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If your cat's in the habit of over-grooming himself, you will notice patches of sparse or broken hair, complete loss of hair in certain areas and occasional damage to the skin. In extreme cases, your cat might bite or chew at its tail or feet, causing trauma that might necessitate partial amputation. If your cat is affected, he might pluck, chew or bite areas of skin or hair and the behavior can be quite difficult to interrupt.Is it stress related?
Most of the over-grooming cases in cats are caused by a pain or skin problem. However, a lot of the cases have a major stress component. Cats tend to groom themselves to feel better in anxious or stressful situations. It can become a compulsive behavior if it is performed frequently and out of context, disrupting normal activity.A lot of oriental breeds are prone to developing stress-related problems and end up plucking their fur, but there has been no conclusive evidence on it so far. Your cat will groom any part of his body that he can reach with his tongue. The most commonly affected areas are the belly, the legs, the inside of the rear legs and across the lower torso.Could it be a sign of illness?
There are a lot of diseases that lead to over-grooming, quite often in response to pain or intense itching. The most common cause is hypersensitivity to the saliva of fleas. Cats can also develop skin conditions in response to substances in the environment or in their diet. If fleas are the problem, use medication or a topical cream
to get rid of the fleas.Cats with a urinary tract infection experience a lot of discomfort and pain in the bladder. They might end up over-grooming in the area where the pain is localized. The most common presentation is a bald patch on the lower belly, around the genitals or on the inside of the thighs.Hyperaesthesia is another possible cause. This condition is poorly understood and often manifests itself in a number of bizarre behaviors like skin twitching and random bouts of self-mutilation and intense grooming, often of the tail and the hind feet. There are many other probable causes behind over-grooming and your vet will be able to carry out the necessary tests, figure out the underlying cause and prescribe appropriate treatment.What should you do if your cat is over-grooming?
As with any other sign of illness or behavioral problem, you must consult with your vet as soon as possible. He/she will treat your cat for the medical condition or refer you to an animal behaviorist who will be able to identify and address the stressors that may have exacerbated or triggered the problem.