It's normal for cats to groom themselves regularly but how do you tell if your cat is over-grooming? Our vets at Burlington and Bellingham will provide information on over-grooming in cats, why they do this and how you can help prevent over-grooming.
What is over-grooming in cats?
Over-grooming is when your cat spends an abnormally large amount of time grooming itself. This can result in hair loss and skin sores which can be very uncomfortable for cats.
When a cat licks itself, endorphins, which are natural "feel good" chemicals made by the brain, are released. These endorphins are the chemicals that make the sensation of self-grooming feel comforting. So, for example, when your cat is stressed, angry or upset, it may start this comforting behavior as a way of self-soothing.
Cats on average spend up to 50% of their day grooming, but excessive amounts of licking, biting, chewing, or scratching may mean that your cat’s self-grooming habits have become problematic.
Why do cats over-groom?
There are many different reasons why your cat might be over-grooming itself but to better help your cat you will need to understand why they are over-grooming.
Allergy or Infection
Irritated skin can be caused by an infection, an allergy to foods, parasites, or environmental elements. Your cat’s fur-loss pattern may even be a sign of the source of the problem, for example:
- If it is a flea allergy, you may notice your cat over-grooming at the base of the tail, where an irritation has formed.
- If your cat has ear mites, you might notice hair loss and scabs on the neck and ears.
- If your cat has an allergic reaction to pollen, you will notice your cat excessively chewing on the paw pads.
Stress or Boredom
Your cat can become stressed or bored for several reasons. Some things that could potentially stress your cat out are:
- If you have added a new pet or human to the family.
- Moving/moved to a new home.
- Rearranging the furniture.
- Moving the litter box to another location.
- Living in a chaotic household, the holiday season can be a stressful time for pets.
- Any change in their food. Changing brands can upset your cat emotional and digestively.
Compulsive grooming, known as psychogenic alopecia, is generally triggered by a change in your cat’s daily routine or environment. Cats are very observant and may even feed off of our stress levels.
Another reason your cat could be over-grooming is because they are in pain. If your cat is in pain your may notice them licking a certain area of their body repeated. If you notice this, contact your Burlington and Bellingham vets to make an appointment today.
How to stop cat over-grooming?
There are ways to stop your cat from over-grooming but the best thing to do is to consult with your Chuckanut Valley Vet Clinic and Chuckanut Feline Center vet to rule out any medical causes. If your cat is in pain, your vet can determine what’s causing it and how to manage the pain.
Another way to stop your over-grooming due to infection is to keep your cat on flea medication year-round to help with flea allergies and ear mites.
Once your cat has been cleared by their vet, there are things that can be done at home to stop your cat from over-grooming.
You can start by maintaining your cats routine. If something has happened to mess up your cats daily routine, its important to get them back on a schedule. Cats love routine so this will create a comfortable environment for them.
You also should provide mental and physical stimulation. You can try new toys or scratching post for your cat to help distract them from over-grooming.
You may also want to talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication if you notice your cat is not calming down. There are prescription medications available as well as over the counter sprays and wall plug-ins.
If you have noticed your cat over-grooming contact your Chuckanut Valley Vet Clinic and Chuckanut Feline Center vets can help determine why and help resolve the issue.