Monday, July 25, 2005


This lady emailed - she's at her wit's end. She has an older cat (10 years old) and two younger cats, and the older cat is suddenly being viciously attacked by the younger two. She said that there was always a certain amount of bullying but that it's become much worse only in the last year (they've lived together for five years). The last attack saw her older cat attacked so badly, he almost died.

She has been to see several vets, but unfortunately while one did prescribe her some medication, it didn't seem to work. A lot of the medication takes a bit of time to see which fit your cat though, and also it often has to be hand in hand with some form of behavioural modification. Unfortunately, there aren't any behavioural therapists in Singapore - I know of a LOT of people with cats who have the same problem (though not so severe fortunately). This poor lady is really very stressed out - she doesn't want to give up any of her cats, but according to her, the vet said any more attacks and her oldest cat is going to be killed one of these days.

If I ever leave the Society one day, I'm going to seriously consider getting trained as a therapist!


Anonymous Aminah Bee said...

Do you know there is such thing as a pet psychologist? Who knows our crazy cat or crazy dog might need one? Pet psychologists are commonly known as Pet Behaviour Specialists, they have years of training, just like our "human" psychiatrists have.
Too bad we don't have pet psychologists in Singapore.

In Great Britian, Professor Daniel Mills has become the country's first specialist in veterinary behavarioural science.

Here is partial article taken from BBC News website World Edition

Saturday 2 October 2004.

First pet psychiatrist appointed

Britain's first professor of animal psychiatry has been appointed at Lincoln University.
Professor Daniel Mills has become the country's first specialist in veterinary behavioural science.

At the university's new biological sciences department, he will study the behaviour of dogs, cats and horses, and see how their anxieties can be solved.

He believes that dogs and humans have similarities as their minds probably developed in the same way.

After 10 years in the discipline, Prof Mills said dogs can offer more than unconditional love to their owners.

"They share a lot of similarities.
"The two have a long history together, they've faced similar problems.

"People have been cooperative hunters, they've lived in social groups - so have dogs. They faces similar problems in evolution so their minds have probably evolved in similar ways."

Research on traumatised horses has been carried out at Lincoln University.

Using scientific data about natural behaviour to help unhappy pets, researchers say stressful situations effect animals just as they might effect members of the family.

More than 15,000 pets get referred to animal psychiatrists every year and it is a growing industry in addition to the billion pounds spent on vet bills.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders In Cats

Petalia Vet Report website

Repetitive, relatively non-varying behaviour patterns that appear to have no purpose can be described as obsessive-compulsive disorders. In cats, such behaviours include compulsive pacing, repetitive meowing (vocalizing), fabric sucking and chewing, or licking and pulling hair. The exact cause or causes of compulsive behaviour in otherwise normal cats have not been identified.

What is an obsessive-compulsive disorder?
This is when a cat exhibits abnormal, recurrent actions that are out of context with the situations in which they occur. The behaviour becomes compulsive as the cat loses control over initiating or terminating it. The behaviour is deemed excessive in duration, frequency, and intensity. The cat may be difficult to distract from the behaviour and it may interfere with normal function.

What are some examples of obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Repetitive motor, grooming, ingestive, or hallucinogenic behaviours that occur out of context, or of excessive duration or frequency include excessive sucking and chewing, hunting and pouncing at invisible prey, running and chasing, paw shaking, excessive vocalization, self-directed aggression such as tail chasing or foot chewing, and overgrooming. Freezing and staring is also considered an obsessive-compulsive disorder if it is an inappropriate and extended behaviour.

How does a behaviour become compulsive?
Since certain behaviours are more common in certain breeds there may be a genetic predisposition to obsessive-compulsive behaviours. Wool sucking is observed more commonly in oriental breeds.

Some owners inadvertently encourage these behaviours such as giving attention to the cat while it exhibits the behaviour as a kitten (pouncing on invisible prey), or by trying to disrupt the behaviour with food, a treat, or attention.

