Excessive Cat Grooming – Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

Cats are known for their meticulous grooming habits, but what happens when grooming becomes excessive?

Excessive cat grooming, or overgrooming, is a common issue affecting our feline friends.

It involves a cat obsessively licking, biting, or scratching itself to the point where it causes discomfort and potential health problems.


In this blog, we will explore the causes of excessive cat grooming and potential solutions to help our beloved pets find relief.


Excessive cat grooming can manifest in various ways, such as constant licking or biting of the fur, leading to bald patches, skin irritation, and even open wounds.


Why a cat may engage in excessive grooming

There are several reasons:

Stress and Anxiety

Cats may groom excessively as a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety. Environmental changes, such as moving to a new home or adding a new pet, can trigger this behavior.


Medical Conditions

Underlying medical issues, including allergies, dermatitis, parasites (such as fleas), or pain from arthritis or other ailments, can lead to excessive grooming. Cats may attempt to soothe their discomfort through grooming.


Behavioural Problems

Certain behavioural issues, such as compulsive disorders or boredom, can drive cats to groom excessively. Some cats may groom as a form of self-stimulation without mental or physical stimulation.


Pain or discomfort

Cats may groom excessively to alleviate pain or discomfort caused by injuries, arthritis, or other physical conditions.


What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of excessive cat grooming may vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the behaviour.

Here are some common signs to watch out for:

1. Hair loss

Excessive grooming can result in patchy or widespread hair loss. The affected areas may appear thin, have broken or stubble hairs, or have irritated and inflamed skin.


2. Frequent licking or biting

Cats may spend excessive time licking, biting, or chewing at their fur or skin. You may observe them constantly grooming a specific area, often creating bald spots or causing skin damage.


3. Skin irritation or inflammation

Due to the constant licking and grooming, the cat’s skin may become red, inflamed, or irritated. You may notice signs of dermatitis, such as redness, sores, scabs, or even open wounds.


4. Swallowing hair or hairballs

Excessive grooming can lead to ingesting excessive amounts of fur, forming hairballs. You may find hairballs in the cat’s vomit or faces.


5. Changes in behaviour or mood

Cats experiencing discomfort or stress due to excessive grooming may show changes in behaviour. They may become more irritable, anxious, or lethargic. They may also avoid social interactions, hide more often, or display signs of distress.



Can excessive cat grooming be fatal for your cat?

Excessive cat grooming itself is not typically fatal for cats. However, the complications arising from excessive grooming may pose health risks and potentially lead to severe consequences if left untreated.


One of the primary concerns with excessive grooming is the development of skin irritations and wounds.

Constant licking, biting, or scratching can cause abrasions, lesions, and open sores on the cat’s skin. These wounds create an entry point for infections, which, if left untreated, can lead to more significant health issues.


Moreover, excessive grooming can result in ingesting a large amount of fur. Cats groom themselves to remove loose fur, but when they groom excessively, they may ingest excessive amounts of fur, leading to hairballs.

While hairballs are common in cats, they can cause blockages in the digestive system if they become too large or frequent, which can be potentially life-threatening if not resolved.


Additionally, if the underlying cause of excessive grooming is a medical condition, such as allergies or dermatitis, the untreated condition can harm the cat’s health.


How can excessive cat grooming be treated?

Treating excessive cat grooming involves addressing the underlying cause of the behaviour.

The specific treatment approach will depend on the cause identified through veterinary examination and diagnosis.


Here are some common treatment strategies:

1. Medical Treatment

If a medical condition is causing excessive grooming, such as allergies, dermatitis, or parasites, the veterinarian will prescribe appropriate medications or treatments.

This may include antihistamines, corticosteroids, medicated shampoos, or parasite-control products to alleviate discomfort and reduce the need for excessive grooming.


2. Behaviour Modification

In cases where excessive grooming is linked to behavioural issues, behaviour modification techniques can be helpful. This may involve environmental changes, positive reinforcement, and providing mental and physical stimulation to redirect the cat’s focus away from grooming.

Professional advice from a veterinary behaviourist or animal behaviourist can guide you in implementing effective behaviour modification strategies.


3. Stress Reduction

If stress or anxiety contributes to excessive grooming, identifying and minimising stressors in the cat’s environment is essential.

Creating a calm and enriching environment with designated safe spaces, vertical territory, and opportunities for play and exploration can help reduce stress.

Pheromone diffusers, calming supplements, or medications may also be recommended to alleviate anxiety.


4. Grooming Assistance

Regular grooming by the owner can help manage excessive grooming by reducing the need for the cat to groom itself excessively. Brushing your cat’s fur regularly removes loose hair and prevents matting.

This also helps distribute natural oils, keeping the coat healthy. However, be gentle and mindful of your cat’s comfort during grooming sessions.


5. Environmental Modifications

If excessive grooming is focused on specific areas, such as the belly or tail, using deterrent sprays or placing physical barriers (such as bandages or cones) can help discourage the behaviour. This redirects the cat’s attention away from the target areas and allows the skin to heal.


6. Dietary Adjustments

In some cases, dietary changes or supplements may be recommended, significantly if allergies or skin sensitivities contribute to excessive grooming.

Specialised hypoallergenic diets or supplements rich in essential fatty acids can help improve the cat’s skin health and reduce itchiness.


7. Medications

In severe cases or when other treatments have failed, the veterinarian may prescribe medications to address compulsive grooming behaviours. These medications can help reduce anxiety, compulsions, or itchiness driving excessive grooming.



Remember, while excessive grooming itself may not be fatal, its complications can have severe consequences on your cat’s health.

Therefore, addressing the behaviour and any primary issues is essential to promote a healthy and happy life for your feline companion.


Consult Vet

The most effective treatment approach will depend on the underlying cause of the cat’s excessive grooming and so to ensure that consulting with a veterinarian is crucial.

They would determine the appropriate treatment plan for your cat. Early intervention and consistent management are key to addressing excessive grooming and promoting your cat’s well-being.


Tip Talk!

Excessive cat grooming can be distressing for both the cat and the owner.

By understanding the underlying causes and implementing appropriate solutions, we can help our feline companions find relief from this behaviour.

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