Cats are often thought of as aloof and independent creatures who don’t care about their human companions, but this is not entirely accurate. While cats are independent animals that prefer to be on their own, rather than in a pack, they are a bit empathic and can sense emotions. But can they sense your depression or anxiety?
Cats mirror their human’s moods, including depression and anxiety. They get uncomfortable with tense arguments and will hide during those moments because they are scared. When there is too much emotion in the house, cats get depressed and anxious too. But they offer unconditional love and support.
It’s not uncommon for your cat to sit on your lap when you feel sad or put their paw on your arm in a gesture of love and friendship. Cats are complex animals, so if you want to understand them, keep reading.
Many Cats are Trained as Therapy Animals
While dogs get most of the credit as therapy animals, cats are also used in therapy to help mirror what is appropriate behavior and what isn’t. Several therapists use cats when working with families because when arguments get loud or inappropriate behavior, cats will “yell” or meow loudly as a response to uncomfortable situations.
In contrast with therapy dogs, which allow all types of behavior, cats will not allow that behavior. They are very sensitive to the emotional changes of the patients and their families. They show clients what type of behaviors are appropriate by how they react to negative emotions.
While dogs are appropriate for the beginning stages of therapy, cats are more appropriate for the growth part of therapy due to how they encourage appropriate behavior. Cats don’t put up with bad behavior. If a cat gets uncomfortable with clients’ behavior, they will let the clients know about it.
Cats are also trained as emotional support animals for those with mental illness, as they sense emotions and will cuddle with their person who is experiencing distress and anxiety. Cuddling with a cat releases the “feel-good” hormone known as oxytocin. So there is a reason that cuddling with your cat helps you feel better.
While cats are good with therapy and growth, if their needs are not met, or they constantly live in a stressful home, they can become depressed and anxious themselves. Like humans, cats need a balance between helping humans meet their needs, and getting their needs met themselves.
Cats Get Uncomfortable With Human Arguments
When two or more humans live in a home with a cat, there are bound to be arguments sometimes. Cats will hide if the argument gets intense or too loud. Either that or they will yell at the humans for being too loud. Some cats will come right up to their humans and almost screech at them for having loud arguments.
Cats get uncomfortable with human arguments because they sense anger, anxiety, and other feelings from humans. With that being said, when they do sense your depression or anxiety, they will come to you and sit near or on you as a way to show how much they care about you. They offer unconditional love and support, even though they get uncomfortable with angry emotions.
Cats Mirror Humans’ Moods and Anxiety
It has been shown that cats pay attention to human emotional gestures and facial patterns that match depression or anxiety. If their human is sad, their facial expressions will show that, and the cat picks up on that. Or if their humans are upset in some way, the cat also picks up on these emotions.
But cats will also mirror their humans’ moods and anxiety. A cat who lives with someone is consistently sad or anxious also becomes sad and anxious. You can tell by how their health is faring or if they are overweight due to low energy and a larger appetite if they are depressed or anxious.
Cats with anxiety will also urinate on your clothing or bedding, or other soft surfaces to tell you that they are suffering. How you can help your cat is to get some personal help, such as therapy or life coaching. When you aren’t depressed or anxious, your cat will relax and not be depressed or anxious.
One could say that cats are co-dependent with their human companion in that their moods depend on their humans’ moods.
Cats Offer Unconditional Love and Support
Despite your cat’s mirroring of your moods, your cat still offers unconditional love and support regardless of how it feels. When you’re sad, your cat will come to cuddle with you or put their paw on your arm to tell you that it understands and loves you.
There are several stories online that talk about how cats calm their humans’ anxieties and cheer them up simply by cuddling with them. Cats are intuitive and know when people are sad or scared, angry, and will sit near their human buddies.
Cats Can Get Depressed and Anxious When Around Too Much Emotion
As with humans, cats can get too depressed and anxious when they are around too much emotion. For example, when cat parents are overly anxious, they tend to have overweight cats who are “skittish” when they hear small noises. Their cats also develop stress-related illnesses and have more fear.
Cat parents who are narcissistic tend to have cats who are dominant and aggressive bullies. Impulsive cat parents sometimes have impulsive and excitable cats that are erratic. But that much emotion can wear on cats after a while and cause them to become withdrawn and depressed.
Suppose your cat has signs of depression, anxiety, or is too excitable. In that case, you might want to schedule a therapy appointment for yourself and a vet appointment for your cat for the health of all family members, including your feline buddy.
Look For Signs of Depression or Anxiety In your Cat
When your cat is too depressed or anxious, it will stop eating and will sleep more often during the day. They will also destroy things and tear things up in your home. An anxious cat will be jumpy and excitable at the smallest noise or talking. Cats who have depression might have the following symptoms:
- They are eating less than normal or normal, indicating that an appetite change because of depression.
- They are sleeping more than normal. Cats need 12-15 hours of sleep per day, but when a cat sleeps more than 15 hours per day, they might be depressed.
- Your cat refuses to play their favorite games and lacks the energy to do normal cat things.
- Your cat is aggressive when they are normally very gentle.
What can you do to help your cat not be depressed? While you might not be able to pull your cat out of depression completely, you can help your friend by giving it attention and interacting with your cat by playing its favorite games.
Cats are very intuitive creatures and will sense when you’re depressed, anxious, happy, angry, or sad. And while they can get too much emotion, they will still offer you unconditional love and support, making them ideal for mental health support animals.
When you’re depressed, having a support animal can help you have a routine that keeps you busy. A cat can also help calm you when you’re upset through the simple act of petting them and caring for them. They also provide companionship when you’re lonely, or you need a friend.
While cats can sense anxiety and depression, they don’t let it get to them very much as they know you’re there to support them.
- The Establishment: Cats Are the Unsung Heroes of Mental Health
- Insider: Your Own Anxiety Could Be Making Your Cat Stressed Out
- Metro: Therapy Cats Can Be Life-Changing For People With Mental Illness
- BBC Earth: Your Cat Can Pick Up on How You Are Feeling
- Web MD: How Pets Help Manage Depression
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.