OCD stands for obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is named in a very straightforward manner. After all, OCD features unwanted thoughts, which would be the obsessions, that cause someone to engage in repetitive behaviors, which would be the compulsions. It is very common for people with OCD to fall into a vicious cycle. They can prevent themselves from following through with the compulsions to some extent. However, said individuals become stressed out when they do so. As a result, there will come a point when they choose to follow through with the compulsions to relieve themselves of some of that stress. Unfortunately, that won’t treat the OCD, meaning that the unwanted thoughts will return. Something that can result in more and more repetitive behaviors over time. Currently, it isn’t clear what causes OCD. One line of speculation is that people learn it from other people. Other lines of speculation focus on genetic factors as well as other biological factors. Whatever the cause, some cases of OCD will have no more than mild to moderate effects, while other cases of OCD can be outright disabling. To name an example, it is common for people with OCD to be concerned about cleanliness, but someone with an extreme case might wash their hands so much that the skin becomes raw. As such, OCD is something that interested individuals should keep a watchful eye on, particularly since it can worsen under certain circumstances.
Can Cats Have OCD?
Figuring out what is going on with cats can be much more difficult than figuring out what is going on with humans. After all, while cats are capable of communicating, that is nowhere near as informative as what we can manage between ourselves. As a result, cats can’t just tell us that they are engaging in repetitive behaviors because of unwanted thoughts in the same way that humans can. Having said that, it is very much possible for cats to have something that looks a lot like a feline version of OCD. For those who are curious, some cats will engage in repetitive behaviors that seem to have no purpose whatsoever. Initially, these might serve as stress management. Over time, it is possible for these repetitive behaviors to become reinforced. In part, this is because they cause the release of pain-relieving chemicals in the brain. However, there is also the potential for cat owners to reinforce them by giving the cat food as well as attention. Eventually, there can come a point in time when cats will engage in these repetitive behaviors without whatever it was that caused them in the first place.
Pacing is one of the most potential signs that a cat might have OCD. Generally speaking, pacing as well as related behaviors mean that the cat is stressed out about something. This isn’t too huge of an issue if it happens from time to time. However, if the cat is pacing on a constant basis, that could suggest something related to OCD. For that matter, even if it isn’t related to OCD, that much pacing could very well become so with sufficient reinforcement over time.
Grooming is a good thing. After all, it contributes to the cat’s cleanliness, which in turn, serves to protect their well-being in a wide range of ways. On top of that, grooming is relaxing, meaning that it can play an important role in a cat’s stress management. Unfortunately, there can be an excess of good things, with grooming being no exception to this rule. Simply put, some cats have been known to groom themselves so much that their skin turns raw while their hair is rubbed off. These are blatant indications that something is seriously wrong. As such, interested individuals should be intervening sooner rather than later.
On a related note, it isn’t uncommon for excessive meowing to be a sign of OCD as well. Generally speaking, adult cats don’t meow at other adult cats. Kittens meow as a way of letting their mothers know that they are either cold or hungry or otherwise feeling bad. However, adult cats meow at humans on a regular basis, which serves similar purposes. This makes sense because humans aren’t good at understanding other means of feline communication, meaning that they have become more reliant on their vocalizations. In any case, it is normal for cats to meow at humans as a way of their attention as well as a way of asking for food and other necessities, but it is also possible for cats to start meowing compulsively, particularly since this is something that gets a lot of positive reinforcement to say the least.
Eating Non-Edible Items
Some cats with OCD will start chewing and sucking on non-edible items such as fabrics. In some cases, they might even wind up eating the non-edible items. It isn’t clear why this happens. One line of speculation is that some cats with OCD were taken away from their mothers at too young an age. As a result, when they get older, they will redirect certain nursing behaviors at other things.
There have been plenty of reports of cats engaging in very strange sorts of running behavior. For example, cats might behave as though they are playing with a cat that isn’t there. Similarly, cats might behave as though they are chasing some kind of prey animal that isn’t there. On top of this, they might even chase their own tails, which may or may not be accompanied by acts of self-directed aggression. Like the other things mentioned here, these are behaviors can become compulsive over time, thus making them something to watch out for.
Interested individuals shouldn’t attempt to diagnose a case of OCD on their own. After all, a lot of these symptoms are shared by a wide range of medical issues, meaning that there is a very good chance of them missing one problem for another. Instead, if interested individuals see something wrong with their cat, the best response is to bring their cat to a veterinarian. Said professional should provide them with the best chance of figuring out what is happening, which should be followed by the best chance of finding a suitable treatment option.