May 18, 2010

Can Cats Groom Too Much?

Filed under: Anxiety and Over-grooming,cat hair,cat stress — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:20 pm

feline healthy coat The simple answer to this question is yes.  Over-grooming is an anxiety disorder in cats that can be compared to obsessive compulsive behavior in humans.  Many cats find grooming themselves to be quite relaxing and in stressful situations will turn to grooming to calm down.  Over-grooming, however, is a sign that your cat may be suffering from a more serious anxiety problem and that they have difficulty relieving stress.  In many instances, over-grooming in cats begins when there is some kind of environmental change; for example, a move, the introduction of a new pet or family member, or even illness may lead to over-grooming.

Recognizing that your cat is over-grooming may be difficult.  Still, excessive licking or pulling at fur are two of the earliest signs of over-grooming.  Eventually, cats that groom too much may develop bald patches especially around the inside of the thighs, near the abdomen and groin, or on the forelegs.  Because over-grooming in cats may be caused by a medical condition, it is always best to visit your veterinarian if you notice these symptoms.  Hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, allergies, bacterial infection, and viral infection are all examples of medical conditions that may cause cats to over-groom.

In most cases, over-grooming is treated by dealing with the underlying medical condition.  However, if your cat over-grooms because of an anxiety disorder, the treatment is aimed at removing the stressful situation or helping your cat to cope with stress.  Anxious over-grooming in cats is usually caused by some environmental stressors.  Find and eliminate the stress causing factors and your cat may recover.  In addition, try to maintain a regular routine that includes a healthy diet, exercise, and play with your cat.  Finally, ensure that your cat has a stimulating environment so that she can entertain herself when you are away.  In very extreme cases, vets may recommend anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications.

About Dr. Amber Reed

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