Overgrooming in cats – stress or a health problem?

July 21, 2022

Cats are very unique and sensitive animals that take great pride in looking after their fur. Occasionally however they can start to overgroom themselves. Vet Emma Fisher explains that there are various reasons why a cat may overgroom, some of these are medical and some behavioural. Keep reading to learn why your cat might be overgrooming.

If you are concerned about your cat’s health or behaviour, book a consultation at our Staines-upon-Thames surgery.

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So, what do we mean when we say a cat is overgrooming?

Some cats can become particularly obsessed with grooming a particular area until they have removed all the hair there, which can sometimes break the skin and make them sore.

Overgrooming in cats due to stress

Emma shares that some cats overgroom as a form of stress relief, which is known as psychogenic alopecia. As the cat grooms they get a release in hormones that makes them feel happy. The causes behind this are often new stressors around the home such as;

  • Change in routine
  • New furniture
  • New pet in the house
  • New family member
  • Moving home

It can often be a very small change that causes a cat to become stressed and start overgrooming.

If you are concerned that your cat is overgrooming due to stress it is important to understand what has changed. Emma recommends helping your cat to feel calm and settled by:

a. Ensuring your cat’s routine is kept regular

b. Minimising furniture moves or if possible, place something with your cat’s scent around any new items

c. Ensuring easy access to basic amenities such as litter trays, food, and water bowls

There are plug-in pheromone diffusers that can also help de-stress a cat. It may be worth discussing with Emma or another of our experienced Vets how the diffusers work and if they would be suitable for your cat.

Medically induced overgrooming in cats

Whilst overgrooming in cats is commonly related to stress, Emma explains that it can be medically induced too. This is often caused by parasites such as lice, fleas, mites, and ticks irritating or causing an allergic reaction. Prevention is better than cure when it comes to parasites so keeping on top of routine parasitic treatments is important to reduce opportunities for your cat overgroom. Speak to our Staines-upon-Thames team about the latest products in parasite prevention.

It is also important to be aware of other things that can cause hair loss in cats as it may not be down to overgrooming. If you notice bald patches on your cat with no indication of overgrooming, this may be caused by alopecia or another medical/nutritional issue causing hair loss. It is important to get this investigated by one of our Vets.

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