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Stereotypic behavior in stressed and depressed animals

Stereotypic behavior is defined as a repetitive, invariant behavior pattern with no obvious goal or function. Several examples of this abnormal behavior in animals include:

  • Swaying – standing in one place and swaying the head and shoulders, trunk, or even the whole body, from side to side. Swaying is often seen in elephants.
  • Bar biting – the continual sucking or biting of bars in an enclosure. Bar biting is easily observable in primates and also in some farm animals like horses.
  • Pacing – continuous walking back and forth, following the same path, with no obvious goal or function. Pacing is often seen in big cats like tigers and leopards.
  • Apathy – a condition where the animal is very passive and fails to interact with its surroundings. This is observable in nearly all animals that are under stress or depressed.
  • Rocking – continuous rocking forwards and backwards, most of the time while sitting. This behavior is seen in captive bears and apes.

Apart from the five behaviors above, there are other kinds of stereotypic behavior such as circling, neck twisting, head bobbing and weaving, abnormal mother-infant behavior, over-grooming, abnormal aggression, vomiting and regurgitating, self-mutilation or abuse, and coopophilia or coprophagia.