Cat-astrophic compulsions

Watching Puss chase her tail repeatedly can be quite entertaining. However, before you start laughing at your kitty’s silliness, stop and observe. There may be a serious underlying cause for this behaviour.
By Pets Team
Published on Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Watching your kitty perform his daily grooming ritual may make you go ‘ooh and ahh’ at the sheer cuteness of his actions. However, when you start to notice that bald patches, discolouration, fur being pulled out or the skin under his ‘favourite spot’ is sore, it’s a sign that something is wrong with Puss. 

Overgrooming or psychogenic licking that results in symmetrical fur loss on both sides of the body or thighs can be a symptom of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in cats. It is defined as a behavioural disorder where a domesticated cat engages in recurrent, exaggerated activities that are deemed excessive in duration, frequency and intensity.  Behaviours such as biting oneself, over scratching causing injury to the skin and spraying or marking of urine are also possible characteristics of the disorder. Similarly, overeating, repetitive vocalisation, compulsive pacing, sucking that is directed at a person or object, tail chasing or fabric chewing are also manifestations of the condition.

What causes ocd?

More often than not, the compulsion is a coping mechanism for Puss when he is confronted with certain pressures in his surroundings. Cats are highly sensitive animals and are likely to be stressed out by loud noises and sounds from construction works or house renovations.

Even though environmental stressors are often the main culprits of the disorder in felines, there are other contributing factors as well. Boredom, anxiety and neglect may also cause a cat to develop OCD. A pet parent’s reaction can also reinforce the obsession. Owners may unintentionally reward the undesired behaviour by giving the cat attention or food in an attempt to distract the animal from acting out its compulsion.

What can I do?

Identifying the stressor that is causing the behaviour is the first step to treating the disorder. If it is related to the loss of a close feline companion or the addition of a new family member, pet parents can help by showing extra attention to the cat to assure and distract him. If your OCD feline lives in a multi-cat household, tension and rivalry among the cats may add stress to your furkid out. Help relieve Kitty’s distress by providing sufficient litter trays and hiding spaces for all the pets at home.

Ensure that equal attention is given to each individual feline. Boundaries need to be set to prevent a more dominant cat from bullying his peers. Even if Puss’ compulsive behaviour has been controlled or eliminated, owners must not be complacent as a relapse is possible. Owners need to be attentive to their furkids and learn how to manage the condition properly to prevent it from reoccurring and causing more harm to the cats.

Besides using natural alternatives like calming aids or aromatherapy to calm Puss down, providing Puss with a safe environment which is also mentally stimulating can help reduce the onset of OCD. Avoid using harsh discipline as that can also cause Kitty additional stress and make him afraid of you.