Cats groom themselves for a variety of reasons: for cleanliness, as a way to deal with stress or other emotions and so forth. In fact, the average cat may spend up to 25% of their waking time with grooming. However, excessive grooming can become a compulsive issue in cats, resulting in serious illness for the affected cat. On the other hand, over-grooming can indicate another health issue within the cat.
Causes of Over-grooming in Cats
In cats, over-grooming may also be referred to as psychogenic alopecia. However, this is only if the cause of over-grooming is due to psychological effects, such as stress.
The truth is, cats may excessively groom themselves for a variety of reasons. Some cats may be over-grooming because of food allergies, allergic reactions to internal or external pests (such as fleas,) and various other health issues including issues such as hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s Disease (hyperadrenocorticism) and various infections.
Symptoms of Excessive Grooming in Cats
Of course, the most obvious symptom is the sudden realization that your cat is grooming itself excessively. While it is normal for cats to spend a certain portion of their day grooming, excessive grooming can result in hot spots, additional bacterial, fungal or viral infections and so forth.
Owners may also note that the excessive grooming has resulted in open sores and visible injuries to the cat’s skin, especially if the cat is excessively chewing at itself.
How to Deal with Over-grooming in a Cat
Note that not all causes of over-grooming can be dealt with at home. Always be sure to take your cat into the veterinarian to rule out any serious health issues that may be indicated by the cat’s obsessive grooming habits.
Recent changes in the house, such as a child going off to school or a member of the family passing on, can cause severe stress for a cat. Since this stress can result in over-grooming; one way to deal with the issue is to provide the cat with something to eliminate the cat’s stress.
For example, a recording of the missing person’s voice or an item of clothing with their scent can help sooth a stress cat.
Over-grooming may also be the result of boredom and therefore providing the cat with more activity and interaction may be the most beneficial. Owners should set aside time every day to play with their cat. Even ten minutes a day can make a huge difference in the cat’s mental well-being, which can translate into less focus on obsessive grooming.
As a second-to-last resort, owners may want to consider purchasing some stress-relieving pheromone products. These products produce a natural scent that cats are familiar with and can help calm a kitty when an owner is away for the day.
Unfortunately, some cats with cases of serious obsessive grooming may require medication anti-anxiety medications. These medications should only be given upon the approval of the veterinarian and only after all other methods of dealing with the obsessive grooming have been exhausted.
Pet Education: Causes of Hair Loss (Alopecia) in Cats
Pawprints & Purrs, Inc: Overgrooming in Cats
Pet Place: Psychogenic Alopecia in Cats