Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cat with Obsessive Licking Disorder

We are having a problem with our 3 year old cat Tiger and am wondering if anybody has had a similar issue and possibly is willing to share the experience with us.. The symptoms of Tiger’s “problem” are that he is licking obsessively. It began about a year ago when he started licking himself all over his body, sometimes so bad that he got rid of all his fur and down to the raw skin. Back then we took him to the vet to have him checked out. He looked at him and concluded it is an allergic reaction. Just what we had thought too. So his cure was to give him some shot and that should take care of it. It did, for an entire day. Then he started licking himself again. We waited a little, then back to the vet, same thing, another shot, it is apparently some food allergy or it also could be an allergic reaction to something in his environment. Again, the shot helped for a few days. A second opinion from another vet basically confirmed what we were told by ours.
Well, I don’t like to keep going medication route for two reasons: I don’t like the idea that our pet is getting pumped up with medication without really knowing what the problem is and if the medication is correct, as it is sort of obvious to me that this is not the case. Second, this is also becomes a budgetary burden without any end in sight.
Being in the healthy pet food business, having to figure out for most of our customers what they should feed to their allergic pets and doing that quite successfully, I started experimenting with various foods. Exactly the way as it is supposed to be done, take everything else away from him, feed him a novel protein source, etc.. Well, so far I haven’t found the right food. We tried nutritional supplements, like for example fish oils, etc. all without any success.
Another important part of the mystery is the reason why I don’t think it is an allergy. It has to be something else, which is why I call it OLD or Obsessive Licking Disorder. I observed that he is just licking like crazy, and I mean everything. Not just himself, everything he gets a hold off: I take him on my lap or we take our nap together, he will start licking my arm and if I wouldn’t stop him, he’d lick it down through the skin to the raw meat. I constantly catch him obsessively licking stuff. This may be his empty food bowl (which actually would be understandable to me, maybe he’s hungry?), I saw him licking the hood and roof of my car, the pillows of the lawn furniture, the pavement of the drive way, the wooden shelves in our cattery, you name it, anything.
Does anybody have a similar experience and maybe some good advise for us on this?


Anonymous said...

I have a similar problem, but have just begun to figure out how to solve it. Out 9 year old male cat doesn't like himself obsessively, but he licks glass type surfaces. This started within the past year. First it was a specific tile in the bathroom, then he moved on to the glass door on our entertainment center in the bedroom, then the one in the family room, then the living room coffee table, bathroom mirror, etc... He just started licking the carpet and the vent in the floor next to this carpet. He could do this all day. It actually wakes me up at night. I would like to throw the cats out of the bedroom b/c of this, but know that both will instead jump up at the door knob trying to get in. If I figure anything out, I'll let you know. Glad to know at lease someone out there has a crazy cat like we do!!

The Pet Food Examiner said...

Welcome to the community subchapter Club of cat owners with cats suffering from "OLD". I sure hope we both can figure out what to do about this. I'm just worried that Tiger (his name) is licking himself into serious problems, i.e. I am thinking of infections etc. since he sometimes, besides licking everything in his world, he licks himself down to his raw skin. He is used to be outside and I have a very hard time keeping him in the house. I tried bandages, they came flying off, sprays, creams, powders with bitter taste, nothing keeps him from licking. The other day Elizabeth, my wife actually caught him licking the soap in the bathroom. There's something wrong with that boy.

Dilettante Extraordinaire said...

Count me in as one who needs an answer/solution to this problem as well! My 2 year old female cat goes through phases of licking everything in sight. Just today, which is what sent me googling this topic, she stuck her head in a dish of coins and licked as many of them as she could until I took it away. Then she started licking a painted wooden figurine until I took that away. So she licked the wooden top of the bureau she was on from end to end.

We first noticed the "OLD" when she was about 6 mos old. We took her to the vet, as it did not seem normal for her to be licking kitty litter. After initial blood tests, we were told she was severely anemic and she was eventually diagnosed with AIHA (Auto Immune Hemolytic Anemia). At the time, we thought that perhaps she had been licking things to try to compensate for what was missing from her blood (red blood cells).

But even since her anemia has been regulated, she still goes through phases of obsessive licking. Sometimes she licks the little nubs on the insides of her front legs until they are bare, and then just as suddenly as she started, she will just stop and move on to something else. We don't let her outside very often, but when we do, she gets so excited she licks the pavement like she's kissing the earth beneath her feet.

I haven't yet identified any sort of environmental stress or food (protein) that makes the situation better or worse.

It wouldn't surprise me if this was some sort of OCD-type behavior. She has several quirks, and this could be one. But because of the anemia history, I'm concerned that there's a medical or nutritional issue going on here even though we've been told that it's not that causing it. Also, there don't appear to be any allergies or skin irritations at the sites where she licks herself.

I'd be interested in hearing from others who have had this problem...

The Pet Food Examiner said...

