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Warning Signs of Cat Moods That Point Toward Boredom, Fear, Anxiety, or Depression

Find out what may have your cat acting strange or different from usual.

Communicating with cats isn’t easy. So, deciphering cat moods can be handy when they seem to frustrate or worry you.

Maybe when they tip their water bowl over, it’s not because they want to get to the water easier. Maybe when they sleep longer than average, it’s not because they’re getting over a late-night bender.

Check out the below lists to get a better insight into what your cat is trying to tell you.

Signs of Boredom

Have you ever noticed your cat tearing up the place? Or maybe they’ve been sulk-ish, not interested in anything around. Your cat might be experiencing some big cat moods of boredom. If your cat shows any of these signs, you may want to view our “Ways to Help” section below!

  • Mopy
  • Loss of interest in surroundings
  • Chasing or fighting with other animals
  • Shredding and scattering toilet paper or tissues
  • “Playing” with a water bowl
  • Scratching furniture (despite having a scratching post)
  • Over-eating
  • Knocking items down or pushing them off surfaces
  • Pouncing on lamps

Signs of Fear

Dr. Krista A. Sirois explains that “fears, phobias, and anxieties develop as a result of experiences in the first year of a cat’s life.” These fears may only worsen as they get older if left unchecked. Sometimes you will know right away that your cat is afraid at a specific moment, but what if they’re showing signs subtly? Keep an eye out for these below signs.

  • Running away
  • Hiding
  • Freezing in place
  • Losing control of bladder/bowels
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Tail wrapped around the body
  • Increased pupil dilation
  • Intense staring at threat
  • Refusing to use the litter box
  • Flattening ears
  • Puffing fur and tail
  • Arching back
  • Aggression through spitting, hissing, growling, swatting, biting, and/or scratching

Signs of Anxiety

Did your cat have negative experiences in their past? If so, they may be feeling anxious about what’s to come next. Ramona Marek explains that cats don’t want to fight; they’d rather avoid. It’s not always aggressive cat language that expresses stress or fear. This list helps to identify signs of anxiety.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Increased sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Not using the litterbox
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Overgrooming
  • Excessive meowing or cat yowling
  • Sucking on blankets or toys
  • Excessive chewing on parts of their body
  • Noticeable changes in behaviors
  • Increased heart rate
  • Panting
  • Trembling
  • Salivation

Signs of Depression

Fear tends to turn into anxiety, which then can move into depression. You may notice similar signs between all three with small variances. We’ve tried to list out some of those differences below.

  • Not seeking out physical contact (Reduced contact in brushing against you, head bumping, greeting, or cuddling)
  • Decreased grooming/matted coat
  • Extended periods of hiding
  • Sudden displays of aggression
  • Upset tummy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Disinterest in a favorite toy(s)
  • Increased sleeping

Ways to Help Your Cat

  1. Take them to the vet as many of these signs could be pointing to health problems. Jessica Vogelsang explains, “medical problems such as kidney disease or GI cancer can cause nausea and decreased appetite that mimic depression.” Also, “chronic stress can have an impact on a pet’s emotional, and even physical, health.” So get your pet checked out.
  2. Get your cat some (a lot of) interactive toys. Entice the hunter inside. Give them something they can climb, like a cat tree. Provide more scratchers or posts. Give them a place they can perch and look out the window. If you don’t have money for a bunch of new toys, check out these excellent DIY cat toys.
  3. Play with them. Sometimes, all your cat needs is your attention. Especially if they’re bored. Try to dedicate time each day, multiple times if possible, to play with your cat.
  4. Make sure they have a routine. Help your cat feel comfortable instead of on the edge of what will happen next.
  5. Upgrade their food. This doesn’t mean fancy, expensive cat food. Alternatively, try adding a little taste enhancement like chicken broth, but talk to your vet to ensure these changes are safe for your pet.
  6. Don’t get mad when they’re tearing up the place. Monika Flora explains that “cleaning up their mess, the cats actually see that as spending time together, and in their heads, that makes all the damage worthwhile.” Instead, look again at suggestion number 3. That should help with their destructive behavior.
  7. Separate your cat from the negative stimulation that is causing them to fear or become anxious. Maybe let them hang out in a room away from the threat. Or you could make a little cubby-hole for them to find sanctuary.
  8. Groom them, pet them, gently help take care of their coat when they’re not feeling up for the challenge.
  9. Look into Animal Reiki as a complementary healing treatment to your vet’s medical advice. It’s a wonderful treatment in helping with relaxation as well as pain management.
  10. Be patient. Either it’s going to be a long road to healing, or your cat may merely need time to adjust to change. They might have overextended themselves and need a moment to recuperate. Sometimes, a cat needs space for a bit.

Your cat will definitely let you know if they’re bored and craving some attention, negative or positive. They’ll also give you signs that something is wrong and they need your help. So keep an eye out for those cat moods, and continue to love them like we know you do.

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