Overgrooming in Cats
Overgrooming is when cats spend an unusually large amount of time grooming themselves. When cats groom themselves too much, it can lead to fur loss and skin sores.
Natural neurotransmitters (endorphins) produced by the brain are released when cats lick themselves. Your cat experiences the act of grooming itself as soothing thanks to these endorphins. So, if your cat is anxious, they might groom themselves to feel better.
Many cat owners claim they don't catch their cats grooming themselves excessively, but this could be because the cats are at ease in their presence and don't feel the need to do so. When the owners leave the room, the cat might resume grooming.
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.
Causes of 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.
The most frequent factor in cats who overgroom themselves is stress. Most likely chronic, the type of stress that leads to psychogenic alopecia is brought on by a variety of stressors, such as a long-term alteration in your cat's routine and environment. Your cat may be excessively grooming itself due to various stressors, such as:
- Being in a chaotic household
- The rearrangement of furniture
- A family member moving away
- Being gone for longer hours
- Kitty litter being moved
- A new animal in the home
- Moving to a new home
- A death in the family
Your kitty may also be overgrooming for medical reasons such as:
- A wound on their skin
- Trying to relieve an itch
- Bacterial or fungal infections
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.
Signs of Cat Overgrooming
If your cat is excessively grooming, you will notice a stripe or line that resembles a cat buzzcut on your cat's body. However, these overgrooming marks are most often found on a cat's belly, at the base of their tail, on the foreleg, and inner thigh, and sometimes scabs. If your cat's grooming habit is serious, its skin may also be sore, red, or/and damaged.
How to Stop a Cat from Overgrooming
If you notice your cat overgrooming, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with your vet so they can rule out 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 appointment, try to figure out if there is anything that could be making your cat anxious and eliminate the 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.
If a medical diagnosis cannot be made, your veterinarian may recommend anti-anxiety medication to help your cat stop licking itself excessively. For long enough to help your cat manage their stress, they'll probably need to stay on this medication. You must carefully follow your veterinarian's instructions if they do prescribe these medications. Observing the results of this treatment will also take time and patience.
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.