Obsessive-compulsive disorder in cats. Feline OCD

Imagine that you repeated a series of behaviors over and over again: washing your hands, cleaning the house, walking in a certain way, continuously checking if the door is closed, etc. These intense and repetitive behaviors would cause serious problems in your daily life.

This is what would be an  obsessive compulsive disorder , or OCD , a mental disorder suffered by approximately 1 to 3 percent of the population. Now imagine that your cat feels the same. Yes, cats can have OCD too.

Cats cannot express the mental anguish they feel, it is up to us to recognize the signs of the disorder. If your cat suffers from OCD, in addition to veterinary medical care, you can do other things to help alleviate his mental discomfort and ensure that he enjoys a good quality of life despite the disorder.

Next, I will explain the causes, signs and possible treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder in felines.

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder in cats?

Known abbreviated as OCD, it is a behavioral disorder that causes a cat to perform certain “rituals” on a regular basis, for no apparent reason. In general, they are abnormal, repetitive and exaggerated behaviors that do not seem to have a practical purpose.

Often times, cats with OCD will perform these peculiar behaviors over and over again until they can harm themselves. For example, cats with OCD have been known to groom themselves bald, or binge eat until they are overweight and unhealthy. OCD behaviors are often a response to anxiety and are a way for your cat to cope with persistent stress.

There is no specific known cause of feline OCD, but it appears to be more prevalent in certain breeds of cats such as Siamese and other eastern breeds. The feline OCD can be genetic , but it is unclear.

Signs of OCD in Cats

While OCD is incurable , it is not life threatening. Your cat can live with OCD, but you must make adjustments to adapt and lessen the impact of the disorder on his life.

Some cats will have various abnormal behaviors, while others will only display one primary obsessive compulsive behavior.

If you observe any of the following behaviors in your cat, consult a veterinarian:

  • Walking or running around the house for no apparent reason.
  • Excessive grooming is common with OCD. Cats with OCD may lick or chew their hair to the point of bald spots.
  • Eating and chewing on fabrics and other inedible items. This is often called sucking wool.
  • Chasing and attacking the tail, even self-mutilation of it.
  • Self-mutilation of any part of the body.
  • Frequent and repetitive stimulation and / or vocalization.
  • Hunt, stalk and chase imaginary prey.
  • Constant meows, which can turn into a compulsion.

Causes of OCD in our cats

Besides being a mental disorder, obsessive compulsive behaviors are the result of several environmental factors , as well as stress and anxiety .

Triggers can be a recent change in the home, a new family member, or a new pet.

In multi-cat households, OCD-like behaviors are common because cats are very territorial. Cats silently intimidate each other and to cope with aggression problems, some will develop OCD. Furthermore, isolating them to avoid problems can trigger compulsive behaviors in the confined cat that help calm them down.

But what may start out as normal can become compulsive, when a cat’s unwanted behavior is reinforced by its owner. Attention and food are perceived as rewards for a cat, and only serve to increase or even exaggerate the behavior to avoid.

How to diagnose OCD in cats

OCD cannot be diagnosed with a specific test. But we do have to start by ruling out and treating any underlying medical cause with an extensive diagnostic study.

Some neurological diseases, painful conditions, and dermatological disorders that can cause itching and pain have symptoms similar to OCD.

CT scans and MRIs can be used in neurological diagnosis. Cats that are self-mutilating or have psychogenic alopecia may have parasites, allergies, and other skin problems, which will reveal blood and skin dermatological diagnoses.

Once we can exclude all possible medical causes, your vet will observe your cat’s behavior. and a series of diagnostic tests will be performed, including a chemical blood profile, a blood count, and a urinalysis.

The vet will then take your cat’s health, history, and behaviors into account along with test results to aid in the diagnosis of OCD.

Your vet will discuss treatment options with you. In the event of a severe disorder, he or she may advise a feline behavior specialist.

Treatment for feline obsessive-compulsive disorder

There is no known cure for OCD, but there are some treatments that can reduce or even eliminate the signs.

When a cat is diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder , medications that inhibit serotonin reuptake are often effective in reducing or controlling symptoms. Among these is Fluoxetine and Clomipramine for cats .

Side Effects of Fluoxetine in Cats

These effects are rare, including weakness, irritability, and decreased salivary secretion.

Apart from medications, another key to living with a cat with OCD is in behavioral therapy and carrying out certain environmental modifications . Treatment should include an increase in activities that compete with their repetitive behaviors. And even if your pet’s behavior is annoying due to OCD, never punish or scold your cat.

Here are some tips you can try to modify their behavior:

  • Get involved to reduce environmental stresses, such as loud noises or things that can make your cat uncomfortable.
  • Set a predictable daily schedule for your cat, with no surprises.
  • Provide a cozy place for your cat to rest and sleep and be alone.
  • Following a solid daily routine can give you peace of mind.
  • Interact more with your cat through play.
  • You can play with him, placing hidden treats in your house, trying to find them.
  • Reward only for their desirable behaviors, and ignore their compulsive behaviors, even if they seem funny and cute to you.
  • Play some interactive games and puzzles that use food. These games keep many cats entertained and happy.




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