Why Does My Cat Do That? Compulsive Behavior in Felines

Interesting information from the ASPCA News Alert!  http://www.aspca.org/News/National/National-News-Detail.aspx?NDate=20110218&NType=National#News4

Cat lovers know that our feline friends often engage in, shall we say, unusual activities. From kneading to stalking to playing the piano, the unique talents and varied personalities of cats are, in part, why we love them. But when does your cat’s eccentric behavior or charming habit become compulsive and destructive?

Most kitty compulsions are normal activities, such as eating or grooming, but they occur in the wrong context and to such an extent that they interfere with normal functioning. The most common compulsive behaviors in cats are wool sucking or fabric eating as well as excessive licking, hair chewing or hair pulling. When performed over and over again, these behaviors can be harmful. Cats who eat fabric can suffer intestinal obstruction, and cats who over-groom can develop skin wounds.

So what can you do to help your compulsive cat cope? First, it’s important to visit a veterinarian to rule out health problems. Some medical conditions can cause compulsive behavior, so it’s crucial to have your cat thoroughly examined by her veterinarian.

Once you’ve ruled out medical issues, the next step is to figure out what’s causing your cat’s behavior, and make an effort to remove the stressor. Some of the most common factors that contribute to compulsive disorders include:

  • General stress related to a move or other changes in environment
  • Inadequate social or environmental stimulation
  • Physical injury
  • Dermalogical (skin) conditions

Behavior modification, drug therapy and changes to your cat’s environment can be effective treatments for reducing the frequency and intensity of compulsive behavior. Please remember, however, that punishing your cat is never the answer. It will only increase his stress, and he may resort to more compulsive licking, sucking or chewing as a result.

For a complete list of compulsive behaviors and solutions to help your cat overcome them, please visit the ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist.

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