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Blog - cat behavior

5 Signs Your Cat May Have a Mental Health Problem

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Mental health awareness is a hot topic in our culture today. With the alarming rise of suicides, we need to watch for signs of mental health problems in the people around us. However, did you ever suspect your cat of having a mental health problem? Our cats can struggle with depression and anxiety just like people can. 

Here are 5 signs your cat may have a mental health problem.

1. Constantly crying for food

If your cat cries for food even when her dish is half full, this may be a sign of a mental health problem. She's probably not crying for food. She may be seeking attention or love, or she could be feeling lonely. To help her feel better, spend some extra time cuddling her.

2. Hiding from visitors

Does your cat hide under the bed when visitors come to your home? Does she act strangely when she notices a new cat outside the window? If so, your cat may struggle with anxiety. While this may be normal behaviour for a feral kitten that is being tamed, it may signal a mental health problem for a domestic adult cat.

To help your cat deal with anxiety, don't force her to meet strangers. Give her time to adjust to their presence, and protect her from overeager children. You can check out these tips from cat expert Pam Johnson-Bennett on how to help a fearful cat.

3. Changes in appetite

Has your cat suddenly lost her appetite? This can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or a mental health issue. To rule out a medical condition, take her to the vet for a thorough checkup. If the vet doesn't find anything wrong, assess your cat's situation. Are there new stressors in her life (new cats, lifestyle changes, losing someone)? How can you help her deal with these stressors and regain her appetite?

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4. Lack of activity

If your normally active cat suddenly loses interest in anything other than TV, she may have a mental health problem. It's called boredom, and it plagues the healthiest of cats. The good news is that this one is fairly easy to resolve! Just add variety and spice to your cat's life. Instead of playing the same old games, try a puzzle feeder. Or take her on a walk (on a leash, of course). Perhaps you could watch an animal movie together. Your cat will love you for it!  

5. Compulsive over-grooming

Is your cat constantly licking her fur? Have you noticed sections of short, stubbly fur on your cat's coat? This can be a sign of OCD in cats. When some cats feel stressed, they spend excessive time licking their fur. Licking releases chemicals called endorphins in the brain. Endorphins produce a pleasurable sensation and reduce pain. Because licking makes them feel better, cats may overdo it. This causes their fur to break off.

If this is a problem for your cat, read this post: 5 Tips to Help Fix Your Cat's OCD.

What about your cat?

If several of these signs are true for your kitty, take her to the vet. He or she will be able to tell you more and give you tips on improving your cat's mental health. Mental health plays an important role in life--for people and for cats.

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