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If you are a cat parent or have friends with cats, you must have had yourself or your friends refer to cats a "crazy" or "abnormal." Have you ever stopped to think that your cat could have a mental illness. Is it even possible for cats to have mental illnesses? We will be discussing this further below.
Mental illnesses are mental health conditions that interfere with our thoughts, perceptions, behaviors, and decision-making. These conditions may strain our work/social/family life. A sizeable chunk of the human population suffers from one or the other mental health issue. Mental illnesses are treated with medication and therapy, which enable the person with a mental health condition to cope with their condition and adjust to life better.
Many believe that cats, as well as other animals, suffer from mental health complaints too. However, unfortunately, adequate research has not been conducted on cat mental health, and for this reason, diagnoses cannot be properly made. Vets do, however, take certain measures to determine the presence of mental health conditions in cats.
How do vets determine if a cat is suffering from a mental health condition?
The two most common mental health issues that cat exhibit are anxiety and OCD. Your vet can assess if your cat has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder if it constantly licks and grooms itself, to the point that it hair wears off. The vet will first conduct routine blood tests, urine tests, and perhaps, even an MRI or CT scan to rule out any other physical health disorders. If the tests prove to be negative, your cat is probably suffering from a mental health condition like anxiety or OCD.
Is it possible for you to recognize signs of mental illness in your cat?
It is not as easy to tell signs of mental illness in a cat, as it may be in humans. For eg: The loss of appetite and lowered activity levels that characterize a depressed cat also characterize a senile cat. So, it could be difficult to determine whether your cat is actually depressed or simply aging.
Again, for attention disorders like ADHD, diagnosis becomes problematic. An overstimulated cat may express the same symptoms that would mandate an ADHD diagnosis.
You might still be able to tell if there’s anything wrong with your cat’s mental health if you are closely aware of its behavior patterns and notice a change.
What causes mental disorders in cats?
Mental health lapses can sometimes be genetic in humans. It is not so for cats. Cats may develop mental health issues after experiencing traumatic external stressors. A relocation, abandonment by mistake, changes in the owner’s behavior towards it, may also cause the cat to suffer from mental health issues. So, the next time you notice your cat behaving oddly, don't just shrug it off as your cat being "weird." Who knows, maybe it has a mental health disorder.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can cats have mental disorders?
Cats, like humans, can have mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Although cats cannot vocally express their feelings, their behavior, and physical signs might provide information about their mental health. A persistently depressed mood, loss of interest in previously liked activities, changes in eating, retreat from social engagement, and lethargy are some characteristics of cat depression. They could show poor grooming and a decline in general activity. Environmental factors such as significant life changes, the death of a companion animal or person, or stressful living circumstances can exacerbate cat depression. Another mental health problem that cats may have is anxiety. Cat anxiety disorders include separation anxiety, which develops when they become disturbed or anxious when separated from their owners, and generalized anxiety, which causes excessive worrying and hypervigilance. Excessive meowing, restlessness, pacing, destructive behavior, aggression, improper elimination, and compulsive grooming are just a few of the behaviors that cats with anxiety may exhibit. Cats can develop anxiety due to environmental stressors, a lack of stimulation, or previous traumatic events.
How do I know if my cat is mentally unstable?
Considering that cats are unable to verbally express their feelings or thoughts, figuring out whether they are mentally unstable can be difficult. Certain indications and behaviors, however, might point to possible mental instability in cats. Keep an eye out for substantial behavioral changes, including sudden hostility or a lack of social engagement. Additional warning signs include excessive vocalization, restlessness, pacing, or obsessive actions like excessive grooming or tail-chasing. Pay attention to any major shifts in sleep habits, appetite, or weight. Other signs of mental instability include inappropriate elimination, harmful conduct, or strange responses to familiar stimuli. Remember that these behaviors occasionally have physical origins. Therefore, it is essential to speak with a veterinarian to rule out any physical causes.
What is abnormal behavior in cats?
Abnormal behavior in cats refers to behaviors that deviate from the typical feline behavioral patterns and can indicate underlying physical or psychological issues. Although cats typically display a variety of behaviors, some anomalous habits could call for attention and treatment. Aggression that exceeds typical play behavior, such as unprovoked assaults or hostile actions toward people or other animals, might be seen as abnormal. Another unusual habit in cats is inappropriate elimination, which occurs when they go outside the litter box without a clear medical reason. Concern should be raised if a cat is too talkative, such as by constantly meowing or yowling, especially if they are also displaying signs of suffering or discomfort. Self-directed activities, such as excessive grooming that causes skin rashes or hair loss, or habitual actions like tail chasing or irrational pacing, can also be abnormal. Changes in appetite, such as a significant decrease or increase in food consumption, may indicate an underlying issue.
Can a cat have OCD?
Yes, cats can have OCD. Feline compulsive disorder, sometimes known as "feline OCD," is a phrase used to describe excessive, persistent, and seemingly pointless repeated actions in cats. Excessive grooming, tail chasing, pacing, or recurrent vocalizations are a few examples of these habits. In order to cope with worry or stress, cats with feline compulsive disorder frequently engage in these activities, and they could keep doing so long after the initial trigger is eliminated. The environment can influence the development of these behaviors through regular changes, a lack of excitement, or poor sociability. It's crucial to distinguish between obsessive feline behavior and typical feline behavior in addition to ruling out any underlying medical issues that may be contributing to or aggravating the behavior. While cats may exhibit OCD-like behaviors, it's crucial to approach their behavior with an understanding of their unique species-specific traits and to provide them with the necessary support and care to promote their well-being.
What are the 3 most common behavior problems in cats?
The three most common behavior problems in cats are inappropriate elimination, aggression, and excessive scratching. A cat may urinate or defecate inappropriately if it does so outside of the litter box for a number of reasons, including litter box aversion, health problems, or marking behavior. Whether directed against people or other animals, aggression can be the result of fear, territoriality, or redirected aggression. It can bite, swat, or hiss as a symptom. When cats rip up furniture or other belongings with their excessive clawing, it can be a concern. Cats naturally scratch things, but when it gets out of hand, it could be a sign of anxiousness, a shortage of suitable scratching posts, or other problems. The human-cat relationship and the cat's quality of life may both be greatly impacted by these behavioral issues. As a result, it's crucial to take care of these problems right away and seek advice from a vet or a veterinary behaviorist.