A few years ago, I thought the excessive grooming my cat enjoyed daily was somewhat expected. She seemed to love it, even though it prevented her from enjoying her days. But when I heard from other cat owners that even too much of a good thing is terrible, I knew I had to figure out how to stop my cat from over-grooming.
At first, stopping her seemed like a strange idea. After all, she was a cat, and that was her MO. Since cats are famous for their hygiene, it’s no wonder most spend hours licking their coats and making them tidy.
Nevertheless, my research showed me that over-grooming could indicate an underlying issue. Anything from pain, allergies, and infections to environmental changes can make a cat overdo it with personal hygiene. The consequences? My feline started losing fur, leading to hairballs everywhere and her looking rather unfortunate.
How to Stop My Cat From Over-Grooming?
If you notice that your cat is over-grooming, stopping the behavior as soon as possible is essential. Here are some tips for helping your cat break the habit:
1. Distract them with toys or activities – If you can distract your cat from over-grooming by providing them with stimulating toys or activities, this may help break the habit.
Try interactive toys that your cat can play with independently, or play with them yourself to redirect their attention away from their fur.
2. Create a comfortable environment – It’s important for cats to feel safe and secure in their home environment. So offer plenty of scratching posts, comfortable bedding, and hiding places. You can also add calming pheromone sprays or diffusers to create a relaxing atmosphere for your cat.
3. Speak with a vet – If you think your cat’s over-grooming may be due to an underlying medical condition or anxiety disorder, it’s essential to speak with a vet. They may be able to recommend additional treatments or medications to help stop the behavior.
These tips can help your cat break their over-grooming habit and maintain their fur health. As a result, your cat should soon return to normal grooming behaviors with patience and consistency.
How to Stop My Cat From Over-Grooming: Ruling Out the Medical Issues
When I looked into how to stop my cat from over-grooming, it didn’t occur to me that she had some ailment. Overall, she seemed relatively healthy. Yet when I inspected her coat closely, I noticed some parts didn’t have fur on them.
What alarmed me and made me question my cat-parenting skills? However, since I didn’t want to make it worse, I knew I had to take her to the vet and see if she was sick.
Check for Allergies and Infections
The veterinarian wasn’t surprised I brought her in and told me many cats develop the same issue. Usually, something in their environment changes, and it makes them nervous. They can create an anxiety disorder that often requires a complete lifestyle overhaul. In some cases, meds might be necessary, as well.
On the other hand, infections and allergies could also make the cat over-groom. For one, some cats are sensitive to flea bites, so they could experience irritation at the base of the tail and try to lick the itching away. Others can be allergic to mites, which leads to hair loss and scabbing.
After getting her checked out and running some tests, the vet concluded my cat wasn’t suffering from any allergies or infections. Overall, she was as healthy as a four-year-old cat could be. However, as great as the results were, that still meant something else was bothering her.
Is the Cat in Pain?
Pain is another reason cats may over-groom and lose fur. It is often an issue with older cats, which can get arthritis and experience excruciating pain daily. Since grooming is a cat’s chance to relax, it will keep going over the areas that are in pain, such as its wrists. Consequently, it will lick the areas until there is no fur left.
Cat owners mostly see over-grooming and loss of hair as an esthetic issue. But it’s always a sign of a cat-specific problem.
While checking my cat, the vet wanted to see whether her joints were giving her some trouble. Luckily, they weren’t. Back then, she was a relatively young cat, and arthritis was nowhere in sight. Better yet, she never went outside and wasn’t that playful anyway, so she spent most of her days over-grooming and sleeping.
Unfortunately, though, after ruling out the medical issues, only one thing could have been wrong with my cat — she was reacting to environmental changes.
How to Stop My Cat From Over-Grooming: Treating Psychogenic Alopecia
If it’s not a medical issue, and the cat isn’t in pain, you can bet that your cat has probably developed psychogenic alopecia. Because it’s upset due to some changes in the household or pure boredom, a cat may start compulsively over-grooming itself to calm down.
When the vet told me about this, I immediately thought it was rubbish. My cat was pleased overall and had everything a feline might need. However, I admit I wasn’t home as much as before. I had a few stressful months at work, leaving me practically no time to connect with the cat anymore. Therefore, the issue was probably apparent to someone outside — not me.
The vet pointed out that this was a significant issue among cat owners. Luckily, you can resolve it relatively quickly if you make it a point to return to a routine and indulge the cat.
#1 Get the Cat on a Routine
If you’ve recently changed your routine and made your cat anxious about it, the best action is to get back on it. Of course, that may not be possible if you’ve changed your work hours, for example, and cannot do anything about it. But you can get the feline to adjust to a new routine.
It will take some time, but you’ll have to persevere. Aim to keep it entertained, fed, and relaxed throughout the day. Additionally, provide it, play with it, and let it exercise every day simultaneously. After a few weeks, it will grow accustomed to this, and the tension will slowly go down.
#2 Minimize the Effects of Some Changes
On the other hand, if changes trigger over-grooming, such as getting a dog or a new family member, you can best allow the cat its privacy. Therefore, try to create a hiding spot where it can go when it all becomes too much.
Over time, the cat will learn how to live with new pets or family members. However, it has to do it gradually to avoid overreacting and becoming anxious. Because of that, if you have a new dog, try to keep it away from the cat. Even if it means no harm, the feline may become nervous around it, so it needs its own space. A lovely cat tower would also be helpful — it can climb onto it and keep an eye on the dog!
A cat may also become anxious if a family member leaves. In that case, the adjustment period has to be gradual and full of reminders of the one who left. So, ask a family member if they could provide a T-shirt or something similar. The cat can use that as a scent pick-me-up when it misses them.
#3 Stimulate the Cat Both Mentally and Physically
While researching how to stop my cat from over-grooming, I found that some felines might become too bored with their toys over time. If there aren’t many toys overall and they have nothing to do during the day, they could start grooming relentlessly to calm down and have fun.
To resolve this, it would be ideal if the cat could have some new toys, a perching area, or a new scratch post. Also, you, too, could help stimulate it by resolving to play with the cat for at least 15 minutes each day. Still, try to vary the games as much as possible so the cat doesn’t get bored again.
#4 If Everything Else Fails, Ask the Vet for Medications
Finally, you may be unable to do much about your cat in case of severe anxiety. If that’s the case, ask the vet if anti-anxiety medications could help it relax and adjust to the changes to stop over-grooming. This step should be the last resort; keep an eye on any improvements in the behavior so that you’re not giving it meds without a solid reason.
If you’re against anti-anxiety medications, however, don’t despair. You could, for example, plant catnip and take advantage of some of its happiness-boosting effects. Cats are naturally drawn to catnip, so they will feel ecstatic if they find it somewhere in the house. You can also use it for training or to make your toys. Put some of it into an old sock, knot the top, and throw it to your cat. The plant’s oil should entice it to play.
Calming sprays and diffusers are also popular nowadays. As a result, brands such as Feliway have become famous for resolving anxiety in cats. The original Feliway formula mimics the pheromones a cat leaves when it rubs its face onto something. Available as a spray or diffuser, the product should inspire calm feelings in your cat and resolve its anxiety. In general, the results should be evident within a week or so.
The Internet and the vet gave me many ideas to stop my cat from over-grooming. However, in the end, her environment made her nervous. So as much as I would have preferred not to change my lifestyle, I had to do it for her.
If you, too, are anxious about your cat’s grooming habits, I suggest visiting a vet first to rule out any ailments. Then, if there aren’t any, aim to lower its stress levels with a practical routine, plenty of playtime, and some excellent games that stimulate both its body and mind.
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