It is perfectly normal for a cat to spend most of the day napping and grooming itself. On average, cats spend 30-40% of their day grooming. However, there is a such thing as excessive grooming in cats. It isn’t just a random behavior. Below are 5 reasons why a cat may groom excessively.

Reason for Excessive Grooming#1: Medical conditions

Excessive Grooming in Cats. Cinco licks his paw.

Cinco at the beginning of a grooming routine.

Have a veterinarian check for underlying medical causes before jumping to other conclusions. A few medical issues that can cause excessive grooming in cats are:

  • Cystitis
  • Neurological problems
  • Chiropractic problems
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Anal sac problems

Make sure you pay careful attention to which areas of the cat’s body are being over groomed. These locations may be very helpful when diagnosing or ruling out a medical condition.

Treating the underlying medical problem will put you on the way to solving your cat’s excessive grooming. Your cat may stop over grooming as soon as the medical issue is resolved. If the excessive grooming has been going on a long time, it may have become a habit. It will take some time and dedication to break that habit.

Reason for Excessive Grooming #2: Parasites

Bites from parasites like fleas and mosquitoes are often itchy and uncomfortable. It is no wonder that they will cause excessive grooming in cats. Check your cat for any bites or other signs of parasites. Since cats are really good groomers, it may be difficult to find evidence of fleas. Check areas around the base of the neck and the base of the tail. If those are the areas your cat has been scratching, there is likely a parasite problem.

As always, involve your veterinarian in choices for treatment. There are a lot of over the counter flea products, but they are often ineffective. Some of them are not truly species appropriate for the animals they claim to protect. For example, some products will contain Tea Tree Oil, which is toxic to cats and dogs.

Reason for Excessive Grooming #3: Allergies

Excessive grooming in cats. Cinco scratching an itch.

Cinco showing an itch who’s boss.

Cats can be allergic to a variety of things; foods, mold, dust, pollen, etc. Sometimes those allergies cause itchy skin resulting in excessive grooming . You may notice that the over grooming is focused on your cat’s belly or it’s back. The fur may appear to be “mowed” or balding.

Allergies are not an easy thing to diagnose (particularly food allergies), so don’t try to guess. Let your veterinarian run their tests so you can figure it out for sure. Treatment will vary depending on the allergy.

Reason for Excessive Grooming #4: Dry Skin

If the area that you live in is very dry, you and your cat could experience dry skin. The dryness can cause your skin to become itchy and split easily. The same is true for your cat. The excessive grooming will begin as a way to sooth the itching. Then the repetitive scratching of the fragile dry skin will cause wounds. The healing of those wounds may itch as well causing a vicious cycle.

Any time the cat grooms to a point where the skin is broken, there is a chance for infection. Infections can also cause excessive grooming in cats. Make sure to address any infected wounds before they become a bigger problem.

Proper hydration for your cat and the air in your house can help with dry skin. Cats get most of their water from their food, so be sure to feed them wet food. Using humidifiers or even a large bowl of water set out around the house can add moisture to the air.

Reason for Excessive Grooming #5: Stress

Psychogenic Alopecia is the medical term for excessive grooming when there is no underlying medical cause. This is an obsessive behavior that, in cats,  is usually brought on by ongoing stress. The cat’s licking releases endorphins which help the cat soothe itself .  A few examples of things that could cause a cat to experience stress are:

Excessive Grooming in Cats. Cinco keeps grooming.

Cinco still grooming away.

  • Change in the cat’s routine.
  • The cat is new to your home.
  • A new person or pet has moved in to your home.
  • Food dishes and/or litter box have been moved from their usual locations or need to be cleaned.
  • Inconsistent feeding schedule.
  • You’ve moved to a new home.
  • Boredom

Treatments will revolve around relieving the cat’s stress and enriching it’s environment. In addition to minimizing the stressor itself, there are medications for stress relief in cats. There are also non-medicine products you could try such as Feliway. Feliway uses pheromones to help calm your cat.

Enriching the cat’s environment will include creating a regular schedule for feeds, give the cat places to hide or perch, and having appropriate scratching materials available. Spending time interacting with your cat will be very important too. A lack of a stimulating environment can cause excessive grooming in cats. Don’t expect overnight results. Combating Psychogenic Alopecia can take a long time.