Diagnosing Cats

I know it sounds weird, but I found all kinds of blogs about pets and they're chock full of stories. Mostly about cats. There are some about fish, surprisingly enough, and a few about dogs, but cats are huge.

The last post I read was about a cat who scratched and ruined whatever was handy to ruin in the house. Is this typical of cats? Why do I think it is?

Is it true that they have no consideration? I know they jump up onto counters and will gladly drink your milk, eat your goldfish, that sort of thing. Maybe dogs do, too, but I've yet to see one on a counter.

On the one hand I want to be charitable and say that cats who do as they please have an atypical psychotic disorder and are incapable of testing reality. They just don't know that their behavior is sociopathic. They feel they're doing the right thing. They behave as if we're a step beneath them on the evolutionary ladder. If we could, we'd jump on counters, too.

On the other I'd like to say they're personality disordered; they know but they don't care, can't help themselves.

I see no Axis I disorder, no eating disorder, no affective disorder, no anxiety disorder, no paraphia. They're not sick, right? They're just doing what cats do. But not ALL cats are destructive, right? Perhaps only cats who have seen some hard knocks, street cats who know from abuse and street crime are destructive.

The real question I have, and maybe one of you out there knows the answer to this one, Do pet psychologists diagnose pets in this way?

I had a great session on the phone with a patient who gave me the opportunity to play pet shrink. She's generally very anxious and when her cat was sick she was sick with anxiety and had to talk to me right away. As we were talking she noticed that the more anxious she felt, the sicker the cat behaved. The cat seemed really, really stressed.

"He's shaking," she told me.

Ah. So we worked on dialing her anxiety down and lo and behold, the cat chilled down, too.

Now I know that pets are very sensitive to our emotions and that dogs in particular will cozy up next to us when we're sad. So what this says to me is that if a cat is chewing up the furniture. . .

Nah, can't be. Makes no sense.

copyright 2007, therapydoc


LOL! So you did come back here and give a crack at diagnosing cats.

Cats have a physical need to scratch to keep their claws sharp and to shed dead nail tissue. Much like we need to use emery boards, cats will find their version of such. In the strictest sense, their intention is not to be destructive, so this wouldn't be considered behavior a pet behaviorist would be concerned about, except to explain it in a way that the human could understand, and to help them find a way to redirect the cat's unwanted behavior.
therapydoc said…
Thanks AUTHOR! I do remember hearing this once, totally blocked on it.
I think that cats are bipolar, but it wouldn't be a disorder, because it's their natural state. They have periods of grandiosity where they think the entire world belongs to them, and near psychosis when they chase those little imaginary things that don't exist. Then, they crash and sleep for the entire day. :)
therapydoc said…
THAT'S the stuff I'm talking about.
Chana said…
It's just that they see things we can't, like teeny specks of dust floating in a ray of sunlight, that are daring the cat to swat at it. Who could blame it? They think we're nuts for talking on the telephone and spending so much time on the computer when we could be scratching their ears. Their reality is just different from ours, not better or worse... ;)
therapydoc said…
Chana, you're brilliant. Of course that's what's going on!
Recently I heard on the Martha Stewart radio with a woman who claims she's an expert with pets' psyche -- and she was so firm with her claims that pets are psychics and can sense many things that us humans cannot, like illnesses, and death approaching. I thought it was a bit far.

But I'm not surprised if pets are sensitive to their owners' emotions. I mean, what else do they have to do?
Cats have an unshakeable self-confidence,they know who they are, are sure what they are doing is "right", and could care less about our opinion and diagnosis.

They will comfort you if if it is needed, but do not wait upon your approval for their existence. There is much to be learned about confidence and independence from cats.
therapydoc said…
I AM LEARNING. The next time I talk to a cat I'm going to have a lot more respect, probably.

They do seem to have a decent way of looking at things all around, sort of unruffled, you know?
Hmmmm . . . I somehow found my way to your therapy blog about cats. I think you might enjoy http://therapydog.blogspot.com/
I personally never try to diagnose cats . . . and if I must (for insurance purposes) I would have no choice but to classify them as borderlines.