Feline Over-Grooming: Causes And Potential Treatments

Cats are sensitive animals. They may over-react to changes in their routine and surroundings. A significant number of cats will adapt easily to stress, but, there are a few who find adapting more difficult. Stress in cats manifests in a number of different ways: some cats will become withdrawn and refuse to interact with their owners while others may lose their appetite. Some will suffer with stress-related illnesses such as idiopathic cystitis. Some cats may start to over-groom – i.e., excessively lick at the fur – when faced with stressful situations. Here are some suggestions on dealing with this pressing problem of Feline Over-Grooming

feline over-Grooming
Cats can overgroom for a number of reasons

Why do cats over-groom?

Grooming is a normal behavior, designed to keep the cat's coat clean and healthy. It is also a pleasurable experience. Therefore, a cat who's feeling anxious, frustrated or unhappy may begin to groom compulsively.

How do I know if my cat is over-grooming?

You may not realize your cat is over-grooming until you notice bald or stubbly areas in your cat’s fur. Stressed cats often concentrate on specific areas; notably, down the middle of their back, on their belly or the inside of their legs. Licking sometimes removes the hair completely, leaving bald patches, but in certain cats there may be only subtle signs, such as a slight rough feeling to the fur where the licking has caused the hairs to break and become short and stubbly.

 

Does hair loss automatically equate to over-grooming?

Although over-grooming is a common reason for hair loss, there are also several medical reasons why a cat may lose her hair, such as pain, parasites, allergies or hormone problems. If the skin becomes itchy or sore, the cat may lick it to ease the discomfort. Deeper pain, for example, the pain associated with cystitis or urinary obstructions, can also cause the cat to lick the skin covering this area. Licking can further irritate the skin, which encourages the cat to lick even more, even when the original medical reason for the cat’s itchy or sore skin has gone. The cat may fall prey to a negative feedback loop which may lead to infection

What might be the cause of my cat’s stress?

Just like people, cats are individuals, each with their own preferences and stress tolerance levels. Common causes of stress for cats include:

  • multi-cat households
  • cats from neighboring properties
  • new pets
  • new baby
  • a change in owner
  • redecoration of the home or movement/rearrangement of furniture
  • a change in routine
  • moving the home
  • a change in type or brand of food/litter
  • boarding in a cattery
  • a trip to the veterinarian
  • idiopathic stress with no detectable cause.

How can I help my cat deal with stress?

It may not always be easy to identify the source of your cat's stress. If the issues appear to be psychological, your vet may refer you to a behavioral specialist after having ruled out medical problems.

If you are able to manage the stress at home, here are some hints and tips to help your cat cope at difficult times:

 

  • Some cats respond to medication such as anti-depressants.
  • Supplementation with alpha casozepine(a milk protein which triggers the feeling of contentment in newborns) can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety prior to exposure to a stressor.
    • Consider testing Feliway, a synthetic recreation of feline facial pheromones cat's use to mark their territory. By mimicking this scent, Feliway can help your cat feel more secure in their environment.
    • Ensure the cat is not being bullied by neighborhood cats – the smell of cat urine from other cats can infringe on their territory and cause stress. Use Spalding Bye Bye Odor to remove the unwanted cat urine odor and reduce the chances of your cat reacting to territory markers by other cats.
    • Ensure the cat can easily access its food, litter tray and bed at all times – disruptions in these basic facilities can cause feelings of unease.
    • Consult your vet at the first sign of stress in order to prevent the behavior becoming established and harder to treat.

 

For more information on cat care and management come back to Spalding again soon.

 

 

 *image courtesy of wikimedia commons