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Why Cats Overgroom & How You Can Stop It

Why Cats Overgroom & How You Can Stop It

Cats may start overgrooming due to psychological or medical factors. In this article, our veterinarians in Redding will clarify the reasons behind cats' excessive grooming and provide solutions to help you stop it.

Overgrooming in Cats

Cats engage in overgrooming when they excessively groom themselves. Excessive grooming can result in fur loss and skin sores.

When cats lick themselves, their brain releases natural neurotransmitters called endorphins. These endorphins provide a comforting sensation during self-grooming. Therefore, if your cat is feeling stressed, they may attempt to soothe themselves by grooming.

Many cat owners claim not to observe their cats grooming excessively, possibly because their cats feel at ease in their presence and do not feel the need to groom obsessively. However, when owners leave the room, their cats may resume grooming.

If you notice your cat overgrooming, avoid punishing them, as this can increase their stress levels and exacerbate the issue.

Causes of Overgrooming in Cats

Cats may overgroom for both physiological and medical reasons. When a physiological issue such as stress is causing a cat's overgrooming, it is called psychogenic alopecia. 

Stress stands out as the primary factor behind overgrooming in cats. This kind of stress leading to psychogenic alopecia is typically ongoing and arises from various sources, like permanent changes in your cat's surroundings and daily routine. Additional stressors that may prompt your cat's excessive grooming consist of:

  • 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

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 results from an allergy, contact your vet or a veterinary dermatologist, who can test your cat for any allergies.

Signs of Cat Overgrooming

If your cat excessively grooms itself, you will observe a stripe or line that resembles a buzz cut on its body. However, these cat overgrooming marks typically appear on your cat's belly, scabs, at the base of their tail, foreleg, and inner thigh. If your cat's grooming habit worsens, its skin may become sore, red, or damaged.

How to Stop a Cat From Overgrooming

If you observe your cat engaging in excessive grooming, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to 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 you wait for your appointment, try to figure out if anything could make your cat anxious and eliminate the stressor. If you find the stressor, remove it from your cat's environment, and your kitty's excessive grooming may gradually disappear. Your veterinarian can offer tips on eliminating the source of your cat's stress.

In cases where a medical diagnosis is inconclusive, your vet may recommend anti-anxiety medication to help alleviate your cat's overgrooming. Your cat may need to remain on this medication for an extended period to manage their stress effectively. Be sure to closely follow your vet's instructions if they prescribe these medications, and be patient as you wait to see the treatment's effects.

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.

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

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Dana Park Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Redding companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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