from Barbara George
Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
(Definition) Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterised by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviours (compulsions). It’s also possible to have only obsessions or only compulsions and still have OCD.
Can cats suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? What obsessions or compulsions could cats display in order to be considered as OCD?
Food is one area where cats could be considered obsessive. This can be around the food itself, the temperature or composition, the bowl or way food is presented, the place where she eats or the timing of meals. While these issues are often considered as ‘fussy’ it is possibly a symptom of other behaviour issues. Cats that are on a special diet for medical or allergic reasons are expressly excluded from this category.
Does your cat have a specific spot to sleep that cannot be moved, re-arranged or washed without a serious reaction?
Toys can be a problem area too. Some cats become fixated on a particular toy to the exclusion of all others. Should this toy be lost or broken you will be faced with a very unhappy cat.
Behaviours may also fall into this category. Specific habits or rituals that have to be followed in order to complete a task. Does your cat follow a well-worn path to reach a special spot.
Cats are very good at training us to their ways, so many times we tend to go along with these behaviours. However, they may become problematic when they cannot be completed as needed, for example the food has been changed by the supplier or that flavour is not available.
Very intelligent or bored cats can use the establishment of routines as a form of mental stimulation. These cats will set up a routine, train the humans, then modify the routine to keep us on our toes – it is a game for them. Supplying varying and changing levels of stimulation or interaction should help these cats to relax a bit.
Obsessive behaviour can be a coping mechanism for cats that do not feel completely confident or safe in their environment. These cats tend to like routines and don’t generally like change. If this is likely then trying to extend the options and choices available is recommended.
Special needs cats may devise specific behaviours as this is the way they can best operate. There may be ways to help these cats be more flexible, including supplements or therapy.
There are times when routines and stability are important. It is equally important for cats to deal with variety, new items and change. Starting from kittenhood cats should be exposed to as many different scenarios as possible, including food, toys, people, travel and environment. This should continue throughout their lives to keep their lives interesting and fulfilling.