Cats spend an enormous amount of time grooming themselves, but excessive grooming in cats may result in their losing fur and making areas of their body completely bare. Excessive grooming can cause your cat to suffer with too many hairballs, and excessive grooming may be a symptom of various health conditions. In this article, we’ll discuss four common reasons for cat overgrooming and what you can do to stop it.
What is Cat Grooming?
Cats can spend up to 50% of their waking hours grooming themselves. Cat grooming removes loose hair, parasites and dirt from the cat’s coat. It also helps stimulate oil production, which helps keep their skin healthy and makes their fur silky soft and shiny. Kittens learn to groom selves by copying their mother. Most are bathing themselves by the time they’re weaned.
You may be surprised to learn that cats don’t sweat or pant to cool themselves. They lick themselves instead, which spreads saliva on their fur. The evaporation of the saliva helps cool them off – like when we get out of the tub or swimming pool and we’re freezing until we dry off!
Reasons for Cat Overgrooming
You should always let your veterinarian know if you think your cat is doing anything excessively, including overgrooming. Your vet is the best resource for figuring out why your cat is grooming excessively. That being said, here are four common reasons for excessive grooming in cats.
1. Allergies. Your cat’s skin can be irritated by food allergies, environmental allergies and flea allergies. If it’s flea season and your cat is excessively licking, I suggest using Advantage flea protection . Food allergies can cause itchy skin as well. Environmental allergies can be caused by things like poison ivy, weeds or pollen if you have an outdoor cat.
2. Pain or injury. Cats may excessively lick themselves if they are experiencing pain or discomfort. A good sign of this is if the cat is excessively licking in one particular area. Urinary tract infections, for example, are quite common in cats and may result in their excessively licking around the genitals. An older cat may be experiencing arthritis or joint pain, possibly causing them to excessively lick in those areas in an attempt to alleviate the pain.
3. Boredom. Cats who don’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation can become bored and begin excessively grooming themselves. Cat overgrooming is especially common in indoor cats. Make sure your cat has enough to do. You should provide a variety of toys for your cat, including interactive cat toys. Also provide a scratching post and something to sit high upon, like a perch or cat tree. Also make sure you’re playing with your cat often enough. If you have an indoor cat, you should play with your cat for at least 15 minutes three times a day.
4. Stress or Anxiety. Some believe that cats licking themselves releases endorphins that help relieve stress and anxiety. Compulsive grooming, known as psychogenic alopecia, can be triggered by big changes such as moving or adding a new pet, person or baby to the household. To find out more about what causes stress and anxiety for your cat, read my article, Cat Stress Relievers – 10 Things That Stress Your Cat Out.
Be Patient With Your Cat
Cats grooming themselves should never result in punishment. This will likely make it worse. Be patient with your cat and use the tips discussed in this article, plus the help of your veterinarian, to find out the reason for the excessive grooming. Also remember that excessive grooming, regardless of the reason, can become a habit for your cat. So be patient and realize it may take a month or so for the behavior to stop once the cause is resolved, and it can take a long time for lost fur to grow back.
By the way, if your cat is also grooming YOU, read my article, Why Do Cats Lick People? for help in reducing that as well.
Need Help with Cat Training?
If you feel you need more help with your cat’s behavior, I can recommend a very good resource for cat training called, Complete Cat Training Guide from KingdomofPets.com. This is a downloadable ebook that is jam-packed with information on how to solve 25 real-life cat behavior problems. It includes the best cat training techniques and step-by-step instructions. This program is $37 and comes with a full money-back guarantee.
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