You probably are wondering how to stop your cat from overgrooming. You are not alone. Many cat owners are concerned about how to stop a cat from licking its fur off, as they are worried that their cat is hurting itself.
A cat that overgrooms will compulsively lick or chew on parts of its body until it becomes raw and injured. Often, the grooming behavior is triggered by stress and anxiety, but certain medical conditions can also lead to it.
If you are concerned about stopping over-grooming in cats while making them feel happy and loved, please continue reading.
Overgrooming in Cats
As mentioned before, cat overgrooming is the compulsive licking or chewing of fur to the point that it becomes thin or bare. This behavior can also be referred to as psychogenic alopecia because there are both psychological and physical reasons for this type of self-destructive behavior.
Please note that overgrooming in cats is not the same as overgrooming in humans. For example, humans will pull their hair out, which is a compulsive behavior known as trichotillomania, while cats lick and chew on themselves until the skin becomes red and bald.
Why do Cats Over Groom?
There can be several reasons why a cat might start to groom itself obsessively. Some of the most common reasons include:
Stress and Anxiety
A cat may overgroom when it is anxious. For example, a new addition to the household might cause stress in your feline friend, or perhaps they are no longer getting enough attention from you. It can be challenging for some cats to adjust to change, so it is crucial to help them through the transition.
Pieces of Thread or String
Another reason your cat may be obsessively licking themselves is that they have gotten a piece of string or thread wrapped around their body part. This can be especially dangerous because cats can get their tongues stuck in painful positions while trying to get the string off.
Some medical conditions can cause cats to groom themselves obsessively. For example, a cat might over-groom if it has an adrenal gland tumor or hyperthyroidism. Fleas or other parasites might also cause overgrooming in cats.
Cats can develop allergies to different types of food, leading to itching. If your cat is licking itself continuously because of a food allergy, it will often drool and lose weight.
Ways to Prevent Cat Overgrooming
If your cat is overgrooming, you may be wondering how to prevent it from happening. In this case, prevention is critical. You can do several things to help your cat feel happier and safer at home. Here are some tips to help your cat stop overgrooming:
Distract Your Cat from Overgrooming with Toys
You can distract your cat from obsessively grooming by giving her toys to play with. Interactive toys that they can chase and chew on are a great way to redirect their energy into something positive.
Give Your Cat Some Alone Time
Even though you love spending time with your cat, giving them some alone time is essential. Since cats are territorial animals, it can be stressful if they feel like you are always around, depending on them too much. So allowing them some quiet time will help reduce stress.
Take Your Cat to the Veterinarian for a Check-Up
It is always essential to take your cat for regular check-ups, especially if it might have a medical condition. Your veterinarian will tell you if there are any underlying health concerns. Sometimes, overgrooming in cats can indicate another problem that needs specialized care.
Play Cat Games with Your Kitty
If your cat seems bored and is grooming out of habit rather than stress, find ways to play with them. You can buy several different cat toys that will help keep them entertained. Some cats enjoy chasing balls or laser pointers, while others prefer catnip-filled mice toys.
Playing interactive cat games such as “cat fishing” with your cat can provide valuable stimulation for them. Interactive games are especially important to play with your indoor cats, so they don’t feel bored all the time.
Get Treats for Your Kitty
Cats love food, and it can be a great way to motivate them. If you want your cat to stop over-grooming, try finding treats they like. Casually rewarding good behavior is an excellent way of reinforcing positive actions such as controlling the obsessive licking or chewing.
You can also try scratching your cat’s favorite body parts with your hands, feet, or a cat brush. This is beneficial because it will satisfy your kitty’s urges to groom themselves.
Introduce a New Cat Appropriately
If you are thinking about getting a new cat or kitten, it is vital to introduce the two of them properly. If your current cat feels threatened by the latest addition to the home, they might feel stressed and over-groom as a result.
There are several different ways to introduce cats to one another. First, you can try positive reinforcement by treating them when they are in close proximity to one another. If the cats seem ready, you can also allow them to roam around the house together while supervised.
You should also ensure that your current cat has plenty of toys and elevated spaces where she can go if she feels threatened by this new situation.
Create Hiding Places
Cats are good at hiding out. For example, a cat may easily hide under tables and on top of cabinets since they are generally all accessible. They can, however, be unable to hide in certain situations, which may cause stress and lead to overgrooming.
Hiding places are beneficial because they give kitty a safe place to go when they feel stressed. You can also create hiding spots for your cat by adding new furniture to the home. Be sure to have several different ones so your cat can have options if they get bored of one spot quickly.
Give Your Cat Plenty of Attention
When a cat is overgrooming, they may feel a lack of attention from their humans. If you notice that your kitty has been licking excessively, then try spending time with them. Snuggling with your pet and giving them extra love will help distract them from the constant urge to groom.
You can also try giving your cat some extra affection, even if they are not over-grooming. This will help them get used to receiving attention that isn’t forced.
Check for Parasites
Sometimes, overgrooming in cats is just the result of an infestation. Cats are more likely to have parasites if they spend time outside or around other animals that may be carrying insects.
If you notice that crawling sensations accompany your cat’s excessive grooming on their skin, then check for bugs or parasites. You can try using an anti-parasite shampoo, but taking your pet to the vet first might be beneficial. Read our article and find out the best shampoos for your cat.
