Cats usually lick themselves as part of their natural daily grooming routine. However, the licking can sometimes turn excessive and obsessive. As a cat owner, you cannot overlook this behaviour. Cats usually spend 30-50 percent of the day grooming themselves. Over-grooming in the feline is known as psychogenic alopecia.
Over grooming is widely spread obsessive compulsive behaviour in cats. The thing you will likely notice the hairless patches on your cat’s belly. Sometimes these bald patches can appear in the inside part of the cat’s legs, extending to the tail, flank and in other areas of your cat’s body. Alopecia is the complete or partial balding of fur in a cat’s body. Psychogenic refers to having psychological cause rather than physical origin.
Excessive Grooming Symptoms
The noticeable symptoms of obsessive grooming are chewing and licking. You may also notice hairless patches on your cat are where the fur has been chewed off. In severe cases, your cat will create open wounds and self-mutilate. These wounds are susceptible to infections.
Causes Of Over-grooming
When under stress, your cat will self-soothe itself by excessive grooming. Stress for a cat can be caused by reasons like, move into a new home, loss of a mate or its litter for a female cat.
When having allergic reactions to food and pollen, feline tend to lick and chew on their skin as a way of scratching away the itchiness. Cats will tend to groom themselves in excess when they get bored.
When a cat’s daily routine is suddenly interrupted, the feline will get stressed and seek out licking as a way of relieving its stress.
Why Cats May Lick
When experiencing pain or an itch on any part of their body, cats will lick the itchy and painful part. For painful areas, the licking is more focused on the pain area, while itching is widespread throughout the body.
Your cat will tend to lick its tail tip when it has flea infection. Cats with food and pollen allergies will, however, lick the back, belly and the other body parts.
When The Blame Is On Stress
In order to pinpoint the cause of licking as stress, ruling medical problems is essential. This makes it easy to identify the cause of stress to the cat’s life.
The recurring licking involves a stress-relieving gratification aspect that reinforces this behaviour. Therefore, feline licking can be more out of habit that sticks after the stressor has been identified and treated. For a cat, this behaviour is naturally forgotten or with the assistance of medication within a period of a month.
Cats do not like the interruption to their daily routine since they are habit driven. Anything from moving furniture to the loss in the family will cause a cat a lot of stress.
Exposed skin on a cat’s body is prone to sunburn and other sorts of injuries. An open wound on your cat’s skin is exposed to infections. This infection can intensify the chewing and lick, creating a never-ending cycle and a serious infection will occur.
When Boredom Is The Culprit
When your cat gets no time to go out into the open to play and exercise, it will get bored. There are ways to help your cat beat boredom. Have your cat outdoors for a walk of 30 minutes to 1 hour. Cats enjoy interactive toys; therefore, getting your cat such a toy will keep it preoccupied.
Taking time to play with your cat will contribute greatly to overcoming stress caused by boredom.
How To Assist Cats Who Compulsively Groom
When health problems have been addressed, the next thing to do is helping your cat get treatment for stress. Below are ways you can help your cat over come stress.
- Have a consistent routine for your cat. Cats like predictability and consistency.
- Ensure your feline has lots of time to play to help burn off extra energy which would have been diverted to the obsessive behaviour.
- Provide your cats’ environment with scratching posts, window perches and lots of cat trees.
- Once the cause of stress to your cat has been identified, do away with it as much as possible.
- When moving to a new house, bring with you familiar items for your cat. Finding time to play with your cat each day will help keep your cat stimulated.
- Holistic therapies for your cat such as homoeopathy, Reiki and acupuncture will help temper its behaviour.
- Acquiring an interactive toy for your cat will help keep your cat preoccupied. Examples of interactive toys are remote controlled lasers and rotating chasers.
- Your cat will need lots of understanding and patience from you as it goes through the healing process and this may take some time.
- In severe cases, your cat may be required to take an anti-anxiety prescription that will help in breaking the compulsion cycle.
Cats are driven by habit and so they do not like any interruption to their daily routine. Having and maintaining a consistent routine for your cat will make sure no interruptions occur. Your cat’s environment needs to have cat-friendly toys like scratching posts, window perches and lots of cat tree. These will take advantage of your cat’s predatory instincts as a cat is designed to leap. Sprint, pounce, and stalk.
When you move to a new house, bring items that your cat is accustomed to like the cat’s bedding will help your cat settle easily in the new home. Felines enjoy the interaction, therefore, having an interactive toy like rotating chasers and a remote controlled laser will help during playtime for you and your cat.
Holistic therapies have proven to be beneficial to cats; therapies like acupuncture, Reiki, and homoeopathy help in tempering off your cat’s behaviour. In severe cases of obsessive grooming, the anti-anxiety prescription will be recommended for your cat to help break the vicious cycle of compulsive behaviour.
Above all, you will need to be very patient and understanding as your cat goes through the treatment and healing process to cure stress related ailments.