Most Bengal cats have distinct personalities. You’ll become very acquainted with your own pet’s likes and dislikes, favorite games, and what makes them purr. But what happens when your Bengal cat stops enjoying their favorite foods, activities, and people? Can Bengals cats get depressed?
Bengal cats can get depressed. Depression happens when they are left alone for long periods, have no companion, or have a change in diet. Symptoms include a sudden change in habits, lack of athleticism, and aggression. A vet can diagnose depression in your cat and develop a treatment plan that may include medications.
Cats are nothing if not complex little creatures. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out why they do what they do. Knowing our pet is feeling bad and not being able to talk to them about what’s wrong is one of the most frustrating parts of being a pet owner. As with human depression, depression in animals is particular to the individual, and figuring it out in cats can be a big challenge. In this article, we’ll take stock of how to identify and help cats with mental health issues.
Can Cats Be Diagnosed With Depression
Yes, cats can be diagnosed with depression. Depression is common in cats who are neglected. Depression is also common among cats who have had recent changes in ownership or environment. Bengal cats are no exception to the rule and can become depressed just as easily as other breeds.
We’re used to hearing about, and perhaps even experiencing, mental health problems for humans. A formal depression diagnosis for humans is based on a set of symptoms that include not enjoying activities, lack of personal grooming, and isolation from family and friends. But diagnosing a human also involves interviewing the patient about their feelings. This obviously can’t be done with the feline sort.
Some veterinarians believe that since the same diagnostic criteria are not available for animals, they can’t officially diagnose cats with depression. They can only identify the symptoms. And those symptoms, such as loss of appetite, litter box problems, lousy grooming, and personality changes, can be signs of many conditions.
Other vets will diagnose a cat with depression as a condition if they can’t find anything else wrong. Even if we can’t put a label on it, it’s clear that cats can have very intense emotional reactions that cause them to become depressed. These feelings can sometimes be caused by an event or sometimes just appear and linger.
What Causes Depression In Cats
Since they can’t communicate with words, it can often be challenging to pinpoint what’s causing your cat to be depressed. Therefore it’s vital to think about their environment and routine to help identify the potential root of the problem.
Feeling bored, lonely, or confined
Some cats can get sad because they’re simply meant to have a playmate or need much more mental stimulation than they’re getting. The more confined they are during the day, the more likely they are to become depressed. Cats naturally need the freedom to explore. When they don’t have it, they can feel very sad and scared.
You can leave a Bengal cat alone for a few days at a time. Anything beyond that is going to cause them mental issues that can lead to depression. Like most cats, they desire companionship.
Needing more attention
Bengals are a great example of a cat breed that desperately needs attention. They, like many other breeds, need attention from their human friends to survive. When they’re not getting enough of this, depression can strike.
Missing or losing another animal friend
When a fellow feline, canine, or other animal companion is suddenly no longer in the home, cats mourn their loss, mainly if they were very close or came into the family around the same time.
Missing or losing a human friend
Likewise, when a cat’s best human friend is gone for an extended period, gives them up, or dies, cats can feel that loss very deeply.
A significant change, such as a move or introduction of new people or a new pet
That new kitten or baby, or a new home with unfamiliar smells and surroundings, can cause mood changes in cats, sometimes for the worse.
Being in pain from an underlying health problem
Constant pain from an injury or other diagnosis can cause cats to feel hopeless and depressed.
Many cats have anxiety issues and issues that plague them, such as strangers, other cats, loud noises, or various causes. A perpetually, anxious cat can also alternate between anxiety and depression. Just as with humans, these two conditions can go hand in hand, and symptoms can be similar.
How Can I Tell If My Cat Is Depressed
It will likely be easy to see depressive symptoms in ever-friendly Bengals and other happy-go-lucky breeds. For some cats, though, it can be tougher to spot.
Change in litterbox behavior
When you get a cat, you accept that you’ll be cleaning up after it is indeed every way. This makes you pretty familiar with its bodily functions, and if a cat’s litterbox habits are changing, something is probably up. Your cat could urinate or defecate outside the litterbox, obsessively dig inside the box, or even hide or sleep in it. Though it may seem weird to us, these habits send a clear message: “Something is off in my life, and I’m not happy.” It’s guaranteed to be noticed!
Lack of appetite and/or weight loss
Once cats settle into their eating routine, they’re typically pretty content. If a cat is suddenly put off by their food, something is wrong, and feeling depressed could be the culprit. It’s another clear way that cats demonstrate their disdain. Mainly if, like Bengal cats, they are active and healthy eaters, this change in habits could be a clear sign that something is on your kitty’s mind and heart.
Bengal cats are supposed to be muscular, not skinny.
Change in an attachment to their humans
Some cats, like Bengals, are friendly and talkative always. Others, like many Domestic shorthairs, may be more aloof. However, if you’ve spent enough time with your cat, you know how they relate to you. Many will give you only moderate attention, while others can’t get enough of rubbing your legs and kneading your stomach.
If your cat’s attitude changes toward you, that’s a big sign that something is going on, and it could be that they’re feeling depressed. If a typically independent cat suddenly becomes very clingy, they could be sending a message that they feel like they need love. Conversely, if a cat that’s friendly and involved in your life suddenly becomes aloof, they might be feeling hurt.
