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Cat Anxiety & OCD Kitty Behavior: A Pet Parent's Guide

Obsessive compulsive disorder. Anxiety. Depression.
These aren't just human ailments. In fact, many cats suffer from these same psychological conditions.
Sadly, cat anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the feline world. However, there are several things you can do as a pet parent to help your little one live a more stress-free life.

What Is Cat Anxiety?

Cat anxiety can take on many shapes and characteristics. For example, cats may show signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder, nervousness, hyper-reactivity, or all of these at the same time.

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Cat Anxiety

anxious cat
Cat anxiety occurs when a cat feels threatened or otherwise insecure in his environment. Sadly, it's quite common and can be caused by a number of factors, including:
  • Sensing another cat's presence
  • Feeling threatened by another cat or fearing a loss of territory
  • Experiencing physical pain, internally or externally
  • Suffering from a medical condition
  • Abrupt changes in environment
  • Being separated from you or another cat
  • Experiencing a psychological trauma such as abuse or neglect
  • Age-related dementia
Your cat may even develop anxiety if you suffer from anxiety. Cats often turn to the other creatures they live with for cues about their safety. When a pet parent feels anxious or nervous often, the cat will pick up those signals and interpret them to mean that something is wrong and there's cause to be frightened.

Feline OCD

ocd cat
Obsessive-compulsive disorder in cats occurs when a cat engages in repetitive or exaggerated behaviors without any clear reason. For example, a cat may groom himself over and over again in the same spot. If he has a tangle in his fur or is licking a wound, then clearly he has a purpose for his grooming. However, if there's no clear reason for the behavior, he may be suffering from OCD.
Oftentimes OCD cats will perform their specific behaviors again and again to the point where they actually do harm to themselves. For instance, OCD cats have been known to groom themselves until they are left with bald spots, or eating compulsively until they are overweight and unhealthy.
OCD behaviors are often a response to anxiety and are a way for your cat to cope with his persistent stress.

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Are Some Breeds More Prone to Cat Anxiety?

Yes! In fact, Siamese cats and other breeds traditionally found in Asian regions are more likely to show OCD behaviors like repetitive meowing or chewing on fabric.
It's not entirely understood why Siamese cats are more prone to diagnoses of feline OCD, but veterinarians often assume the cause is heavily influenced by genetic factors. Since Siamese cats are often bred with other Siamese to ensure a pure pedigree, the condition is passed down through the generations within the same breed.

How Do Cats Cope?

cat hiding
Cats suffering from anxiety usually showseveral of the following signs:
  • Becoming less social
  • Becoming less active
  • Hiding, often without an obvious cause
  • Excessive scratching of furniture or surfaces
  • Diarrhea
  • Sore spots on the skin or in the mouth
  • Aggression toward people or other animals in the home
  • Trembling
Unless your cat finds some other way to alleviate his anxiety, or until the cause of his anxiety has been fixed, he will likely continue doing these behaviors. Cat anxiety can turn into OCD over time.
Cats with OCD will cope with their anxiety by engaging in their repetitive or exaggerated behaviors until they are stopped. OCD cats will usually exhibit one or more of these behaviors:
  • Compulsive grooming
  • Compulsive pacing
  • Repetitive vocalizations
  • Compulsive eating
  • Compulsive sucking or chewing on materials like fabric orplastic
If your cat is doing something over and over again, seemingly without cause, check in with your veterinarian. It may be feline OCD.

How to Reduce Cat Anxiety

person and cat

The best way to reduce your cat's anxiety is by
figuring out exactly what's causing it and fixing that problem. For example, if your cat is feeling threatened by a new cat in the home, you may need to keep your two fur babies separate and gradually introduce them to shared spaces.
Some cats experience anxiety because they aren't getting enough attention. Make time to play with your kitty at least 15 minutes each day. And cuddles are encouraged, with your cat's permission, of course.
Oftentimes cat anxiety is caused by an internal health problem. Cats can often sense when they are ill or in a weakened state, which makes them feel vulnerable and stressed.
If you use PrettyLitter, keep a close eye on the color of your cat's litter. If it's anything other than yellow or olive green, your cat may be dealing with some internal health issues. Take your furry friend in for a check up with the vet if you suspect anything may be wrong.
Have you found a way to help your fur baby cope with cat anxiety? Tell us about it in the comments below and help other pet parents find what works for their little ones.


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