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Norwich Bulletin - 4/19/2009

Feline Compulsive Behavior

The most common compulsive behaviors in cats include wool sucking, fabric eating, overgrooming, hair-pulling, and feline Hyperesthesia. Because certain breeds are seen more often with Feline Compulsive Behavior, there may be genetic influences at work. But there are also many domestic cats exhibiting compulsive behaviors. A lot of times a cat may display some type of behavior due to some type of outside influence in the home. If the stress factor continues, the behavior increases, even if the cat is hurting himself. And oftentimes once the stresser is found and eliminated, the behavior has become a habit and you must break the habit. There are some compulsive behaviors that are more benign than others.

Fabric sucking is a behavior I have seen in several cats. Fifty percent of the affected cat population who exhibit this behavior are the oriental breeds. I have a good friend who has an Oriental Shorthair has sucked on socks since he was a kitten. His breeder tells me that almost all of her cats steal and suck on socks. I have a domestic shorthair who sucks on his kitten blankie and has for the last ten years. Rumbles was a bottle fed kitten who never had a mother and his behavior is probably because of not being able to nurse. His behavior is not going to end. Luckily he limits this behavior to his comfortable old blankie and we just won't ever throw it away, but other cats can suck on a lot of different and dangerous things: plastic bags, shoe laces, shower curtains, and other potentially harmful things that can cause intestinal blockage.

What is Psychogenic Alopecia? Sometimes cats overgroom due to frequent stressful situations. If the cat is highly anxious in general, any stress can lead to chronic overgrooming, which is excessive and repetitive, and the cat can end up with patches of fur missing. These cats can end up with skin wounds and ulcerations. When this happens, it is generally not food allergies. With my Abyssinians, I will treat for Alopecia first. At a certain point the overgrooming becomes habit and they cannot stop without help. That is when I will get them a steroid shot and use a produce called Mega-Tek, which helps hair regrowth. And to dissuade them from continuing to chew, I will spray bitter apple over the healing Mega-Tek. It usually works.

There are of course, other Feline Compulsive Behaviors and the trick is to first identify the conflict. It could be separation anxiety, a new animal or person in the home, the loss of a "friend" animal, moving, early weaning or other reasons. Once you have identified the problem, you can begin some type of treatment and work on removing the stressor. Anything from a new climbing tree or a cat DVD to prosac could be the answer. No two cats are alike.

Work through the behavior as best you can and do not hesitate to call a feline behavior specialist for help. Many times owners are too close to the situation and cannot see what it right in front of them. Sometimes owners do not want to see the cause because they would have to admit that they are part of it.

Do dogs have Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors? Find out next week...

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