Over-grooming in Cats

Grooming comes naturally to cats. But when this turns compulsive, it could be a sign of a more serious underlying issue.
By Pets Team
Published on Friday, 11 May 2012

What is over-grooming in cats?

Over-grooming is a stress-related disorder and can be classified as obsessive compulsive behaviour. Self-grooming is relaxing to the cat, so it seems quite natural that when the cat becomes stressed it attempts to calm itself by pursuing a relaxing activity such as grooming. But over doing it may be cause of an environmental change (new member to the household, moved house etc.,) but over time this behaviour can become compulsive, even if the original cause of the stress is no longer around.

This behaviour may take the form of excessive licking of fur or pulling out tufts of it. The most commonly affected areas are the inside of the thighs, and nearby abdomen and groin.

What should I do if my cat has bald patches?

The first thing you should do is take your cat to the veterinarian. It is important to rule out medical reasons causing over-grooming or balding.  There are several medical conditions which can also result in bald patches such as the following: hyperthyroidism, allergies (food or inhalant allergies), bacterial pyoderma, fleas or flea bite hypersensitivity, mites, eosinophilic granuloma complex and feline ringworm.

How is it diagnosed?

Your veterinarian may take skin scrapings from the damaged area to rule out skin parasites and fungal infections. They may use a flea comb on the coat and perform blood testing.

How is over-grooming in cats treated?

  • Your feline may be put on a trial diet to rule out food allergies.
  • If the cause is an underlying medical condition or parasitic infection, providing treatments might help stop the behaviour.
  • Finding the cause of the stress and eliminating where possible. This may not always be easy, as has been stated above; the behaviour may have started in reaction to stress, and has become compulsive behaviour.
  • Keep your cat's day as routine as possible. Make sure you feed, play, and exercise your cat at the same time daily.
  • Provide your cat a rich and stimulating environment. If you are out for long periods of time you could consider a cat video or a fish tank for your cat's viewing pleasure. When you are home, set aside a play date with your cat.
  • Drug therapy: If it isn't possible to bring the cat's behaviour under control by managing its stress and environment, then it may be necessary to try medications such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety solutions.  Attempt this treatment until the behaviour decreases, and then gradually taper off the medication
  • If you do see your cat engaging in over-grooming behaviour don't punish him/her, rewarding this behaviour should also be avoided.

Original article from http://www.cat-world.com.au/over-grooming-in-cats

Image taken from http://pawclawfin.info