About Abnormal Cat Behavior

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Cats can be curious and intriguing creatures. If you are not familiar with cats and their antics, it may be difficult to discern what is abnormal behavior for your pet. It is important to keep in mind that all cats are unique and many have their own quirks. If a strange behavior is doing no harm to yourself, or your cat, it is probably not a cause for concern. However, there are some behaviors to be on the lookout for as they may signify a bigger problem. As well, many abnormal behaviors that may be causing harm to your family or home can often be treated and this should be your first line of defense before abandoning any pet to a shelter.

Types

  • Cats, like people, can come up with many unusual and often entertaining behaviors. However, there are some abnormal behaviors that cat owners should be aware of. These include wool sucking, obsessive-compulsive disorders, pica (consuming nonfood items) and unusual phobias. Other behaviors that can often cause problems are scratching and litter problems. However, these last two issues are less abnormal than they are annoying. All cats will want to scratch. If your cat is scratching in inappropriate places, you should provide her with more scratching posts and take the time to teach her what they are for. Likewise, though most cats instinctively know how to use a littler box, adult strays may have bad habits that need breaking. Cats become accustomed to using a certain kind of object for their litter box. If a stray was never presented with a litter box before, she may have already formed a habit of using a pile of garbage, or a spot in the garden. Time and training are all that is needed to overcome any issues with clawing and litter box usage.

Identification

  • Of the four major abnormal cat behaviors, the first two are relatively easy to diagnose. You will likely notice if your cat is eating lots of nonfood items--a condition known as pica. Wool sucking can also be referred to as fabric chewing, and the behavior is exactly what it sounds like. This behavior is especially common among Siamese and Oriental breeds. Some cats will completely consume the wool, as well, which is additional cause for concern. If your cat has an abnormal phobia, this can be more difficult to identify. If your cat is only afraid of something that it rarely encounters, you may not realize what her fear is until she's been exposed to this stimulus several times. Common fears for cats are new people and places, carriers and other animals. Obsessive-compulsive behaviors in cats can take on may forms. Some more common ones are twitching, compulsive grooming or biting its own skin. Any behavior your cat exhibits that seems to be hurting her is likely the result of a compulsion.

Significance

  • It's important to take your cat to see a veterinarian as soon as possible if he is presenting abnormal behaviors. Pica can often be caused by an underlying medical condition such as thiamine deficiency, anemia, or liver disease. Ingesting nonfood items, including fabric, as in the wool-sucking syndrome, can cause intestinal blockage and other digestive problems that may need to be treated. Obsessive compulsive behaviors may signify another condition such as skin disease, parasites, or thyroid disease. Your first step should always be to rule out treatable medical conditions. Your vet will also have advice for dealing with these behavioral issues even if they are not caused by a physical medical condition.

Considerations

  • The cause of many behavioral disorders can be date to the cat's first few weeks of life. Kittens need proper socialization in the first 3 to 16 weeks of their lives. Without this care and attention, kittens can develop into cats with abnormal fears and behaviors. Another common cause of these behaviors is stress. Stressors in your cat's life can be as simple as a dirty litter box, or inconsistent feeding times. Young children can also be a stressor for cats, especially if the cat was previously your "only child."

Prevention/Solution

  • The best way to help a cat with behavioral problems, aside from seeing the vet, is to reduce the stress in your cat's life. Provide fresh food and water every day at a consistent time. Clean the litter box regularly, at a predictable time, as well. Increase the opportunities for fun and stimulation for your cat. Rotate his cat toys, provide plenty of scratching and play areas, and spend some time dedicated to play. If there are children or frequent visitors in the house, designate a safe area for your cat. Place his bed and a few toys in a room or closet where no one will bother him. Make it clear to everyone in the house that when your cat goes into his special spot, he is not to be disturbed. As tempting as it may be, as the adult, to allow yourself to be the only one allowed to check up on him here, you should make an effort to follow the same rules and give the cat some peace and privacy.

  • Photo Credit Mandi Rogier
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