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Cat overgrooming occurs when a cat spends an excessive amount of time grooming itself. Overgrooming can lead to hair loss, wounds, and abrasions as well as skin irritations and infections. Cat overgrooming is usually an indication of other issues such as allergies, stress, or parasites. Read on to find out more about cat overgrooming and how to stop this behavior.
Photo by Rana Sawalha on Unsplash
Just like people, cats too can have allergic reactions to food, medicine, dust, pollen, and even insect bites. In fact, allergies are one of the top reasons for cat hair loss.
Cats lose hair because of allergies as they lick themselves to ease the itch and discomfort. The excessive licking, or overgrooming causes fur loss and even bald spots that can be pretty unsightly.
However, most allergies are treatable and once you pinpoint the allergen, you can work to remove it from your cat’s environment.
General symptoms of allergies in cats include itchiness and scratching. The itchiness can occur in all areas, including eyes, back, base of tail, ears, belly, legs and paws. The constant itching leads to cat overgrooming and hair loss.
If your cat is showing signs and symptoms of allergies including overgrooming and hair loss, you can monitor to see if it is due to one of the following:
Cats can develop a food allergy at any time during their life. Food that is often associated with allergies includes fish, chicken, beef as well as dairy products.
Cats with food allergies usually experience chronic itching and skin inflammation. Areas that are commonly affected include the belly, groin, armpits, face, ears, legs and paws. The itchiness is often a great source of discomfort and to ease it, cats over-groom themselves to the point of hair loss and wounds. This may lead to infections in the skin.
If you suspect that your cat is allergic to something in its diet, then you will need to identify the problem causing food.
The best way to deal with food allergies in a cat is to carry out a food trial. This involves giving your cat a special diet that is free from proteins that your cat has had before. A food trial may include the following
Hydrolyzed protein diet
In this diet, the proteins that your cat receives are broken down into a size that is too small to be recognized by your cat’s immune system and therefore, will not trigger any allergic reactions.
Novel protein diet
A novel protein diet is one that does not contain any ingredients that were in your cat’s previous food. If you are purchasing the food from the store, make sure that you check all ingredients before feeding your cat. You can try Petcube’s premium raw venison, duck, or wild kangaroo if your cat has not been previously exposed to these proteins.
A home cooked novel protein diet
This is similar to the novel protein diet, except that you are preparing your cat’s meals at home.
Do remember to check with your veterinarian before starting your cat on a new type of food to ensure that your pet still receives all the nutrients that it needs.
If your cat’s hair loss is due to pain that leads to over-grooming, then you will have to address the underlying cause. For example, if your cat is overgrooming due to chronic arthritis pain, then you will have to treat the disease that is causing the pain. Other causes of pain include feline lower urinary tract disease and injury.
A trip to the vet is in order to treat the underlying cause if your cat is overgrooming due to pain. Your vet will know the best medication or therapy to treat your feline friend.
Cats will scratch, lick and groom themselves excessively to ease the itch caused by fleas. You can ease their discomfort by spotting, treating and destroying the fleas in your home.
Depending on the color of your cat’s fur, you may actually be able to spot tiny bugs in your cat’s fur. You can also do a flea check by using a fine-toothed comb on your cat from head to tail.
Once you know that you are dealing with cat fleas, you can use ‘spot-on’ treatments to keep the fleas away. You can check with your vet which product best suits your cat as well as how much and how often to apply it. A cat flea collar will also help.
Your vet may also prescribe medicines to kill adult fleas on your cat to protect your kitty against future hatchings on its fur.
Additionally, you will also have to make sure that your home is free of fleas. If you have pets other than your cat, make sure that they too get flea treatment. A few weeks of treatment and thorough cleaning should do the trick!
Photo by Ashmit Gautam on Unsplash
Psychogenic alopecia occurs when cats overgroom themselves to the point of hair loss due to stress and anxiety. Cats may feel stressed for several reasons such as:
If your cat is overgrooming due to stress and anxiety, your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medication. In addition to the medication, here are a few steps you can take to help ease your cat’s stress:
As psychogenic alopecia can recur throughout your cat’s life, you need to be aware of potential stressors that might cause anxiety in your cat. Overgrooming from psychogenic alopecia will usually resolve once your cat feels calmer.
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