Does Your Cat Groom Excessively?
12 March, 2014
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.
If your cat is scratching, licking, or chewing herself compulsively, it is likely you will catch him or her doing so. However, if you don’t, your first clue may be the disappearance of your cat’s fur, often in strips along her back or stomach. If you notice any signs of excessive grooming, take your cat to your veterinarian to find out if there is a medical condition.
Below are some of the reasons that your cat might be grooming 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
less exercise and excitement than outdoor cats. Compulsive disorders often begin when there are changes in a cat’s environment, including a new animal or baby in the house or a move to a new location. Also, behaviors that started in response to a medical condition can sometimes persist as compulsions after the condition is resolved.
Try to find out what and when the excess grooming started
Did you recently move? Did your son or daughter or sister leave to go to school? Any shift in environment can cause our cat’s stress. Did you start working different hours?
If your leaving is stressing out your kitty, leave behind unwashed socks or a t-shirt so your kitty has the familiarly and scent of your being there. This will provide a feeling of security for your cat.
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
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.
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