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Health Talk: Cats Can Express Behavior Like Human OCD

Researchers have identified an oral compulsion often found in Siamese and Birman cats.

Jackie Brown  |  Apr 28th 2016


Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the May/June issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.

Did you know that animals can suffer from compulsive behaviors similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans? In cats, this often manifests as something called “wool-sucking,” an oral compulsion that causes cats to obsessively chew, suck, or swallow nonfood items such as wool or plastic. The disorder is commonly seen in Oriental breeds, including the Siamese and Birman.

Researchers recently studied this phenomenon and published the results in the November/December 2015 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

Much about this disease remains a mystery. However, the scientists found some increased risk factors in Birman cats, including early weaning and small litter size. Siamese cats who had a medical condition also had an increased risk of wool-sucking. All cats in the study who exhibited the wool-sucking behavior also had unusually intense appetites.

This behavior is not to be confused with kneading, or “making biscuits,” which has a number of causes and is not considered a disorder.