Repetitive Behaviors - Tail Chasing, Licking, Over-grooming, Chasing Shadows or Lights
Behaviorists call these behaviors stereotypies;
veterinarians prefer the term compulsive disorders. These
are behaviors that an animal does over and over again,
in an identical pattern. A familiar example is animals
confined in a zoo who pace back and forth in their pens.
Often, these enclosures are too small and the animals don’t
have enough to do.
Stereotypies in pets can develop for a variety of reasons.
This is one problem for which you should absolutely have
your cat thoroughly evaluated by your veterinarian, and
perhaps by a veterinary neurologist, dermatologist, ophthalmologist
or specialist in internal medicine. Your pet may have a
skin infection, a vision problem, or something wrong with
his nervous system.
Stereotypies can also develop for behavioral reasons.
A common cause is stress or conflict. Perhaps your cat
is being harassed or bullied by another pet. Maybe your
cat has just joined your family and is stressed from trying
to adapt to his new living situation. Moving to a new house
can also be a stressor that can trigger a stereotypy as
can an unpredictable lifestyle.
Or, like confined animals in a zoo, these behaviors can
also develop if your cat’s environment and lifestyle
isn’t meeting his behavioral needs. Perhaps your
cat is left alone a lot, or doesn’t have enough to
do to occupy his time. For some great ideas on how to provide
enriching toys and environments for your cat, see our program Helping
Kitty Be Good, available in a DVD or audio
Behavioral researchers have found a strong genetic component
to some of these behaviors, such as tail chasing in bull
Once medical problems are ruled out, often
these problems can be successfully treated using a combination
of behavior modification and drug therapy. They are not
simple problems, and frequently require consultation with
your veterinarian and/or an experienced and knowledgeable
behavior consultant .
PRODUCTS THAT WILL HELP YOU UNDERSTAND, PREVENT AND RESOLVE PROBLEMS WITH YOUR CAT'S REPETITIVE BEHAVIOR
To learn how to provide an enriching environment for
your cat and to prevent problems such as climbing on things,
elimination and destructive scratching problems, get our
DVD Helping Kitty Be Good. Here you’ll learn what cats want and
need to be healthy and happy in your home.