Compulsive behaviour may be a response to stress or boredom. Many behaviours arise spontaneously as a response to conflict or anxiety, such as a change in the cat's environment. Over time, the behaviour becomes fixed and independent of what caused it in the first place. These behaviours may allow some animals to cope with difficult situations.

What is feline psychogenic overgrooming or alopecia?
A normal amount of grooming takes up 30-40% of a cat’s time. Overgrooming is excessive licking and pulling out fur, leading to bald patches and hair discoloration. Often the baldness or alopecia is symmetrical.

A medical problem must be ruled out before a behaviour problem is treated. Many skin disorders cause itchiness that can result in alopecia. Treatment with anti-inflammatories, an elimination diet trial, and sometimes skin tests for allergies are carried out before a behaviour diagnosis is reached.

How are obsessive-compulsive disorders treated?
Some behaviours are not treated if they are not causing any physical harm to the cat and do not cause the owner significant concern. For some cats, the compulsive behaviour may be the most practical and acceptable outlet for reducing stress or resolving conflict in the home environment.

Drug therapy is often used as it can help normalize brain neurotransmitter levels. Drugs are used in conjunction with behaviour modification. This involves reducing stress or finding methods of decreasing the sources of arousal and conflict. Situations that cause the behaviour are examined, so that they can be avoided if possible. Other environmental or social changes that can contribute to anxiety include a new baby, a territorial neighbourhood cat, or a family member leaving the household.

The behaviour is not rewarded by attention from the owner, or other pleasant distractions. The cat can be distracted from the behaviour by remote indirect devices such as an abrupt loud noise (ultrasonic alarm or air horn), or a water pistol. Once the cat is distracted sufficiently to stop the behaviour, alternative behaviours are encouraged such as playing with the owner or with a toy.

The cat also requires stimulation in the form of exercise, attention, interactive play, chew toys, catnip toys, Kitty Kongs, play centres, and safe, private place for resting. Cats can also be trained.

Punishment is often detrimental, causing increased anxiety and fear of the owner, and therefore intensifying the problem.

Your vet can help you to identify the source of the problem in your cat, and design a behaviour modification protocol in conjunction with appropriate drug therapy, or refer you to an animal behaviour specialist.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Compulsive Disorders

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a behavioral abnormality that can be seen in both dogs and cats. It is defined as abnormal behavior that is characterized by recurrent actions that are out of context for the situation in which they occur. They are seen as excessive and sometimes extreme physical rituals. Examples include spinning in circles, tail chasing, self-mutilation( i.e. lick granulomas or flank-sucking), fly-biting, circling, fence running, pacing, staring, vocalizing, over-grooming, licking, pouncing unseen prey, drinking excessively, and wool sucking in cats.

Compulsive behaviors occur because the animal initially performed the specific act during a state of stress or conflict. Then, during any future state of arousal or stress, the action is repeated because the animal lost control over initiating or stopping the action. The cycle perpetuates to the point where the animal may perform the action with any minor stress.

There may be a medical component to the animal's behavior (i.e. skin infection with lick granulomas or tail biting). These should be treated. Once all medical aspects have been addressed, behavioral modification, environmental manipulation, and drug therapy should be considered. The goal is to get the animal to relax and cope with stressful situations and to substitute a more appropriate behavior for the compulsive one.

It should be stressed that the animal is not to be comforted or punished while performing the compulsive act. This rewards the action or increases the animal's anxiety and will only serve to perpetuate the behavior.

25/7/05 8:56 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Thank you for the information Aminah!

26/7/05 12:25 AM  
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24/8/05 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a pregnant cat who is 11 months old. About a nonth ago, she started chasing her tail very aggressively, causing it to bleed. The vet has given antibiotics, but is not helping. I am worried as she is due to give birth in about 10 days and wears a satellite collar to stop reaching her tail with her teeth.
She is normally very sweet and kind, but gets into a sudden trance for 5 minuts, where she chases her tail very aggressively and hurts herself. It is as if the tail is an enemy or something is attacking it.
Please help. Thank you.

16/8/06 4:00 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous what did your vet say it was due to?

16/8/06 9:34 AM  

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