A cat might start to overgroom itself for a number of reasons, both medical and psychological. Our Stockton vets talk about the reasons why and what you can do to stop it.
How Much Grooming Is Too Much For Cats?
Overgrooming is classified as a cat who is spending an abnormally large amount of time grooming itself. If a cat grooms too much it can actually lead to fur loss and uncomfortable skin sores.
When cats lick themselves, natural neurotransmitters (endorphins) made by the brain get released. These endorphins make the self-grooming sensation feel comforting to your cat. Therefore, if your kitty is stressed, they may try to comfort themselves by grooming.
It is not uncommon for pet owners to miss these signs of excessive grooming because your cat is probably feeling comfortable in your presence and therefore does not feel the need to overgroom. However, when you leave the room your cat may start grooming again.
If you catch your kitty overgrooming, don't punish them, this will only make your cat feel more stressed and could make the issue worse.
What Can Cause Overgrooming In Cats?
Cats may overgroom for both physiological and medical reasons. When a physicological issue such as stress is causing a cat's overgrooming, it is called psychogenic alopecia.
Stress is the most common cause of overgrooming in cats. The type of stress that results in psychogenic alopecia is most likely chronic and caused by various stressors like a permanent change in your cat's environment and routine. Other stressors that could be triggering your cat's excessive grooming include:
- Being in a chaotic household
- Moving to a new home
- A family member moving away or being gone for longer hours
- Kitty litter being moved
- A death in the family
- The rearrangement of furniture
- A new animal in the home
- A wound on their skin
- An allergy to their food, fleas, or something in their environment
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Trying to relieve an itch
Try to evaluate any changes you have made to your cat's food or environment to determine why they may be overgrooming. If you think their increase in grooming is the result of an allergy, contact your vet or a veterinary dermatologist who will be able to test your cat for any allergies.
What Are The Signs A Cat is Overgrooming?
The biggest indication of overgrooming in cats is a strip or line down their body that resembles a cat buzzcut. These marks are most commonly left on your cat's belly, the base of their tail, the foreleg, and the inner thigh. If your cat's grooming habit is serious, its skin may also be sore, red, or/and damaged.
How To Stop Your Cat From Overgrooming
If your cat has started to overgroom, your first move is to make an appointment with your vet so they can check for any underlying medical conditions.
At your cat's appointment, your vet may conduct a series of tests to find the source of your pet's grooming, such as a complete physical examination, a skin biopsy, or other laboratory tests. The treatment your vet prescribes will depend on your pet's specific condition.
While you wait for your kitty's exam, try to evaluate what's been going on in your cat's life. If there is something new that might be causing them anxiety, you can try eliminating that stressor. If you find the stressor, remove it from your cat's environment, and your kitty's excessive grooming may gradually go away. Your veterinarian can offer tips on how you can eliminate the source of your cat's stress.
In situations where a medical diagnosis can't be determined, your vet might prescribe anti-anxiety drug therapy to help stop your cat's excessive licking. Your kitty will most likely need to be on this medication long enough to help them manage their stress. If your vet does prescribe these medications, you need to follow their instructions so your cat can benefit from the proper effects of the medication. You will also need time and patience to see this treatment take effect.
You should also know that the treatments for psychogenic alopecia aren't always permanent. Your cat's overgrooming habits could resurface at any time, this could be a sign that your kitty is stressed again.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.