Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the Behavior Clinics at the veterinary school at Tufts University, recently spoke about compulsive behaviors in animals at the conference of the The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. “Like people with compulsive behaviors, such as famously washing their hands until their skin is raw,” said Dodman, “animals can have similar behaviors.” He said that pet OCD is thought to affect about 5% of pets. Compulsive behaviors in animals include cribbing and windsucking in horses; wool-sucking and fur-pulling in cats; and in dogs, fly-snapping and compulsive chasing of lights or shadows.
In all cases, underlying nutritional and medical problems, including seizures, must be ruled out before the behavior can be diagnosed as compulsive. Treatment includes resolving the stress that’s causing the behavior, as well as drugs such as Prozac. Indoor cats are more prone to developing OCD, and environmental enrichment is an important component of treatment. This may include:
- Play and treat balls (SlimCat, Deli Dome)
- Cat grass
- Play Therapy
- Other exercise (prey facsimiles, rotate toys, walks)
- Clicker training
- Cat furniture
- Climbing frames (KatWallks, Crazy Cat Wall)
- Bird feeders, fish tanks, cat videos
- Outdoor enclosures (Habicats, Catios)
Flower essences can be an essential part of the solution. They are all-natural and totally safe; with no drug side-effects. Spirit Essences offers several remedies for both general and specific OCD behavior, such as Separation Anxiety, Stress Stopper, Hyper Helper, Night Owl, Obsession Remedy, Skin Soother, and Storm Soother.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is another simple tool that can help break your pet’s OCD habit. EFT is a Meridian Therapy that works by tapping on certain acupuncture points to break the emotional attachment to a particular behavior or situation. It can be applied to pets by surrogate tapping (see our article on EFT for Animals).