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Cats are avid groomers. They like to lick themselves clean on a daily basis. When your furry feline licks itself, "feel good," neurotransmitters called endorphins are released into the brain. This hormone makes self-grooming feel soothing and comforting. A cat will often engage in self-grooming behaviors in the presence of its owner. When the owner isn't visible, it may be stressed and will resort to excessive licking behavior.
While it’s true that your kitty sleeps nearly 16 hours per
day and doesn’t have to face office politics, there are a number of situations
that can turn little Felix into a nervous wreck. When cats are faced with too
much pressure, it won’t develop into ulcers as it does for humans. The
resulting behavior is over-licking.
What exactly is
In the absence of the owner, a cat may engage in
over-grooming. This is a psychological condition called psychogenic alopecia.
It is typically chronic caused by several stressors. Examples of stressors
include the following:
- death of the owner
- moving to a new home
- the arrival of a new family member (human or animal)
- changing the location of the litter box
- rearrangement of the furniture
- lack of enrichment in the environment
- living in a busy home
- changes in routine
Sometimes over-grooming may result due to an underlying
medical reason. An allergen in the environment might be causing little Felix to
over-itch. Cats also have allergies to fleas, certain foods and other variables
in the environment. If you suspect an allergen is an underlying cause, it’s
important to visit your veterinarian. More importantly, if you see your cat
engage in over-grooming, do not punish it. It might exacerbate the condition.
A short stubble that resembles a buzz cut will form in the
area where your cat engages in excessive licking. This usually occurs in the inner
thigh, foreleg, or belly. If the behavior is very severe, then the underlying
skin will appear red and damaged.
How to Stop or
In case you suspect over-grooming, visit your
veterinarian. He or she will confirm psychogenic alopecia and rule out other
medical conditions. While this is occurring, observe your little furball.
Figure out what is triggering his or her anxiety.
In the meantime, you can implement the following tips to
soothe your kitty’s anxiety over-grooming behavior:
- If your cat is affected by someone’s absence, place the
person’s blanket or shirt near the cat. The scent of the absent person will
provide little Felix with some comfort.
- Engage in play therapy. This is a superb stress
reliever. Use interactive games such as laser tag and chase-the-mouse.
Over-grooming is a sign of anxiety in cats. Help your feline feel better
by taking him to the veterinarian. A little tender, loving care will also work