What do college students and cats have in common? Besides always being hungry, both have more mental health issues now than ten years ago. And the reasons are surprisingly similar.
The 2022 Healthy Minds Study, cited below, revealed that the mental health of the average college student has steadily declined since 2013. According to the study, "More than 60 percent of students during the 2020â€“2021 school year met the criteria for one or more mental health problems, such as major depression and anxiety."
Research reveals that felines are experiencing the same phenomena. According to Green Element, cited below, cats experienced a 50 percent increase in anxiety in 2022. There are different culprits, from someone moving their litter box to other pets in the household, strangers, loud noises, and more. A recent Green Element survey found that while pets enrich our lives, we don't always improve theirs as much.
Anxiety in people is a common topic of conversation. But some people think it's ridiculous to talk about a cat's mental health. People with anxiety issues frequently appear wound up or listless. They may have trouble concentrating and withdraw from friends or activities they once enjoyed. Cats also show anxiety by withdrawing. They avoid eye contact, shift their bodies away from people, hide under furniture and flick their tails repeatedly. They might also groom themselves less frequently and eat more (or less) than usual.
Other mental health issues commonly found in humans, such as OCD, are also found among animals. People with compulsions often do things like cleaning things repeatedly or becoming hyper-organized. Cats can develop compulsions, too, and exhibit behaviors like loud meowing, pacing, sucking or biting on objects, and more.
In an article Dr. Wendy Hauser wrote for ASPCA, cited below, she suggested a few things that might help an anxious or depressed kitty. "Stick to a routine. Cats are not fans of uncertainty, so having steady times for meals, cuddles, and playtime can help them feel more comfortable and relaxed," she said. Hauser also suggests jazzing up a cat's meals or adding a few new toys, perhaps those with catnip.
Overall, mental health problems often mask physical issues; the opposite can also be true. Cat parents must pay attention to their kitty's movements and attitudes to know when to call in a veterinarian. Getting to the crux of the matter before rewarding or punishing questionable behaviors is essential. Suppose your vet doesn't find a physical problem, but something is still disrupting life at home. In that case, your vet may want to refer you to an actual animal therapist certified as a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
Quote to remember: "The idea of calm exists in a sitting cat." - Jules Renard
Healthy Minds Study
"The Healthy Minds Study - Student Survey"
"STUDY: PREVALENCE OF PET ANXIETY IN THE US, 2022"
ASPCA Pet Insurance
"What to Know About Mental Health Care and Cats"