Excessive Grooming in Cats – The Signs and Causes!
5 October, 2016
excessive grooming

We love that our feline friends keep themselves groomed and clean on a daily basis. It’s one of our cats’ best assets. However, sometimes the grooming can become excessive. There are usually behavioral reasons or an underlying medical condition that causes our cats to become compulsive about nibbling their paws and/or grooming.

Excessive grooming in cats is usually a stress-related condition and one of the most common compulsive disorders in cats.  Cats are creatures of habit so any change in their environment or daily routine such as moving or even changing your work hours can cause stress and obsessive licking is one way that cats soothe and calm themselves.

Signs of Over-Grooming in Cats

If your cat is grooming excessively, you’ll notice that your cat’s fur will start to come out, leaving bald patches in places.  This excessive grooming can lead to red and inflamed scabbing from the continuous grooming, scratching and/or licking.

There are many reasons why cats groom excessively:

Your cat might have fleas

Because cats are excellent groomers, they may actually remove all traces of fleas. If you notice your cat licking his lower back obsessively, with or without scabs on the neck, it is a sign that fleas might be causing the problem. Other parasites, including ticks, mites, and ringworm, can also prompt scratching, licking, or chewing.

Your cat might be allergic or have dry skin

Just as some people develop skin irritations in response to certain foods or environmental triggers, cats may have itchy, irritated skin if they are allergic to something in their environment. Dry winter air or nutritional inadequacies can contribute to dry, flaky skin that gets your cat started licking or scratching in search of relief.

Your cat might be feeling pain

If you notice your cat licking or biting at the same spot over and over again, it could be that he is experiencing pain or discomfort in that area. Check to see if you can find a spur or anything that your cat might have stepped on or might have lodged in his or her paw.

If your veterinarian rules out a medical condition, it could be that your cat is bored or stressed resulting in excessive grooming as a behavioral condition.

Your cat could be bored or anxious.

Compulsive cat chewing, scratching, or licking behaviors often develop in cats who are bored, stressed, or anxious. These disorders are more likely to occur in indoor cats, which may be due to the fact that they get behaviors that started in response to a medical condition can sometimes persist as compulsions after the condition is resolved.

If there’s no underlying physical cause for your cat’s over-grooming, it’s likely to be caused by an emotional issue such as stress. You may also notice other signs of emotional distress such as a refusal to eat, wanting to hide or skittish and fearful behavior.

If you can find out the trigger, try desensitizing your cat

You may find that desensitizing your cat by slowly and carefully exposing her to things she fears can be beneficial. Be careful to take baby steps if you try this so you don’t overwhelm your cat and make the compulsive licking, scratching or biting worse. Counter-conditioning, by training your cat to associate something pleasurable, like a treat, with something he fears may also help reduce stress and anxiety.

Play with your kitty to help him de-stress.

Play therapy is also a great stress-reliever. It can help build a pet’s self-confidence and associate the positive experience with the new house or pet. Interactive games are best, such as chase-the-fishing-pole lure or a laser light tag for cats.

Once you find out the ‘why’ your cat is grooming excessively, it will be much easier to treat the medical or behavioral condition. If anyone knows your cat, it is you! So try to think of when the excessive grooming started and why your cat might be doing this.

3 thoughts on “Excessive Grooming in Cats – The Signs and Causes!”

  1. One of our cats starts licking excessively around August every year. It goes on for 1-2 months and then stops. It’s apparently allergies – this was the worst year she’s ever had and ended up at the vet getting antibiotics (she licked herself so raw she got infected) and steroids (to calm the itchiness). We made it through this year but need to be more prepared for next year, in case we have another bad one.

    1. One of our cats does this every August, too. We live in Scotland and the cause is harvest mites, or berry bugs. Antibiotics don’t do anything to help – our cat gets a steroid shot every year. The mites bite the skin between the toes and in the ear fold; they inject saliva to dissolve the skin cells and the cat is allergic to the saliva. Perhaps this is the same source as your cat’s problem? These mites are seasonal, are tiny and bright orange. Hope this helps!

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