A few years ago, I thought that the excessive amount of grooming my cat enjoyed on a daily basis was somewhat normal. She seemed to love it, even though it prevented her from enjoying her days overall. But when I heard from other cat owners that even too much of a good thing is bad, 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 personal hygiene, it’s no wonder that most of them spend hours upon hours licking their coats and making them tidy.
Nevertheless, my research showed me that over-grooming could be a sign of an underlying issue. Anything from pain, allergies, and infections to environmental changes can make a cat overdo it with its personal hygiene. The consequences? My feline started losing fur, leading to hairballs everywhere and her looking rather unfortunate.
Suffice to say that I had to find a solution — fast. Luckily, no matter how serious the problem sounds, you can resolve it in just a few easy steps!
How to Stop My Cat From Over-Grooming: Ruling Out the Medical Issues
When I was looking into how to stop my cat from over-grooming, it didn’t occur to me at first that she had some sort of an ailment. Overall, she looked rather healthy. Yet when I inspected her coat closely, I did notice something — some parts didn’t have fur on them.
What really 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 that I brought her in and told me that many cats develop the same issue. Usually, something in their environment changes, and it makes them nervous. They can develop 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 there was something else 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 every single day. Since grooming is a cat’s chance to relax a bit, it will keep going over the areas that are in pain, such as its wrists, for example. 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. In reality, 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 rather 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, there was only one thing that could have been wrong with my cat — she was reacting to changes in her environment.
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.
Now, when the vet told me about this, I immediately thought it was rubbish. My cat was perfectly happy overall and had everything a feline might need. However, I had to admit that I wasn’t home as much as I was before. I had a few stressful months at work, leaving me practically no time at all to connect with the cat any more. Therefore, the issue was probably obvious to someone from the outside — just not me.
The vet pointed out that this was a major issue among cat owners. Luckily, you can resolve it rather quickly if you make it a point to get back to a routine and indulge the cat a bit.
#1 Get the Cat on a Routine
If you’ve recently changed your routine, and consequently, made your cat a bit anxious about it, the best course of action is to get right back on it. Of course, that may not be possible if you’ve changed your work hours, for example, and cannot really do anything about it. But what you can do is 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, feed it, play with it, and let it exercise every day at the same time. 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 the over-grooming, such as getting a dog or a new family member, the best thing you can do is allow the cat its privacy. Therefore, try to create a hiding spot for it 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 so as not to overreact and become anxious. Because of that, if you got a new dog, for example, 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 nice cat tower would be useful as well — 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 don’t have anything to do during the day, they could start grooming relentlessly to not only calm down but have some fun as well.
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 you can so that the cat doesn’t get bored again.
#4 If Everything Else Fails, Ask the Vet for Medications
Finally, in case of severe anxiety, you may not be able to do much about your cat. 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, of course; 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 own toys. Just 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. In fact, 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 plenty of ideas on how to stop my cat from over-grooming. However, in the end, it was her environment that was making 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. If there aren’t any, aim to lower its stress levels with a practical routine, plenty of playtime, and some nice games that stimulate both its body and mind.