Cat Depression

by Wynne
(Ulsan, South Korea)

My 3 yr old spayed calico indoor cat suddenly stopped eating and with that came a complete behaviour change. No interaction with us, no grooming, hiding away. All symptoms of depression according to what I read.

A complete blood panel showed everything within normal range. Tried different foods, then the vet put her on steroids but that did not increase her appetite.

More research by me on the Internet and finally I asked for her to be put on anti-depressant medication. I forget the name of the drug (we are in South Korea so things are a little more complicated but the name of the drug is not one I recognised) but she is only on half a pill every three days.

The pill stimulates her appetite and then her behaviour reverts to normal, a happy, playful cat. Once the three days are up she becomes withdrawn and totally disinterested in her life. It is awful to watch because we cannot figure out just what is happening to her.

The last resort by my vet is to give her an MRI to rule out a brain tumour but she shows no signs of any symptoms at all of a tumour. I am loathe to have an MRI done so for now will continue with the medication but I am desperate to know if anyone else has experienced this extreme problem?

There have been no changes in her life, nothing new happening or any losses or anything that I could possibly think of which caused this abrupt change. Is she to be on these pills for her life - will they do her other
harm? Why has this happened to her?

I would so much appreciate any insight anyone may have into this problem and what else I could possibly do to help her. My life has become a rollercoaster - when she is happy then I am happy but when she is unhappy then so am I.

Soon I will need the medication too!!!

Please any responses would be wonderful.

Thanks in anticipation.

Editor Suggestions Cat Depression

Dear Wynne,

I’ll be honest with you. I have never dealt with a situation like the one that you describe with your cat during my veterinary career. I’ve seen cats that have been depressed after the loss of an owner or housemate and cats that act depressed because of an underlying illness, but never one so profoundly depressed yet seemingly otherwise healthy.

I think the first thing to do is to make sure she has had a thorough health work up. You mentioned that she had a “complete blood panel.” If she were my patient I would probably also run a urinalysis, thyroid level, and tests for any infectious diseases common to the area where you live (FeLV, FIV and toxoplasmosis in my neck of the woods).

If this were all normal, I’d check her blood pressure, take chest and abdominal x-rays and maybe even perform an abdominal ultrasound before moving on to the MRI (she’s awfully young for a brain tumor).

If she truly is otherwise healthy, you might want to try a feline facial hormone diffuser and the nutritional supplement s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). These could help improve her mood and reduce the need for anti-depressants.

Good luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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Jan 18, 2011
Update on Callie
by: Wynne

Thank you so much for your response. I have taken Callie off the anti-depressants now as they seemed to stop being effective. She is eating better which is great news but her personality has changed. She sleeps practically all the time and even when I am playing with her and trying to stimulate her she becomes aggressive and bad-tempered. We are living in an apartment on the 21st floor so I am wondering if it is boredom that is causing this personality change? I have toys and other things around to play with her but really all she wants to do is sleep. She has had most of the tests you suggested as well as the blood work. I am not doing an MRI as she needs to go to Seoul for that which will be stressful for both of us. So I struggle on worrying about what can possibly have caused this change in my previously sunny tempered happy cat. Any comments and advice gratefully received.

Jan 25, 2011
rotate medications
by: Leigh-Ann

I wonder if it's possible for cats to develop chemical imbalances that cause depression, just like what can happen with humans? It's not something that can be measured by any lab test, but I have to assume it could happen to a cat (even if it's very rare).

People taking antidepressants can go on a "drug holiday" if their medication stops working, and perhaps this could work for your cat as well. Wean the cat off the medication for a few weeks, then start it up again and hopefully it will be effective again. You could also enquire about other medications that might help, and rotate them every few months to retain effectiveness. I've only had cats on buspirone and fluoxetine, but believe there are at least a couple of other meds that can be prescribed for cats.

You sound like a great owner and I think you're doing everything you can to help your cat. I'll keep my fingers crossed that if the problem doesn't resolve on its own, you'll find medications to treat it over the long term.

Feb 26, 2011
Vacant eyes
by: Gretchen

I am so upset about what has happened to my cat and it sounds so much like yours. She is 16 years old and aptly named Scamp - a delightful little rascal that has always been lithe and lean. Sunday all was well but at 5AM Monday I knew something was terribly wrong. Vacant eyes, wobbly gait. She has been to two vets who try but cannot diagnose anything. Had 104 temp at first but that has come down. Blood panel came back fine. She won't eat and rarely drinks so I'm using a syringe to get her some nutrition. Her personality has just gone - I simply cannot figure out what happened so suddenly to change her. Also trying an appetite stimulant that seems to help her but she just nibbles and not very much. I know I'm stressing her by trying to force food and water but what else can I do? I just want my little Scamp back. If only to say goodbye.

Feb 27, 2011
So sorry
by: Anonymous

I was so upset to read your comment about your cat. I do hope you have had some success with getting her to eat. Did neither vet have any suggestions for your cat? I wish I could wave a magic wand for you and make it all better.

Callie is better than she was - medication free - but her disposition is not like it was. She is aggressive often now but she is at least eating again.

Her temperature was never high and I wonder why yours was?

So sorry to be useless to offer any advice - I know what it feels like to be desperate. Can you let me know how you are getting on please?

Best of luck

May 16, 2011
by: Anonymous

Maybe she needs a playmate. Cats like and need other cats to react with. Can you adopt a playmate?

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