Anxiety and Compulsive Disorders in Cats



Reduce environmental stress. Regulate your cat’s schedule and increase the predictability of household events, such as feeding, play, exercise, and social time. Eliminate unpredictable events as much as possible. Confinement is not a good approach. For excessive grooming, topical deterrent agents are usually not effective. For compulsive pacing: do not allow your cat to go outside when the behavior starts, as it may reinforce the behavior. Try to let your cat out before the behavior begins. For repetitive meowing: breed or spay an intact female; castrate an intact male. For fabric chewing and sucking: keep the fabrics of interest out of your cat’s reach and increase dietary roughage.


Your veterinarian may prescribe some behavior-modification drugs, and will instruct you on how to use them. It is important to follow directions carefully, since accidental overdose is a common occurrence.


Living and Management


Try to ignore the unacceptable behavior as much as you can and do not reward it by responding. Take note of the details when your cat acts out: the time, place, and social situation, so that an alternate behavior, such as play or feeding, may be scheduled for that time. Punishment associated with the behavior increases the unpredictability of your cat’s environment and may increase fear and aggressive behavior. It also may disrupt your bond with your cat.


You will need to take your cat back to the veterinarian for follow-up examinations. If your cat does not respond to the treatment plan, the plan may need to be adjusted. If your cat is being medicated and there seems to be no progress, you will need to talk to your veterinarian about switching to a different drug.


You will also need to be realistic about improvement. Immediate control of a long-standing problem is not likely. Before you begin treatment, keep a record of the frequency of the behaviors that occur each week so that you can realistically measure progress.



Image: Richard Schramm / Shutterstock

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