How to Stop a Cat From Over-Grooming Itself

Cat grooming itself on field.
Cat grooming itself on field. (Image: Bela Nagy/iStock/Getty Images)

Cats spend about 30 to 40 percent of their waking hours grooming themselves. Doing so promotes healthy fur and skin. If your cat has begun grooming compulsively, he may have a health problem. Common causes of excessive grooming are allergies, fleas, skin parasites, skin infections, stress, depression, wounds, fractures and pain. Close observation can help you get to the root of the problem.

Seek Veterinary Assistance

Whether your cat is over-grooming himself due to stress, allergies, depression, wounds or pain, visit the veterinarian as soon as you can. While it may not be an emergency situation, you will want to discuss the situation with your veterinarian as soon as you can get an appointment. Write down the circumstances of the environment surrounding your cat when he started his excessive grooming episodes, what type of medication he was taking, his activity level and emotional state for your veterinarian's benefit.

Determine the Cause

Finding the cause of your cat's over-grooming may be difficult. This is where your familiarity with your own cat becomes a benefit. If your cat seems restless, uncomfortable or sad, or begins behaving differently than normal, the cat may have emotional problems. You may find that your cat scratches his skin in combination with licking. This type of reaction could be due to skin allergies, infections, parasites or fleas. If your cat is licking one specific area and the skin looks perfect, he could be experiencing pain; he might have a fracture that is unseen to the eye. It is essential to visit the veterinarian for proper diagnosis.

Provide a Calm Environment

If your cat is showing signs of stress or anxiety, make his environment more relaxing. Make sure he has access to his food and water, bed and toys. Put some soothing music on to help calm his nerves. Most of all, pay attention to him. Allow him to curl up next to you, and pet him gently. This usually helps a cat feel more calm; over time, if you're doing your part, your cat's excessive grooming may slow. Cats like to follow a schedule, so allow yours to keep his regular daily routine. If he naps in certain areas, make sure he has easy access to them.

Take Proper Care of the Skin

Inspect your cat's skin carefully by gently gliding your hand in the opposite direction of the hair growth. This exposes the skin slightly so you can see redness, lesions, scabs, bites, cuts, scraps or any other form of skin irritation. If you find visible bite marks, take measures to eradicate and prevent fleas. Care for wounds by cleaning them with a soft, moist, lukewarm cloth.

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