i think my cat is either stuck up or depressed
July 12, 2007 9:10 AM   Subscribe

is my cat depressed?

my somewhat ornery cat is acting more standoffish than usual.

some background information: i adopted kiki, a two year old snowshoe from a shelter on May 1st. She was only at the shelter for a couple of weeks. prior to that it is my understanding that she had a home. they gave her up because "she took up too much time." she is not fearful or shy. she likes to be loved on her terms and will swipe with claws out or a quick nip to let you know she has enough. she's not a lap cat but likes to be in the same room as me. 3 weeks after i adopted kiki, i adopted a 3 month old male kitten to keep her company because no matter how much i played with her she still had so much energy.

she is acting lethargic (due to the weather i think) but she does this new thing where she sits or lies on the floor with her back to the room. she is eating, drinking, pooping, cleaning regularly.
i thought maybe she was depressed because she was jealous of all the attention the smooshy kitten is getting so i try to lavish her with attention as well but that doesn't seem to be it and will ask me to stop after she's had a little bit. she gets along with the kitten, though not in an affectionate way. they play and hang out on the same window sill, which from the feisty kiki is the best i can ask for.

everyone who has visits me now asks me if she is depressed. everyone remembers the crazy ornery cat who dared you to love her instead of this lethargic cat who lies on the ground with her back to all of us. whats up with this? is she just asserting her superiority? is my cat depressed or just being a cat? and more importantly, is there anything i should do?
posted by ceesbees to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's possible that your cat has settled down into its normal self now, and that what you have previously seen is how it acts when adapting to a new environment. Now that it's figured out "This person is not gonna eat me or boot me out into the streets", your Kiki may feel comfortable enough to be true to its nature. Which could involve a great deal of self-indulgent and oblivious napping, which she is free to do now that she has dubbed herself to be the master of all she surveys.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 9:17 AM on July 12, 2007

She might just be getting older and out of the younger cat playful phase. Our almost 3 year old female cat is like that and has been that way since she was a little over a year old. When the almost 3 year old male cat romps around the house playing with the dog, she usually sits on the TV watching them with this pissy look on her face as if "omg, playing is SO juvenile!"

Cats sometimes have attitudes and there's not much you can do about them. But... the lethargy makes piques my curiosity. Think it's enough to take her to the vet?
posted by jerseygirl at 9:25 AM on July 12, 2007

It could be the heat, jealousy, etc, but any time a cat is lethargic, I would recommend at least calling the vet. It's probably nothing medical, but one of my cats was very lethargic once and I kind of ignored it--it turned out to be serious by the time I got him to the vet. At least the vet could tell you if the behavior is normal for the situation etc.
posted by la petite marie at 9:30 AM on July 12, 2007

Yeah, I would at least want to make sure she isn't running a fever. If this is sudden (as in, no sort of ramp down that you can remember from the previous behavior), then that might be worrisome. Our cats, FWIW, go thru phases. The male cat is in a "I will sit with you when I want, which is at this point, not often," phase, while the female cat is in a "I want to sit on you all the time, no, really, even when you sleep, " phase. They will switch later on this year. It's their way. Yours might be doing something similar.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:39 AM on July 12, 2007

The heat is a good guess. All of our cats are lethargic in the summer time. One big hint would be if she's picking cool spots to lie down in.... cool surfaces (tile, wood), places that get a breeze, or just shade. If you think she's over heating, the best thing to do is make sure her water is changed frequently so that it stays a little cooler...you can put an ice cube in, too, and see if she likes it, but usually cool is better then cold.
posted by anaelith at 9:43 AM on July 12, 2007

It sounds like your cat has calmed down into being a normal cat. They don't stay insanely energetic their entire lives and "somewhat ornery" and "standoffish" are often par for the course.

According to this site, “A depressed cat may stop eating or go on an eating binge, show less interest in activities such as playing and exploring, or it may just lie around and sleep a lot.” Unfortunately, those symptoms are relative. Show me a cat that doesn't sleep a lot!

Personally, my red flag for an unhealthy cat is a decrease in appetite. However, my rule of thumb is that if your cat's behavior is bothering you, take her to the vet. Either the doctor will find something that needs fixing, or he'll say it's just a phase the cat's going through and just send you on your way. Better safe than sorry.
posted by puritycontrol at 9:51 AM on July 12, 2007

Best answer: My older cat slowed down a lot once I got a kitten playmate. The kitten just wears him out. Plus, they get attention from each other and thus need less from me. I barely see either of them anymore.

