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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders in Cats

What are the Forms of OCD in Cats?

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Cat Behavior & Training > Cat Behavior 101 > Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior in Cats

Obsessive-compulsive disorders in cats come in several forms of behavior, and stem from several causes. In a study published by AVMA, environmental/social stress were found to be factors causing OCD in cats. Female cats were found to be more prone, and inbreeding of purebreds was a factor, particularly in Oriental breeds.

The study concluded that a combination of behavioral modification and medication may reduce the frequency and severity of OCD behavior. We will examine here in detail the most common forms of OCD in cats.

How to Stop Cat Over-Grooming

Photo of a cat grooming its foot
Photo Credit: © iStockPhoto/knape

It's an easily observable fact that cats quickly groom their coats when faced with stressful situations, embarrassment at having committed a cat blunder, such as knocking over a stool with a clumsy jump. However when the grooming continues long after the stressful situation is over, it enters the realm of psychogenic alopecia, as described here by Amy Shojai, CABC.

Since over-grooming can also stem from a real physical cause, it is important to first eliminate potential causes such as fleas, fungal infections, and allergies.

Amy covers everything from diagnosis to treatment, along with things you can do to lessen your cats' stress, which leads to psychogenic alopecia.

Wool Sucking and Chewing

Jaspurr Suckling his Foreleg
Photo Credit: © Lance Syufy

The most common cause of wool sucking is lack of early socialization by being taken away from the mother cat at a very early age. The cat's earliest pleasurable experience is suckling at his mother's teat. Even after weaning, the kitten may return to suckle as a form of "comfort behavior." A cat removed from his mom tries to reproduce this experience by sucking on wool, his human's ear or finger, or another cat. Our Jaspurr left the nest at 6.5 weeks, and to this day finds comfort in sucking his own left foreleg. He will continue for several minutes, then carefully groom the area when he is finished.

Wool sucking may be harmless unless the cat starts ingesting the material. Veterinary intervention is necessary then.

Feline Hyperesthesia aka "Rippling Skin Disorder"

Joey Sometimes Exhibits Signs of Rippling Skin Disorder
Photo Credit: © Lance Syufy

The critical difference between "normal crazy behavior" that most younger cats exhibit and feline hyperesthesia is that with the latter, the cat is actually in distress. It is also entirely possible that the stress the owner feels over these worrisome symptoms may be "telegraphed" back to the cat, thus exacerbating the problem.

One of the most notable symptoms of feline hyperesthesia is the noticeable "rippling skin" activity along the muscles of the back. This is often accompanied by racing around the house, stopping abruptly, and frantically biting at the skin on the back. Loud howling at night is also often a reported symptom.

Cat Behavior & Training > Cat Behavior 101 > Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior in Cats

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