Have you heard the saying, “The only thing self-cleaning in this house is the cat”? It may surprise you to know a cat spends between 15 - 50% of his waking hours grooming! Or maybe you feel like all your cat ever does is groom? Grooming is a necessary part of a cat’s life, helping to remove loose hair, dirt, and parasites from his coat. But what happens when grooming becomes more than just maintenance?
A cat who is abnormally grooming may experience loss of fur in strips along their back, belly, and inner legs. This hair loss is known as “fur mowing.” There are many reasons your cat may be overgrooming, and thankfully, many ways to help get him back on track.
It is important to note if your cat engages in extra grooming during certain seasons of the year. If your cat is allergic to pollen or having a reaction to fleas, you may notice more licking in the spring or summer. Irritation at the base of the tail may indicate fleas and chewing of paws is indicative of a pollen allergy. Bathing your cat more often during spring and summer may help to keep allergens and fleas at bay. Check out our post, Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month for more tips on handling your cat’s allergies.
Infection and pain can also result in overgrooming. Parasites such as ear mites can cause hair loss and scabbing. Urinary tract infections can lead to anal sac impaction and overgrooming in the genital or perianal areas. These kinds of abnormal grooming warrant a trip to the vet to get treatment for the underlying conditions. Once your pet is on the mend, the excessive grooming should resolve itself as well.
It is believed that when a cat licks himself, endorphins are released that help relieve anxiety. This desire for the “high” of the endorphin release can become habitual. Stressors such as moving into a new house or welcoming a new pet can trigger a condition called psychogenic alopecia, or compulsive grooming.
Cats are very in tune to our feelings, and when we experience stress, they often feel the effects. Maintain routines to avoid stressing your cat. Feed him at the same time every day and clean the litter box frequently. If you are making a change that will affect your cat, try to do so gradually. You may also consider sprays and plug-in diffusers that disperse synthetic cat pheromones.
Cats are very intelligent creatures and need human interaction and engagement to be at their best. Overgrooming can occur in cats who are left at home all day to fend for themselves while their owners are at work. Perching areas, toys, and scratching posts can help keep your cat stimulated when you are not home. When you are at home, make playtime with your cat a priority. Consider building a catio so he can enjoy time outdoors safely!
Keep an eye on your cat
While it may be a pretty cool trick that your cat can “self-clean,” it is important to take note of grooming that becomes obsessive or compulsive. Making sure your cat is happy and healthy is a big job and PetPartners can help. Accident and Illness pet insurance coverage can help protect pet owners against unexpected vet bills arising from infections and allergies. Get a quote today!