Cats over-groom for various reasons, both psychological and medical. Today, our Pico Rivera vets explain why cats excessively groom and how you may be able to stop your cat's overgrooming.

What Is Overgrooming in Cats?

Overgrooming is when cats spend an unusually large amount of time grooming themselves. When cats groom themselves too much, it can lead to fur loss and skin sores.

Natural neurotransmitters (endorphins) produced by the brain are released when cats lick themselves. These endorphins make your cat's self-grooming experience pleasurable. As a result, if your cat is stressed, they may try to soothe themselves by grooming.

Lots of cat owners say they don't catch their cats excessively grooming, but this could be because their cats feel comfortable with them there and don't feel the need to obsessively groom. However, when the owners leave the room the cat may start grooming again. 

If you catch your kitty overgrooming, don't punish them, this will only make your cat feel more stressed and could make the issue worse.

Causes of Overgrooming in Cats

Cats may groom excessively for physiological as well as medical reasons. Psychogenic alopecia occurs when a physiological issue, such as stress, causes excessive grooming in a cat.

Stress is the most common cause of overgrooming in cats. The type of stress that results in psychogenic alopecia is most likely chronic and caused by various stressors like a permanent change in your cat's environment and routine. Other stressors that could be triggering your cat's excessive grooming include:

  • Being in a chaotic household
  • The rearrangement of furniture
  • A family member moving away or 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:

  • Trying to relieve an itch
  • An allergy to their food, fleas, or something in their environment
  • A wound on their skin 
  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Ringworm
  • Hyperthyroidism

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 Your Cat is Overgrooming

If your cat is excessively grooming, you will notice a stripe or line on his or her body that resembles a cat buzzcut. Overgrooming marks are most commonly found on a cat's belly, at the base of its tail, on scabs, on the foreleg, and on the inner thigh. If your cat has a serious grooming habit, its skin may become sore, red, or damaged.

How To Stop 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.

Try to identify any potential stressors for your cat while you wait for your appointment so that you can remove them. Your cat's excessive grooming may gradually stop if you identify the stressor and eliminate it from its surroundings. Your veterinarian can give you advice on how to get rid of the stressful situation that your cat is in.

Your veterinarian may recommend anti-anxiety drug therapy to help stop your cat's excessive licking in cases where a medical diagnosis cannot be made. Most likely, your cat will need to take this medication for a sufficient amount of time to manage their stress. If your veterinarian does recommend these medications, you must carefully adhere to their recommendations. For this treatment to work, you will also need to be patient and give it time.

You should also know that the treatments for psychogenic alopecia aren't always permanent. Your cat's overgrooming habits could resurface at any time, this could be a sign that your kitty 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.

Do you think your cat is overgrooming? If so, contact our Pico Rivera veterinarians today and schedule an appointment.