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I thought my cat was misbehaving, but turns out he actually has OCD

This is probably going to sound a little weird to you all and perhaps even farfetched, but my cat has obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn’t always had it — in fact, before he turned a year old, he displayed pretty normal behavior: eating, fighting with his sister and tearing up my furniture. However, after we moved to a new apartment, his behavior took a decided turn. He started exhibiting specific, repetitive behaviors that could only be described as OCD.

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Thankfully, I had a mild case of it when I was younger, so I knew to ask about it at my next vet appointment. Sure enough, it’s definitely a thing they deal with on a regular basis, and on a rather large spectrum of severity. While my cat’s OCD is far from the worst my vet has ever seen, his symptoms are often difficult to deal with and even disconcerting at times. We chose not to have him medicated, because for the most part, we could handle the effects, and to be perfectly honest, the behavior’s pretty hilarious sometimes.

According to PetMD, here are just a few of the things you can look forward to if your cat (or dog) is diagnosed with OCD: excessive licking of himself or something non-edible, sucking on furniture or people, compulsive meowing and pacing. They apparently do these things because it relieves stress, and you may be reinforcing said behavior if you reward them with treats or attention at the time of the action. It also tends to manifest itself more in indoor cats who get stressed by confinement.

Here’s what one owner of a pet with OCD (meaning me) deals with on a regular basis.

1. Bathroom “accidents”

I say “accidents” because at this point, I’m pretty sure it’s just his routine. Almost every day, sometimes twice a day, my cat with OCD (let’s call him by his name, Bill) will pee on the bathroom floor. He never used to do this when we lived at our other apartment. We think it started because he doesn’t like the marble tile in our new apartment’s bathroom, so he pees on the floor in protest. The funny thing is that he also uses the litter boxes, and only seems to use the floor when he’s not getting enough attention (or if the boxes aren’t spotless).

2. A chewing monster

Remember I mentioned compulsive chewing on non-edible objects? Well, my cat personifies that trait. Every cardboard box that makes its way into our house gets bitten all the way around until it looks like a cardboard doily. When you watch him do it, you can see it’s almost systematic. Here’s a little video so you can get a better idea:

Well, at least we can say he’s diligent, right?

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3. He’s a runner

Sometimes, especially in the mornings, he’ll get the sudden urge to run like crazy all over the apartment, often for up to an hour, until he’s exhausted himself. As he goes, he ricochets off of furniture, walls and people’s heads, and often tramples his sister in the process. Makes working from home real fun.

4. Suckling addiction

OK, so this one was definitely at least partly my fault. When we’re just hanging out, he’ll often cling to my arm and suckle as if I had a nipple there that produced milk. It doesn’t hurt at all; it’s more just the idea of the action that comforts him, like a baby sucking his thumb. I think what prompted this was being weaned too early, and latching onto me as a mother figure (literally). I, of course, thought this was cute at first, so I let him do it, and now it’s a full-blown compulsive habit.

5. Sister-chasing and biting

At first I hesitated to call this an OCD thing, because a lot of sibling cats display this kind of rivalry, but Bill does it far too often to be just that. It seems like he gets the need to bite or chase his sister Vespa out of nowhere, and it can go on for some time, until she’s cowering under furniture. On occasion, we have to keep them in separate rooms until he calms down.

I know these sound bad, but there are lots of things you can do to help curtail this sort of behavior if you suspect your pet may have OCD. You can start by resisting the impulsive to reward their actions with attention. The next step is talking to your vet about options. If your pet’s OCD is very pronounced, medication may be necessary to fix the problem. If not, a simple pheromone diffuser like Feliway might help enormously, by filling the space with calming scents.

There are many different paths you can take. You just have to figure out which one is right for you and, of course, your OCD pet, who you love despite his troubles.

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