It's possible that Kiki is jealous of your affection towards kitten. Kitten should get most of his affection from Kiki, not you. Kiki should get most of her affection from you (and affection doesn't necessarily = petting: try playing with her more). I know kittens are irresistable, but this will allow them to get along better in the long run. Mine bathe each other and sleep together now, because the older one considers the kitten to be "his" cat, and not a replacement for him.
posted by desjardins at 10:34 AM on July 12, 2007

oh, and pics pls.
posted by desjardins at 10:35 AM on July 12, 2007

Response by poster: thanks for the assurances! i will monitor her "lethargy." i do notice her laying on cooler surfaces and she still has her daily crazy time with the kitty. a visit to the vet may be in the works...

posted by ceesbees at 10:37 AM on July 12, 2007

Response by poster: jdesjardins- that makes total sense. but i think the sleeping together and grooming thing will take some more time, like maybe eternity. when i first brought home the kitten, he tried to snuggle with kiki but with a few well aimed swipes, he learned not to make physical contact with kiki unless they're play fighting. (but kiki does let mimo sleep near her though, just no touching.) but i will try to show kiki affection more by playing with her. it can only help. i just thought they were getting enough play time with each other.

i always said i have a cat for me (kiki) and a cat for the cat (mimo).
posted by ceesbees at 10:47 AM on July 12, 2007

Best answer: In our cat experience (15 years with a big male cat, 3 years with a smallish calico female), the main thing I wanted to share is that it can take a year or more for the cat-owner-household relationship to stabilise.

So I wouldn't be surprised to see that your cats' personalities will be changing over the next year or more, as the kitten matures and as they both adapt to you, the house and each other.
posted by Artful Codger at 11:10 AM on July 12, 2007

Another thing you can do before taking her to the vet is to check if she's dehydrated. Feel her gums. If they feel a bit "sticky", she may not be getting enough water.
posted by matildaben at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2007

Best answer: It's only just over a couple of months since you got Kiki, so give it some more time, lots more time. It's fairly common for shelter cats to be a bit traumatised by the process of being given up to a shelter (abandonment), adapting to shelter life then again adapting to their new home.

Moving home is considered one of the major stresses humans go through, so imagine it to be more of a deal for a cat, who doesn't have a clue what is happening. The cat only has previous experience to go on, at least humans know they are moving to a new safe home.

Two months is a pretty short time for a new cat to be completely at ease in it's new home. Less than two months is an unreasonably short time to expect cats to be settled together and the heirarchy to have been fully established. From the bed picture, it looks as if they are fairly at ease with each other already.

The heat is probably contributing to Kiki's lethargy, cats really flatten out in the heat and often won't tolerate much in the way of petting or fuss when the temperature is high.

If Kiki is eating, eliminating, grooming normally then I don't think she's showing signs of depression. Similarly with play fighting.

As you say Kiki came from a home where "she took up too much time" consider that the sudden rise in attention she is getting, both from you and the kitten might be phasing her a bit. Kiki didn't have much time to settle before the kitten arrived and spending time with her back to the household goings on might just be her way of saying "ok, I've had enough for now, leave me alone"

If you are still concerned, speak to your vet or a qualified pet behaviourist.

Good luck!
posted by Arqa at 12:31 PM on July 12, 2007

Response by poster: thank you everyone!!
posted by ceesbees at 9:52 AM on July 13, 2007

My guess would be it sounds like a bout of sulking rather than depression.

When they wander off and sit with their backs turned to anyone that might approach - Sulking.

If they lay with their head and neck stretched out flat (usually hanging of the edge of a chair or bed a little) but both legs pulled in (it will remind you of a tortise). So listless and dejected - :(

Kiki may just have enjoyed the treat em mean keep em keen tune she had you guys dancing to and now that Smooshy has come along and wrecked everything. As my brother used to say "I hate this family!" And just like my brother that's not true :) because she lets him in her window and plays with him at all (If she plays longer than you get to pat...)

Also depends on how they play, if she is biting paws and nipping belly it's a dominance thing. And does it end with him squealing or hissing & *meerowling*(you know that noise that sounds like a chook)

And one more thing. Cats are usually much more clever than people give them credit for. (Their eyes will give them away). They are perceptive if you have a Smooshy voice and a Kiki voice. If you go 'oh look at Smooshy' when you used to say 'ow, look what Kiki's doin' .'

Inconspicuously!, observe them both carefully, make mental note of it and treat all actions as suspicious and calculated... Hairy bastards.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 1:27 PM on September 7, 2007

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