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Bad Hair Day: Over-grooming in Cats

February 22, 2018

UA- Overgrooming

Ever watch your cat as they groom themselves and notice how serene they look. Just like a spa day and a little pampering can help de-stress us, grooming can be a wonderful stress reliever for your cat.

Functionally, grooming helps keep your cat looking their best, with all that fur it takes time to keep the perfect ‘do. Some cats however can take their grooming habits a bit too far. Overgrooming can be a common problem in cats, it can cause problems such as undue hair loss, matting, excessive fur balls and in some cases skin irritations.

What causes your cat to over-groom?

One problem can be parasites. It can be hard to see fleas on cats as when grooming they will ingest the fleas, all that’s left to alert you of their presence is flea dirt, which is their faeces.  How can you tell the difference between flea dirt and garden dirt? Well flea dirt is made up of the fleas digested food, which is blood, so when run under water flea dirt will run the water red. Treating your cat with a good quality parasite prevention will help alleviate their itches. NOTE: in cats where there is a presence of fleas, it’s always a good idea to administer an intestinal wormer. As mentioned cats will often ingest the fleas, this can lead to intestinal worms laying siege to your cat.

The most common cause of over-grooming can be attributed to stress or obsessive behaviour. Changes in your cats environment or circumstances can easily cause a bit of upset in your cats life, to calm themselves they may start over-grooming. Sometimes after the initial stress has passed or the stressor has been removed your cat will return to normal grooming behaviour. For others the over-grooming becomes a habit, resulting in an obsessive-compulsive behaviour. Recognising when your cat may be stressed and being proactive in potential stressful situations, you can employ some tools to help calm your cat. Some breeds are known to be a little more susceptible to over-grooming due to the specific temperament associated with the breed, for example Siamese, Orientals and Abyssinian's can be known to become stressed a little easier than other breeds.

There are also a few medical conditions that can cause over-grooming and/or hair loss. So if you are noticing an increase in your cats grooming habits or unexplained hair loss and irritation, it is a good idea to consult your vet to rule out any underlining problems.

Your vet will also be able to help you with a regime to help calm your cat and decrease their grooming habits. Depending on the cause of the over-grooming this can include the help of calming products such as Feliway, medications, calming techniques, introduction techniques (where new family members are involved), parasite prevention, daily routines to follow or special diets to employ. It’s important to identify the cause of the over-grooming to be able to treat it effectively, so expert knowledge coupled with your observations allow our staff be able to restore your cat to their happy and content selves.

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