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If you are a cat parent or have friends with cats, you must have had yourself or your friends refer to cats a “crazy” or “abnormal.” Have you ever stopped to think that your cat could have a mental illness. Is it even possible for cats to have mental illnesses? We will be discussing this further below.
Mental illnesses are mental health conditions that interfere with our thoughts, perceptions, behaviors, and decision making. These conditions may strain our work/social/family life. A sizeable chunk of the human population suffers from one or the other mental health issue. Mental illnesses are treated with medication and therapy, which enable the person with a mental health condition to cope with their condition and adjust to life better.
Many believe that cats, as well as other animals, suffer from mental health complaints too. However, unfortunately, adequate research has not been conducted on cat mental health, and for this reason, diagnoses cannot be properly made. Vets do, however, take certain measures to determine the presence of mental health conditions in cats.
How do vets determine if a cat is suffering from a mental health condition?
The two most common mental health issues that cat exhibit are anxiety and OCD. Your vet can assess if your cat has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder if it constantly licks and grooms itself, to the point that it hair wears off. The vet will first conduct the routine blood tests, urine tests, and perhaps, even an MRI or CT scan to rule out any other physical health disorders. If the tests prove to be negative, your cat is probably suffering from a mental health condition like anxiety or OCD.
Is it possible for you to recognize signs of mental illness in your cat?
It is not as easy to tell signs of mental illness in a cat, as it may be in humans. For eg: The loss of appetite and lowered activity levels that characterize a depressed cat also characterize a senile cat. So, it could be difficult to determine whether your cat is actually depressed or simply aging.
Again, for attention disorders like ADHD, diagnosis becomes problematic. An overstimulated cat may express the same symptoms that would mandate an ADHD diagnosis.
You might still be able to tell if there’s anything wrong with your cat’s mental health if you are closely aware of its behavior patterns and notice a change.
What causes mental disorders in cats?
Mental health lapses can sometimes be genetic in humans. It is not so for cats. Cats may develop mental health issues after experiencing traumatic external stressors. A relocation, abandonment by mistake, changes in the owner’s behavior towards it, may also cause the cat to suffer from mental health issues. So, the next time you notice your cat behaving oddly, don’t just shrug it off as your cat being “weird.” Who knows, maybe it has a mental health disorder.