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What is Over-Grooming in Cats?

Anyone with a cat knows how much they love to groom. In fact, cats spend between 30% and 50% cleaning and combing their hair! But sometimes, cats end up grooming too much and the behavior becomes excessive, a phenomenon known as over-grooming. Read on to learn what over-grooming looks like and how you can help kitty cut back on all that licking.

Signs of Over-Grooming

Because cats already spend so much time grooming, it’s easy for over-grooming to go unnoticed at first. The most telltale signs are bald patches or areas of short stubble on their skin. Patches can crop up anywhere, but common places include your cat’s foreleg, an inner thigh, or belly. The patches might display redness or open sores.   

Common Causes of Over-Grooming  

A common cause of over-grooming is stress. When a cat licks itself, it’s body releases endorphins, a phenomenon that allows him to groom and soothe himself if he’s feeling particularly anxious. In other words, the more stress, the more grooming! Your cat might be stressed for a variety of reasons, including a new pet in the house, a change in her routine, or a recent move.

However, cats also over-groom due to medical problems. Itchiness from a skin infection, allergy, or parasite might cause your cat to groom to relieve irritation. Cats also tend to lick areas of pain or discomfort. For example, cats suffering from urinary tract infections will lick their genital region more often.   

How to Help Your Cat Stop Over-Grooming 

If you notice bald patches on your cat, the first step is to take your kitty to the vet to rule out or address any potential medical problems. You might also consider any changes in diet or environment that might be giving them allergies.

If your cat’s behavior stems from stress, it’s important to figure out the source. Doing so and addressing it is sometimes enough to stop the behavior. But if you’re stumped on what’s causing stress, remember that play is a great stress reliever, as is creating a vertical resting spot (such as a cat tree) where your cat can retreat and feel comfortable. If your cat is still having problems, pheromone-scented collars and sprays can help calm them.

Is your cat stressed and over-grooming? Our cat sitters can help you create a calming, stable routine for your cat, equipped with regular feeding times, fresh litter and lots of play time. Call today!


Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Image by Buenosia Carol from Pexels

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