Make Sure There’s No Stress in the Home
Cats can be very stress-sensitive animals. Therefore, if one of your pets experiences a stressful event, it may trigger overgrooming in other cats or animals.
If you notice that your cat’s excessive grooming is triggered by stress, try finding ways to reduce the stress in their lives. You can try to reintroduce hideaways and affection, as well as get rid of any scary or aggressive pets.
If your cat still experiences stress-triggered overgrooming even though the triggers have been removed, you should consider taking them to a vet. Some cats can benefit from certain medications that will help calm their nerves and stop them from over-grooming.
Check for Any Medical Problems
Like any other strange behavior, overgrooming in cats may be caused by a medical problem. If your cat or kitten is licking themselves too often, it could indicate a severe medical issue.
If you notice other strange behavior beyond excessive grooming, like loss of appetite or vomiting, take them to the vet immediately. Some common causes that might lead to overgrooming include allergies and ringworm infection.
Change its Food
Cats generally overgroom when they are not receiving the nutrients they need from their food. To avoid this, you can rotate your cat’s diet or change its food altogether. If a particular ingredient in the food is causing your cat to over-groom, then switching their food will end this behavior.
You mustn’t make any sudden changes regarding what your cat eats. Instead, you should gradually introduce a new food into their diet by mixing it with the old food to get used to the different tastes.
Don’t Punish or Scold
You should never punish or scold your cat for overgrooming. This will only lead to more stress and anxiety, which may ultimately cause the behavior to get worse.
If you punish your cat for licking themselves, it may cause them to feel a sense of shame. But, unfortunately, this can also cause stress and lead them to overgroom even more.
Instead of scolding them, you should find ways to distract your cat from licking themselves.
Try a Pheromone Diffuser
To help reduce your cat’s stress levels, you could also try getting a pheromone diffuser. These natural scents mimic pheromones that mother cats produce to calm their kittens down.
Pheromones help regulate your cat’s body and mind. When your cat smells pheromones, it will feel comfortable and safe. This can help reduce anxiety in stressful situations and keep them from overgrooming while still feeling happy and loved.
Add a Dietary Supplement
Another way to stop a cat from licking itself raw is by adding a dietary supplement like Zylkene.
Zylkene contains milk protein, which can soothe cats. It’s a nutraceutical, so it doesn’t contain any pharmaceuticals but may have drug-like effects. In other words, it’s a dietary supplement that can significantly impact a cat’s health.
Zylkene is typically given to cats stressed out by a change in their environment or lifestyle, including a new home or a move to a shelter. It can also be effective for other stressful events that cause overgrooming, such as loud noises and trips to the vet.
Zylkene comes in capsules that you add to your cat’s food. It doesn’t require any needles, or it can also be added to water or milk for cats who won’t eat it with their food.
You should consult with your veterinarian before giving your cat any new supplements to ensure that they are safe.
Signs of Cat Obsessive Grooming
If you have noticed your cat licking hair off or scratching excessively, there are several grooming behaviors that it might be exhibiting. Here are some signs of overgrooming in cats:
- Scratching or licking themselves compulsively
- Biting at their skin around the tail, face, and neck
- Hair loss from scratching or biting
- Bleeding from scratching or biting of the skin
If you notice your cats licking themselves, it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about ways to stop it.
Causes of Cats Overgrooming
There are several reasons why a cat might overgroom. Here are some common causes of obsessive cat grooming:
- Boredom: If your cat is not receiving enough attention or is left alone often, they might start overgrooming themselves.
- Anxiety: If your cat is stressed by something in her environment, it might overgroom.
- Compulsive disorder: Cats sometimes overgroom themselves out of habit, which can be a sign of compulsive disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Skin disorders: If your cat licks or scratches its skin excessively, it may have a skin condition such as eczema. This means that the cat needs to see the veterinarian for treatment.
- Health conditions: Several medical conditions can cause cats to overgroom themselves. These include hyper OCD.
- Skin disorders: Your cat might overgroom its skin if it suffers from skin conditions such as eczema. If your cat has a skin problem that they are excessively scratching or licking due to discomfort, then it’s essential to talk to your veterinarian about ways to solve the problem.
- Lack of stimulation: Cats are naturally curious animals. If they don’t have anything interesting to do, they might get bored and start overgrooming themselves.
If your cat is licking itself excessively or acting anxious, then it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian. They can help diagnose the problem and recommend a solution.
Overgrooming Treatment in Cats
In some cases, anti-anxiety medications and behavior modification might reduce obsessive cat grooming. If you need anti-anxiety medication, your veterinarian can prescribe it to help your cat get through stressful episodes.
Your vet can also refer you to a behaviorist who can help you with your cat’s behavior modification. For example, suppose your cat is overgrooming due to anxiety. In that case, a behaviorist can recommend ways to lower their anxiety and stress levels (such as providing them with more stimulation and playtime).
If your vet determines that there is an underlying medical condition causing your cat’s overgrooming, then they may recommend a treatment for that as well.
Overgrooming is a problem that many cat owners and veterinary professionals face. If your cat is overgrooming themselves, it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about their symptoms and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
In some cases, medical treatment may be needed. In other cases, behavior modification and increased playtime might solve the problem. Talk to your vet about how you can stop your cat from OVERgrooming!