We all know cats enjoy grooming themselves. Many owners may think it's their feline friend's favorite hobby. But when does grooming become excessive? Cat overgrooming can become a problem and is often considered a behavioral issue.

If you're concerned your cat is cleaning itself too much, this article will discuss why that happens, the warning signs to note, and how to prevent it from becoming a severe problem.

What is cat overgrooming?

Grooming is a natural part of your cat's day. Cat self-grooming allows for the removal of loose hair, dirt, and parasites. However, if your cat becomes obsessed with licking its coat, it is known as cat overgrooming or cat excessive grooming. This behavior is troublesome and often leads to hair loss and skin damage.

Why is cat overgrooming a problem? Many veterinarians believe medical or psychological conditions cause excessive grooming in cats. Cats that are prone to overgrooming are often given the nickname "fur mowers." This is because they excessively wear down the fur in one or multiple body areas. It’s essential to get to the root of the problem as it could indicate a more serious issue.

Causes of a cat's excessive grooming

As mentioned, cat overgrooming is caused by a medical or behavioral issue. Let's look at the most common causes of excessive grooming in cats:

  • Allergies: Does your feline friend suffer from cat allergies? This could be the cause of excessive grooming. If your cat has itchy, irritated skin, their first reaction is to lick or scratch the area obsessively. This helps them to relieve any discomfort.
  • Parasites: Fleas, ticks, mites, and roundworms cause itchy and sensitive skin. If your cat hasn't received treatment for these parasites, it may be another reason why they're partaking in cat excessive grooming habits.
  • Pain: Sometimes, when our cats are in pain, they lick the area causing them discomfort. Whether the cause of the pain is on the skin surface or not, it can lead to cat overgrooming. In most cases, this will worsen their symptoms (or add to them).
  • Dry skin: Like humans, a cat's skin can become dry depending on the weather. If you notice that your cat's grooming time has increased during winter, it could be due to dry skin.
  • Stress: Cats don't like change—the slightest interruption to their daily routine causes stress. Welcoming a new baby or moving house can trigger behavioral and psychological changes that cause overgrooming.
  • Boredom: Boredom can also cause excessive cat grooming, especially for indoor cats. If they aren't receiving enough stimulation, grooming can be an excellent way to pass the time.

Cat grooming red flags: Warning signs to look for

Understanding the causes is one thing but identifying cat overgrooming signs is as important—if not more so. It can be unpleasant to see your cat acting out of the ordinary. However, noticing the signs is the first step to getting your pet the help it needs. So, what should you be looking for?

Besides noticing your cat spending a lot more time putting effort into their appearance, you'll also see the following:

  • Grooming interrupts your cat's other activities or is no longer functional;
  • Excessive scratching combined with licking;
  • Red skin or rashes;
  • Patches of thinning fur or bald spots;
  • Irritability and discomfort when scratching.

Bring your pet to a local veterinarian if you notice these red flags. Your cat may need to undergo various tests so the vet can get to the bottom of its grooming issue. Pet parents who have wellness plans for cats, can breathe easy knowing that the costs associated with these tests can be up to 100% reimbursable with Wagmo pet wellness plans.  

Cat overgrooming: Preventative measures

While you might be unable to prevent your cat from over grooming completely, you can stop it from becoming a serious issue. Use these preventative measures if you believe your feline friend is displaying signs of cat excessive grooming.

1. Bring your cat to the vet

If a medical issue is a reason for cat overgrooming, your first port of call is the vet. During a routine check-up, your vet can check for any medical signs that would explain excessive grooming. For example, if allergies are a potential culprit, an allergy test would be completed to figure out which irritants are causing the problem.

2. Go to professional groomers

Scheduling your cat in for professional grooming may also help to limit self-grooming. Regular grooming services are often included as part of cat wellness plans. A groomer will be able to trim your cat's claws and may help to decrease your cat's need to groom themselves so often. They may also give you cat grooming tips to try at home.

3. Remove sources of stress

If stress is the main cause of overgrooming in your cat, removing any triggers is crucial. It might not always be possible to get rid of sources of stress for pets (e.g., in the case that you're moving house), but you can lessen the effects. Make small changes gradually. So, if you've moved house, get your cat used to one room at a time. This can help them feel less overwhelmed.

4. Keep a regular schedule

Changes in daily routine are a big no-no for our feline friends. It's recommended that we try to keep their schedule as regular as possible. For example, set regular times for food and playtime. This will give them a sense of safety and comfort. Other distractions and resources, such as scratching posts, toys, and water, can also be helpful.

5. Seek help from a behavioral professional

If none of the other tips work, you may have to seek advice from a behavioral specialist. Your cat's obsession with overgrooming could now be a bad habit. And like us humans, it can be hard to break the bad habit cycle. A behavioral specialist can equip you with the knowledge you need to help your furry friend overcome cat overgrooming for good.

Cat wellness plan: Stopping cat excessive grooming

To stop cat overgrooming in its tracks, pet parents need to take action. Bring your feline friend to a veterinarian so they can run the necessary tests to diagnose underlying causes. While it may only be a bad habit in some cases, it could indicate a serious health problem. Don't take the risk of ignoring this behavior.

At Wagmo, our mission is to help pet parents care for their cats in the best way possible. Signing up for one of our cat wellness plans gives you access to various routine care services, including vet visits, grooming services, dental care, and cat vaccinations. And all this for as little as $36 per month. For more information, take our pet wellness quiz.