Do cats have OCD?
Can cats have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Yes, they can, and often do. To understand why, it helps to take a look at why people get it.
It’s a side effect of stress and results in a variety of strange but mostly benign behaviors, including things like hair twirling, nail biting, hand washing, etc. In cats, we often see them over-grooming (to the point of small bald spots), sucking on household items like slippers or socks, and eating non-food materials like paper or plastic.
Since cats are very sensitive animals, they are quite vulnerable to stress from their environment. But since they don’t have human intelligence, it can be much harder to break the cycle and get them to stop a particular behavior, which may be necessary if they’re harming themselves.
Eating paper or plastic, for example, could lead to an intestinal blockage, and constant scratching at fur and skin can lead to sores that become infected and turn into ulcerations. Once the stressor or triggering situation is identified, it’s not like we can sit down with the cat and explain to him why he’s doing something, and then he can quit. By the time it becomes a real problem, it is already an ingrained behavior or habit. And habits are hard to break, even for humans who figure out why they do it.
To find ways to manage a cat’s obsessive behaviors, the first approach might be to identify the stress that may have started it and remove it. If their reactive behavior isn’t too ingrained, they may relax and stop doing some things. Even so, it could still be a challenge to stop the activity.
Some causes of stress-related compulsions include:
- Separating a kitten from its mother too soon, interrupting the time they need to nurse and learn social skills with their siblings.
- A chaotic home where the cat cannot relax. Sometimes grooming is a comforting behavior, so they will groom themselves more often, even constantly.
- Changes in your environment. This is a list that could be quite long, but short, the usual ones are moving, rearranging furniture, different food, loss of a pet or human friend, new baby or pet added to the family, staying alone too long or too often . , being ignored… and more.
remedies may include:
- Spend more time with the cat, either playing or just sitting together.
- Feed a quality diet to ensure optimal health. Feeling good physically promotes feeling good emotionally.
- A veterinary wellness exam to rule out any health issues and to discuss relaxation methods your vet might be familiar with. In extreme cases, a temporary series of tranquilizing preparations can help during a behavior modification program.
If you can’t solve the problem on your own, this might be the time to ask a feline behavior specialist for help.