Cats can spend up to three hours per day fastidiously grooming! It’s a trait they learn early on in life, and an instinct passed down from their big cat ancestors. Their grooming routine includes licking their coat, using their paws to stimulate the oil glands on their head, and chewing and licking between their nails.
If your cat stops taking an interest in grooming themselves, something could be wrong. Bengal cats don’t shed a lot, but you should expect to see some dander around the home. If you notice less shedding than normal, have your cat evaluated by a vet.
Overall change in personality
We’ve all been there: The kitty we love suddenly hisses at us, and it’s devastating! While occasional outbursts like that are regular, a typically friendly cat who starts swiping, hissing, or growling is upset about something. These movements can be a reflection of anger or aggression, but could also be expressions of fear and anxiety.
Depression can cause aggression in Bengal cats, so if your cat is normally loving, this is a clear sign something may be wrong.
Cats who begin doing things over and over again can be showing signs of stress. Samples of these behaviors include obsessively biting, licking, chewing, or scratching, even when measures are taken to stop them. Some cats are harder to rid of obsessive habits, but if the habit comes out of nowhere, depression could be the culprit.
Loss of interest in certain toys or activities
If your cat used to go nuts for a specific toy or a nice ball of catnip, and suddenly is no longer interested, there could be something on their minds that makes them sad. Bored Bengal cats are more prone to running away.
Cats tend to change their vocalization habits as they age, “talking” to their humans more or less. Cats have around one hundred different vocalizations they are capable of using, but as we get to know them, we know their meows. Some make distinct noises when they want to be fed, when they’re mad, or when they’re happy to see us. But if your cat’s vocalizations change suddenly, they could be trying to tell you something. Go with your gut to understand how your cat sounds, and if their sounds have changed.
Overall, a cat owner needs to know their cat well to notice a lot of these behaviors. It’s a notable example of how owning a pet bears a lot of responsibility. Additionally, these symptoms are not exclusive to depression, so your vet will want to do a thorough checkup to ensure they aren’t an indication of an underlying problem.
How Will The Vet Diagnose My Cat With Depression
If your cat seems to be depressed, make an appointment with your veterinarian and write a list of the behaviors you’re concerned about. Since many cats get stressed out about going to the vet, they may not exhibit the same behaviors in a strange environment. Therefore, it’s essential that you describe your cat’s typical behavior and how things have changed.
It will also help to think of any significant changes that might have rocked your kitty’s world recently, like a move, a death, or the introduction of a new animal or human family member. If a typically friendly cat like the Bengal seems lethargic or anxious, it will be pretty obvious to your veterinarian that something is wrong.
Your vet will give your cat an exam to check for physical health problems, as those could be the cause of unusual behavior as well. If the cat seems physically healthy, you’ll discuss options for helping to improve their mood.
How Can Cats With Depression Get Better
Your vet will work with you on the best ways to help your specific cat get back to themselves. There will be several options for helping your kitty start to feel better.
If a cat is sad because of boredom, it’s possible you can get them feeling better pretty quickly. There are many toys on the market that ignite your cat’s natural hunting and pouncing instincts. Other toys are like puzzles, requiring the cat to try to get treats from the inside. A good old fashioned laser pointer is also a great way to wake up your kitty’s inner tiger.
If you have to spend a lot of time away from home during the day, you may want to invest in a birdfeeder to put it right outside a window where your kitty likes to spend time. Cats also love to explore, so even opening a new room or two can help them feel less confined.
It’s true of humans, and it’s true of cats: Activity helps! Cats, especially those like the Bengal, need their exercise! Toys that allow them to jump run and pounce get their hearts pumping and their natural needs met. If you have a Bengal breed that has been specially bred to get lots of activity, be prepared to build time into your schedule to help your furry buddy feel better.
One small but easily fixable thing that could be upsetting your cat is pain or stomach upset from their diet. Your vet will ask what you’re feeding your cat and perhaps recommend a diet higher in protein to help with lethargy or adding supplements to boost energy.
Your veterinarian will probably want you to try some simple adjustments before deciding medication. If your cat is still showing signs of depression, they might recommend a small dose of an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. Typically, prescription medications for your cat will also be used on humans, but the dosage will be much lower and determined by your cat’s weight. If prescribed a medication, you’ll want to check with the pharmacist to get the smallest possible caplet size.
Giving medication to cats can be challenging. Sometimes you can hide the medication in food, but many cats figure that one out! Medication pockets are treats designed to hide some types of medications can come in treat form already. There are also other items on the market to help cats swallow their medication easily. Your vet or vet tech can demonstrate good ways to get your kitty to take their meds.
Whether they need to take medication for the rest of their lives, each cat will differ. Some cats will only need a short-term prescription, but others may need to take the medication longer. It will be essential to track your cat’s behavior in response to meds and to make sure to pay attention if depression symptoms return or worsen.
Keeping Your Bengal Cat Happy
While it can be disconcerting to see your cat feeling sad, the good news is it’s very likely something that can be fixed. Having a good relationship with your cat will help tip you off to any changes in behavior. Bengal cats are an example of a cat whose personality shines through, but all cats show their distinct personalities after spending some time with them. Keep an eye out for unusual behaviors and know that depressive symptoms are possible. Our cats make us so happy; we want to make sure they’re comfortable too!