptoms of depression in the winter, veterinarians and feline fanciers say they do notice similar changes in some cats.

One in three cat owners finds that their pets seem more sad and less playful in the winter, according to a 2007 survey by People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), England's largest veterinary charity.

How Winter Can Affect Your Kitty's Behavior

Like their human counterparts, kitties can show changes in energy levels, appetite, sleep patterns and temperament when exposure to light decreases. Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, DVM, sees it every winter. Dr. Colleran maintains feline-only practices in both Chico, Calif., and Portland, Ore. The weather might be a bit gray in Portland, but it's fairly consistent year-round, says Dr. Colleran. Her feline clientele in Portland doesn't demonstrate noticeable seasonal changes. But Dr. Colleran has noted quite a seasonal shift in the kitties she sees in Chico, which is hot and sunny in the summer but far gloomier during the winter.

"I really do see a difference, I'm absolutely convinced of it," says Dr. Colleran. In the wild, other cat behaviors, such as mating, are related to exposure to light. It's therefore logical to assume that the onset of winter might have some effect on your kitty as well, Dr. Colleran explains.

Helping Kitty Cope
Fortunately, you can do plenty to perk up your moping feline. Simple changes in your behavior and activities in the winter might also play a role in how your cat is behaving, says Dr. Givin. If you and your veterinarian have ruled out medical causes for your kitty's malaise, here are several areas to consider when it comes to your cat's wintertime behavior:

Exposure to light All cats notice changes in light, so make sure you open curtains to let the sun in, says Dr. Givin. Natural light can be important for your cat's mood. You can also place a small lamp near your cat's bed, making sure your kitty isn't exposed to a hot bulb or isn't likely to knock the lamp over. Shorter winter days mean your kitty might be stuck in a dark, gloomy house, awaiting your return in the evening.

Temperature changes Houses can be a bit chillier as we try to trim energy bills. The ideal temperature for cats is 75 F, says Dr. Givin. Since it's unlikely you'll keep your house that warm, make sure your cat has warm options, such as a heated cat bed, a bed near a sunny window or a place to snooze near a safe heater. If you keep a litter box in a garage or basement, you might find a change in your cat's bathroom habits.

Sleep patterns "We shouldn't just assume it's OK to sleep 23 out of 24 hours a day," Dr. Colleran says. If your cat is sleeping more than usual, it could be a case of the wintertime blues.

Activity We tend to slow down in the winter, and it's easy to forget that cats still require our interaction, says Dr. Colleran. Remind yourself to interact with your cat, especially on those nights when you simply want to curl up on the sofa with a warm blanket. Add novelty to your kitty's life by changing toys, hanging a bird feeder near a window or simply moving around an assortment of cardboard boxes for your kitty to explore.

Eating habits Just like people, cats may eat out of boredom or for comfort. If you notice your cat eating more or gaining weight this winter, make sure to take control of its portions and to discuss with your veterinarian how much your kitty should be eating.

Knowing your cat well -- winter and summer -- is the best way to judge behavioral changes. As Dr. Colleran concludes, "You have to really be aware of what's going on with your cat."

Photo is Holly the Striped one with her favorite stuffed animal-taking a catnap


kw said...

Dear Susan and Holly,

Thanks for the information. My boys sleep quite a bit, but when I try to, they run around squeaking and fighting!

It might not be a bad idea to run some blood tests. Thyroid and other non-life threatening conditions could be the cause.

In the meantime, it would be good for you two to share some quality time under a full-spectrum light.

Hope this finds you feeling a bit better. You are in my heart and mind.

Love, Dano

Ana said...

Nell spend the whole they sleeping if I don't interact with her.
Winter, spring, summer or fall.
I've seen dogs that were taken from shelters that don't want to go out with their new humans friends because they were treated badly.
Nell had many psychological pregnancies before being castrated.
I don't know too much about cats but I believe they have other emotional issues.

Anthony said...

My cat is kind of moody, but I don't leave him alone much and tend to talk his ear off.

He manages to find the sunny window when it's cold and follows me around enough to keep both of us interested.

He does seem to look sad when I leave for work in the morning, but I may be imagining that part.

susan said...

@Dano, she's ok. I had been housebound for 3 days with the weather and the ice, and noticed she sleeps like 20 hours a day. I just think it's interesting she picks up on my moods. She really is my best friend!

@Ana, I think dogs and cats are more the same even though they don't want to admit it.

@Anthony, your cat sounds wonderful. I hope you can put another picture of him up on your blog, he is quite handsome

Anonymous said...

Love to you Susan and take care of yourself.

All love


susan said...

Mary, you too, and hugs and purrs to those pups. I hope to see "Marley and Me" soon, I love yellow labs, and will think of your pups at that time!

Mark p.s.2 said...

I read before modern times that people in winter wouldn't do anything but stoke the fire and stay in bed.

Anonymous said...

i agree, i think cats/dogs pick up on our moods. i have been in a severe depressed place and noticed my cat has been sleeping more than usual.

if anything, i know he certainly senses something is not right....

kw said...


It was great to talk with you the other night. When my best friend Cricket tore her ACL and had an operation, she had to sleep in my bed.

My room is on the second floor, next to the bathroom. My bed is on an old brass frame, high off the floor, which was easier for her.

My old cat Hello Newman stayed with her, clearly in touch with her suffering. I was on the third floor in Cricket's room, where the other cats joined with me.

I think that there are some animals that have old souls, are healers and seers. I think Holly exhibits those qualities.

Fid said...

My dog is a human dustbin, he will eat anything... this is normally followed by a nap.

There is nothing more comforting than a pet giving back the love you show it. I've often woke at some obscure hour in the morning next to my dog. He remains still but opens one eye and I can sense that he is saying to me something along the lines of, "Bloody hell Bob, it's only 5am, I'll stay on your bed if that's okay"

Now the trick is to tell Shania Twain to do that :-)


susan said...

@Mark, you are right, but you left out something else which explains why there are so many babies born in August and September!

@ Kim, I think you are right. I hope your kitty feels better, as I hope you do too.

@Dano, I loved talking to you too, you have a beautiful English accent! I think you are right about the Holly being an old soul, I always thought it was from being a shelter cat.

@Fiddy, if there was anyway possible I could put Shania Twain in bed with you holding a bone for your doggie, I would do it. Would you put Bruce in mine?

Synchronicity said...

great post susan! troubles with mew mew's mood but she is a kitten. my older cat is just mostly grumpy. if i pet her the wrong way she grumbles. isabella is not happy about the kitten and not sure if she ever will be. she has gained a lot of weight in response.

love your writings...keep 'em coming!

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