Welcome to the community subchapter Club of cat owners with cats suffering from "OLD". I am sure as time goes on this blog is going to get enough cat owners with the same problem involved so that we all learn from each other and hopefully resolve the problem.
I found a couple things you're saying interesting:
First, I too noticed that the strange behavior comes and goes. Like right now our Tiger is licking himself again and looks pretty bad with missing fur spots all over. And then, one day he'll just stop doing it. Then wait until he's all healed up and start again.
With reference to the food: Being in the pet food business we have tried an enormeous variety of foods to see what may help. But regardless whether we tried meat based or plant based proteins, novel foods, fish or chickem, potatoes or rice in any color, raw food, canned, dry, variety, the outcome is and was so far always the same: None. And we do it the right way, we feed him new "trial" foods for an extensive period over at least 4 weeks. This is the only way you really can see if the food makes a difference. The vet's shots don't work anymore, so we've given up on that. And any supplements, only distanced possibly helpful don't do it either. Sometimes I wonder if there is something wrong in his head/brain. He's still acting like he's 3 months old despite his age of 3 years.

The Pet Food Examiner said...

Living in the Palm Beach area in Florida, our local paper is the Palm Beach Post, which twice a week features a column written by Dr. Michael Fox, a well known veterinarian and authority on pet subjects. This past Saturday one of the readers asked him about our problem, except he/she experiences it with her dog. In Dr. Fox's opinion there could be 2 reasons for such behavior:
The pet has been weaned too early, suffered starvation or other trauma early in its life. This could be the answer to my problem since we saved Tiger as a few days old stray. He never had a normal childhood when growing up. However, the Dr. also says that those animals typically suck or chew on things.
The 2nd reason cited by Dr. Fox is possibly obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). He states that licking of materials in those cases rather than chewing or sucking is often tied to temperament, notably hyperactivity and often with boredom and separation anxiety.
Of course he also advises to do the obvious, i.e. to have the pet checked for any possible physical reasons for their behavior. Such reasons could possibly include gastrointestinal irritation, as by parasites and chronic gum or throat inflammation.
His advise on curing the problem: quote:"Try remotivating the pet with lots of physical activity outdoors" (I think that was more related to the dog than a cat) "and substitute objects to chew. Feed your pet natural food, since the dyes and other ingredients in mass manufactured pet foods may play some role in your pet's OCD."
Now for that comment he's my man of the day. Coming from me that means something, I quite often don't agree with what the doctor says.

The Pet Food Examiner said...

Joseph M. Gryskiewicz has left a new comment on your post "Cat with Obsessive Licking Disorder":

Obsessive-compulsive disorder Symptoms (OCD) means having behavior or thoughts that come over and over again and if these behavior or thoughts are not done then there is an anxious feeling of incompleteness. Some of the behaviors are normal everyday things, for example washing ones hands, checking doors or stoves, and some of the things can be unusual, counting to ten, counting while waiting for someone, hoarding money, or other similar things.

The Pet Food Examiner said...

Thanks Joseph, I appreciate the comment. However, I am wondering if it can be applied and how it relates to, in this case, a cat?
I also removed your link to Xanax as I like to stay away from advertising. I lindly ask readers interested in this link to contact you direct.

Elizabeth said...

My kitty seems to have pieces of all of these scenarios. She has never really licked things in the house excessively, except me (when she's on me), but she licks herself completely raw. Some of the previous comments seemed applicable; she was abandoned as a tiny kitten with her sister, I have moved several times in the last few years as I recently graduated from college, and perhaps these two things contribute to her licking.
I have taken her to the vet repeatedly for this problem. First it was her anal glands, then it was some sort of strange allergy, to which the vet gave her a steroid shot. This started in 2006 and I have had to get her a shot roughly every 6 weeks since. I cannot afford this and it makes me so sad that she is so itchy! Does anyone have any suggestions about how to make my kitty comfortable? These repeated shots (sometimes less than 6 weeks apart) must be terrible for her. What else can I do?

Mark said...

My cat, Freddie, is 16 months old. I found him abandoned at about 1 month old and took him in.

3 months ago, I adopted a little sister for him from a local temple. Once he got used to this new family member, he began giving her baths. At first, it was cute, the big brother grooming the little sister.

Now, however, he tries to clean her every chance he gets. His behavior is bordering on obsessive, and it doesn't seem like the younger sister always enjoys this.

I have seen many posts on OLD, but haven't come across a case of one cat obsessively licking another cat.

Anonymous said...

My cat has licked all the hair off her belly and continues til her skin is raw. she has done this so much that she has licked OFF her upper lips. I have not taken her to a vet as I can not afford it. She licks mostly her lower belly. In particular around her teets and where she was fixed. I swear sometimes she is still has the signs of going into heat. Her belly gets swollen and her teets too. I'm thinking in my cat's case this could be a reason as well as separation anxiety.

Anonymous said...

My friend's 3 year old cat obsessively licks anyone who strokes or cuddles her. She is very affectionate and seems to love human company and attention. My guess is that the licking is caused by a type of anxiety, or that this is her way of expressing love to those who pet her. When I see her, I cuddle her and try to talk to her reassuringly in an attempt to reduce her anxiety. I don't really know yet if it's at all helpful. Perhaps time will tell.