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Cat Overgrooming: Why Cats Overgroom & How You Can Stop It

Cats may start grooming excessively for psychological or medical reasons. Today, our veterinarians in Pittsboro explain why cats groom too much and how you can stop their excessive grooming.

Overgrooming in Cats

Excessive grooming occurs when cats spend an abnormally long time grooming themselves. When cats groom too much, they can lose their hair and develop skin lesions.

When cats lick themselves, natural neurotransmitters (endorphins) are released by the brain. These endorphins make the sensation of self-licking comforting for your cat. So, if your cat is stressed, it may try to comfort itself by grooming.

Many cat owners claim that they don't catch their cats grooming excessively, but this could be because their cats feel comfortable in their presence and don't feel the need to groom obsessively. However, when the owners leave the room, the cat may start grooming again.

If you catch your cat grooming excessively, don't punish it; this will only increase its stress and could worsen the problem.

Causes of Overgrooming in Cats

Cats may groom excessively for physiological and medical reasons. When a physical problem, such as stress, is at the root of a cat's excessive grooming, we speak of psychogenic alopecia.

Stress is the most common cause of excessive grooming in cats. The type of stress that causes psychogenic alopecia is most likely chronic and caused by various stressors, such as a permanent change in your cat's environment and routine. Other factors can also cause your cat to groom excessively:

  • Being in a chaotic household
  • The rearrangement of furniture
  • A family member is 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:

  • Allergies
  • A wound on their skin
  • Trying to relieve an itch
  • Ringworm
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • 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 grooms excessively, you'll notice a band or line resembling a cat's cup on its body. However, these excessive grooming marks or scabs are often found on the cat's belly, at the base of the tail, front paw, and the inside of the thigh. If your cat's grooming habits are severe, his skin may also be painful, red, and/or damaged.

Stopping Your 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 waiting for your appointment, try to determine if there's anything that might make your cat anxious and eliminate that stressor. If you find the stressor, remove it from your cat's environment, and your cat's excessive grooming can gradually disappear. Your vet can advise you on eliminating the source of your cat's stress.

In cases where a medical diagnosis cannot be made, your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medication to help your cat stop excessive licking. Your cat will probably need to take this medication for a sufficiently long period to help manage the stress. If your vet prescribes these medications, you must follow their instructions to the letter. It will also take time and patience for the treatment to take effect.

You should also be aware that treatments for psychogenic alopecia are not always permanent. Your cat's excessive grooming habits may reappear at any time, which may be a sign that your cat 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.

Has your cat been overgrooming? Contact our Pittsboro vets today to schedule an appointment for your kitty.

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