Over-grooming in cats

over-GROOMING

Cats are natural self groomers. In fact, they spend up to 25% of their lives grooming themselves. Sometimes, when they are feeling stressed, they use this grooming behaviour as a way to cope and end up causing harm to their fur and skin.

Grooming is a normal cat behaviour... usually

Self grooming is a normal and important part of your cat's behaviour. In normal amounts it cleans the skin and coat, removes excess hair and dander and helps relax your cat; however, if your cat grooms too much it can lead to problems.

Why does my cat groom excessively?

There are a number of reasons why cats may groom excessively.

Environmental causes, including fleas, allergies, or the resulting dermatitis (skin irritation) are common.

Another cause of excessive grooming can be stress from movingrenovating, visitors in the home, multiple cats in or around the home and more. 

Excessive grooming can also have a medical component. Sometimes the medical issue is the cause of the excessive grooming, such as in cases of itchy skin caused by environmental or flea bite allergies. Other times the medical condition (usually dry, cracked and irritated skin) is a result of the excessive grooming, triggered by other things such as stress. If your cat continues to groom irritated skin, it can lead to open sores and infection. 

Genetics can be a factor as well. Purebred cats frequently suffer from excessive grooming behaviour.

How to help manage over-grooming

1.

If your cat begins grooming more than normal, speak with your veterinarian to rule out a medical cause for the behaviour.

2.

Look for potential skin irritants that may be causing the over-grooming (fleas, change in laundry detergent, etc.).

3.

Help your cat feel safe and secure by plugging in a Feliway Diffuser where your cat spends most of its time.

4.

Provide toys and climbing opportunities (cat tree, shelves) to keep your cat active, occupied and mentally stimulated to help prevent boredom.

How can I tell if my cat is grooming excessively?

over-groomed cat with bald patches

You may see a line or stripe down the back or on the foreleg of your cat with what looks like very short, stubbly hair. This is a result of your cat licking over and over, breaking off or "barbering" the hair, chewing their skin or pulling their hair out with their teeth.

Note that in some cases, you might not be able to see your cat performing these behaviours, as many cats will groom at night or while you are away. Cats can be very sneaky, so just because you don't see your cat over-grooming doesn't mean they're not doing it!

* image thanks to N.Massal

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