Many animal behaviorists believe that cats can suffer at this time of year, particularly if they are normally an indoor cat. The signs are very similar to those we would look for in humans and it is worth taking a look at the suggestions here to keep them happy all winter long.
Food and cat’s behavior in winter
Keep an eye on how well your cat is eating. Some cats may stop eating altogether while others can go on an eating binge. Others show less interest than normal in playing and other activities, turning into a bit of a couch potato. They may lie around and sleep a lot, not use the litter tray properly or neglect personal hygiene and grooming.
A normally friendly cat can become aggressive, may hide from his owner or become an attention seeker by indulging in bad habits such as excessive mowing or clawing furniture.
Why so blue?
It is often similar situations to those that affect humans that can make a feline feel down. For example, changes to the household such as people going away or extra guests (not all of whom are always welcome) can all be a source of worry. The cat’s owner may be far busier than normal, prone to getting stressed and not be willing to pay the cat much attention.
The cat will be unable to understand the reasons for this change in behavior but will inevitably pick up that their owner is exceptionally stressed or out of sorts. Cats are extremely perceptive and can pick up mood changes and atmospheres very quickly.
It might be hard in these situations but try to consider your cat and how your behavior might be seen by him.
Try to be as cheerful and attentive as possible around him if you can.
‘Tiss the season …
There doesn’t have to be a crisis how-ever for a cat to feel sorry for itself. A cat that is used to being outside all summer may not be able to roam so freely during cold weather and may not fancy venturing out much at all. This can result in a lack of activity and exercise, change of diet and boredom if left at home for long hours alone.
A cat that is used to the company at home all day may suddenly find himself alone for long periods on a fairly regular basis with increased outings for many households around Christmas and New Year. You could leave a radio or some music playing while you are out so that the house is not overly quiet.
Try to make a fuss of your cat the minute you are home and find a little extra time for him if possible.
Playtime for cats during winter
While some species hibernate for the winter, cats do not slow down at all and still require the same amount of interaction they would normally receive from their owners. Make sure you remember to find time to play with your cat, especially in the evening. Cats would naturally go out hunting at dusk and dawn so will want to be especially active at these times. Exercise and activity produce feel-good endorphins and will also help prevent your cat from putting on unwanted weight.
Use the additional time indoors for plenty of cuddles, grooming, massage, and training. Some breeds are excellent at learning tricks and this can be a fun activity for both of you. It keeps the cat’s brain active and will make him feel physically tired too.
If you think your cat may just be bored or lonely, there are some simple remedies to try to improve their situation. Try to rotate a variety of toys so that they have something different to play with on a regular basis.
Get your cat active all winter long!
The following suggestions may be just the thing to keep your cat occupied, active and happy during any cold spell.
• Leave a paper bag on the floor for your cat to flick around.
• Tie one end of a piece of rope to a cat toy and the other end to a chair.
• Cut up a paper towel roll and stuff it with cat treats then close up the ends so that your cat can bat it around the floor to release just a few treats at a time.
• Clear a window sill, put a chair close to a window or buy a window perch for your cat so that it can sit and watch what’s going on outside.
• A bird feeder close in the garden, close to a window, is always of interest!
• Cardboard boxes are a great source of entertainment. Leave a couple of different sizes around for your cat to explore or hide in.
• Rub a little catnip on to the scratching post for an instant surprise.
• Play with a fishing rod-style toy with your cat so that the two of you play together.
The sun factor
As humans, light levels are important to cats too. Make sure you leave curtains and blinds open to allow daylight in for as long as possible.
With the cost of gas and electricity rising again recently, heating our houses is a concern for many but cats do like to be warm. If you can’t have the heating on all day, try to place your cat’s bed by a sunny window, add an extra blanket or invest in a heating pad. Litter trays should be provided indoors and also placed near a safe heat source.
Remember that older or ailing cats will feel the cold more, as they will generally be less mobile.
Know your cat‘s behavior
Be aware of your cat’s behavior and activity and lookout for signs of change.
Although it seems a long time away, the spring will soon be here and those winter blues should fade away in no time.
However, if your cat remains depressed or you are worried at any time, consult your vet or a qualified animal behaviorist, particularly if the cat has stopped eating.
Is your cat feeling down during winter?
A depressed cat may show several of the following signs:
• Stop eating or binge eat;
• Become inactive;
• Lay around and sleep a lot;
• Not use the litter tray properly;
• Become aggressive;
• Become distant or hide;
• Start attention-seeking behaviors.