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Do animals suffer from forms of mental Illness?

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Old 01-20-2001, 11:25 AM   #1
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Cornwall, ON, Canada
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SoLost HB User
Do animals suffer from forms of mental Illness?

In my second post about animals I'm wondering what you guys think: Do animals suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, ect...?

I started thinking of this after I watched Ripley's this morning. They had a feature about a kitten who was chased by dogs up a tree and hasn't come down in three years. Never leaves the tree. PTSD? Form of agraphobia(sp?) The "tree cat" gets his 3 squares a day and even has a little house built for him in the tree by the tree's owner.

This made me also think of the bizare behavior of one of my cats, Vlad. He's 7; when he was younger he sprained his back jumping off the fridge. The vet put him on a drug for the pain. A few weeks later, after he recovered, he started pulling his fur out. he yanked all his fur from his shoulders down right off his body. He had a furry head but the rest of him was blad. Ick... I took him to the vet and there was nothing wrong wih him and he had no fleas, ticks, ect... He started behaving a little strange too; he was like a kitten. Tearing around the house, playing, and he lost a lot of weight. He went from being a fatcat to a scrawny cat. He didn't even behave like a kitten when he was one! During this time he would literally attack other cats. This included his fellow house mates and cats on the street. I would take him out on a leash and he literally almost choked himself getting out of his collar so he could chase and beat up a neighbourhood cat. So very bizare! Over the years he hasn't had another episode quite like that but he has went through times when he plays more, pulls out his fur, and is more aggressive to the other cats. Then there are times when this very friendly cat will hide for days and not "talk" to anyone(he usually expresses himself with a variety of purrs, grunts and meows)Then returns to normal like nothing happened. Hmmm? Do I have a bipolar cat or is he somehow sensing my feelings and behaviors...although I his major "episode" occured when I was depressed. I'm happy to report he is himself, at a healthy weight, with a "normal disposition" and is currently laying on the monitor while I'm on the computer...he's my "Net cat".

Another story for you. My mom has this cat she's about ten now. She's also pretty bizare. She had her first episode when she was about a year old. She was at a healthy weight but suddenly stopped eating. She went to the vet and there was nothing wrong with her but the vet perscribed a med to stimulate her appetite. She started eating again and started gaining weight. When she started getting paunchy again she did the same thing. Refused to eat and started starving again. Back to the vet with for meds. She's been doing this for almost 10 years. The worst episode saw her hospitalized. She starved herself until she was a skeleton. We thought she was literally going to starve herself to death! The vet did blood work and a complete "physical" and there was nothing wrong with her. She did start to eat again and is currently maintaining a "skinny" weight but is doing ok. Anorexic cat? Who knows!

I'd love to hear other stories or thoughts about this issue. It's very interesting.

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Old 01-20-2001, 01:20 PM   #2
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melody HB User
Re: Do animals suffer from forms of mental Illness?

I do think animals have emotions and I know they experience grief. My husband and I started with one dog. Eventually we got a second and the two had several years of being "brothers". Then we took in a female dog and the youngest two seemed to bond the most. When the eldest dog had advanced cancer and was suffering greatly, we took him to the vet to end his suffering. After discussing this with the vet, we decided to take him into the dogs area on a blanket and let them sniff him so that they'd know he died. We had heard that a dog can accept death easier than a disappearance. We did this and it was heart breaking (though I still think it was the right thing to do). They sniffed him and ran back to us. They went back and forth several times and each time the youngest dogs wails grew louder and louder and more and more distraught sounding. When they eventually calmed a little, we took the dog out and buried him. In the next few weeks, the middle dog (not the one who wailed) began to "break out". He'd never done this before but he began tearing down wood fencing with a vengence. We repaired and repaired and eventually had to replace an entire section of fence. Both of the dogs really seemed to experience grief in their own way.

I think my cat may have been traumatized at some point in her early life because she is so afraid of other people. She was a stray that adopted my husband/I after a period of weeks when we left her food outside. She took a long time to trust us enough to let us pet her. Now she is a big house/lap cat who follows us around and is very well adjusted to us; however, every time we have company, she tears through the house to a hiding place and stays there until 30 to 120 minutes after the visitors have left.

I love my "kids" (animals). I don't know what I'd do without them and their unconditional love.

Old 01-20-2001, 01:35 PM   #3
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melody HB User
Re: Do animals suffer from forms of mental Illness?

