Behavioral Problems: Four Main Categories
- A behavior that is unpleasant (to humans) and is caused by a medical condition.
- A behavior that is unpleasant (to humans) and is caused by stress or a negative experience
- A behavior that is normal for the cat but it is negative to humans
- Self-mutilation and fur mowing
A standard history is very important in all behavioral disorders (questions: How long has the problem been going on? What is the cat doing and is there an explanation for the behavior? What do you think is wrong with your cat? What does the internet think is wrong with the cat? Are other cats involved with initiating this behavior? Does the environment have anything to do with causing the behavior? What have you done to try to correct the behavior? Have any other doctors treated the cat and were they successful? What skin testing has been done to diagnose the problem(s) and were skin biopsies taken and sent to a dermohistopathologist? Have diet trials been used to rule out food allergies and what did they show? The first goal after a great history is to rule out a medical cause and treat that. If the problem is not medical, our next goal is to teach you how to modify the cat’s behavior. Any problem that has been going on for more than three weeks is considered chronic (whether medical or behavioral).
In patients where initial medical/behavioral therapies have not worked we may need to prescribe one of a number of medications that will change the behavior. Which drug to choose depends on the behavior, your cat’s age, pre-existing medical conditions and how difficult the cat is to medicate.
Behavioral Counseling Takes Time To Change Behavior – 50% of cats respond rapidly with a few changes and 50% need prolonged medications and behavioral modification changes. Cat owners who are willing to work hard to change an abnormal behavior are 90% successful and owners who want pills and a quick fix to work are 10% successful. Getting pet health insurance is a smart thing to do if your cat has behavioral problems because the costs and time to treat are usually covered, even with pre-existing conditions. The earlier behavioral problems are treated, the better the outcome! A chronic behavioral condition is over 3 weeks . . . a very short time.