Just an additional note to my response: I don't mean to imply that grief is a mental illness - only that if they can experience emotions such as grief, they probably could also be susceptible to depression, etc. just like we are.

Old 01-20-2001, 02:07 PM   #4
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Beebs HB User
Re: Do animals suffer from forms of mental Illness?

One of my little dogs was a "puppy mill" puppy, and he was taken from his mother too soon.

He's 4 years old now, and he still "nurses" on the same stuffed animal - never anything else. We had to stockpile them so we can replace them when they wear out. His eyes sort of go back in the back of his head and it's like hes somewhere else. he does this several times a day for up to 15 or 20 minutes each time.

The vet says the texture of the toy probably reminds him of his mother and that it's probably a joyful experience for him and to just leave him alone.

He's really happy but he was 12 weeks old before he got him and I really believe that if he had gone much longer in that cage without love that he could have had more severe emotional/mental damage.

Old 01-20-2001, 02:42 PM   #5
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TrickyDick HB User
Re: Do animals suffer from forms of mental Illness?

Hey Girls and Guys,
Did you ever see the movie "The Horse Whisperer"? It was good but really left out a lot. If you can find it, you should read the book. It explains a lot about the way animals act, react and think. Being raised in New Mexico and Texas and being a county boy and moving around a lot, I was exposed to animals of all kind from the time I could set a horse. I had a lot of dogs, but since we would not pen or chain a dog I lost a lot of them to cars, trucks and unknown reasons. We had the usual of horses, cattle(to eat, not pets), chickens (to eat), rabbits(to eat), cats (if they wanted to stay, they stayed outside) even a coyote pup that I found and fed up untill he was healthy enought to let go. (I still have the scars from his razor teeth).
Anyway, over the years and the multitude of animals I developed a sense of their behaviours and how to comminucate with them. I never reached the point of being an expert like in the book with horses, but almost so. I can get along with almost any animal and have constantly baffle friends and people by how dogs and cats and other animals seem to be attracted to me. I did'nt think much of it, untill I was older.
One of the strange things about this is I can almost always tell if an animal is sick or unhappy (with animals "unhappy" covers a lot of things and behaviours. I get upset sometimes because the owner has no idea or is so insensitive to his/her pet or animal.
I am a firm believer that most people should not be allowed to own animals because they don't know and don't want to care for them properly. If YOU are going to have an animal it is YOUR responsibility to take care of not only his physical condiiton but his mental condition also. Like someone said, its like having kids and you should treat them just as good if not better because they can not communicate as well and are somewhat more at a disadvantage legally and in other ways. I could tell you stories, but they are too horrible and depressing.
If you have children please teach them that animals are almost people too and deserve to be treated with respect, kindness, compassion and love.

Old 01-21-2001, 09:46 AM   #6
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SoLost HB User
Re: Do animals suffer from forms of mental Illness?

Animals are so much like people. They all have their own moods, personalities, likes and dislikes. I agree, they are just like children and need a lot of TLC, especially the ones who have been hurt and abused. I almost cried when I read the post about the dogs. Animals do have feelings to and they hurt just like us. I have heard so many stories that after an owner dies the animal dies shortly after to. They become attached to us as we do them. I couldn't imagine ever harming an animal and they bring some joy to my life. Their antics, mainly the cats, are just hilarious!

I have four cats:
Vlad: the bipolar cat (the one in the above story) :0)
Meena: hates all her housemates but loves the humans.

I've had Vlad and Meena for almost 7 years; ever since they were kittens. Meena was a housewarming gift when I moved out on my own and Vlad was a stray who came to visit and never left.

Then there's the Siamese, D, I've had him for 5 years. He was also a stray. He was starved and has a fear of men. He still throws up when he eats to fast.

My newest addition is Sophie, she was being given away about two years ago. She's also a Siamese. She has really became a part of the family since my ex left almost a year ago. Before that she would just hide and not come out.

Then there's my doberman, Ice, who is 4 and thinks she's a cat. She actually bathes herself like the cats do. She always wants to play with them but as you may have guessed they want nothing to do with her.

The newest addition is Jasmine, a little dog that came when my bf's mom wasn't able to care for her anymore. She fits in pretty good but Ice "bugs" her too!

We are just one big happy family!

Just another note. When I brought Sophie home the first cat she tried to bond with was D. The farm she lived on raised only Siamese cats. She was attracted to the kind of physical features she was around all her life.

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