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My Cat Stopped Grooming: Vet-Reviewed Reasons & Advice

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on July 3, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

bengal cat grooming itself

My Cat Stopped Grooming: Vet-Reviewed Reasons & Advice

VET APPROVED

Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

As cat owners, we want to ensure that our pets are happy and healthy. Grooming is a common behavior for cats, and they can spend a significant part of the day grooming themselves, so when they suddenly stop, it can be a cause for concern. If they have stopped completely and their coat has become dull and matted, it’s time to call the vet. That said, there are many reasons that your cat might not groom as often as they used to, so keep reading as we discuss the issues that affect grooming to help you be better informed.

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The 6 Reasons Why Cats Stop Grooming

1. Stress or Anxiety

Cats are sensitive creatures that can become stressed by things like loud noises and strangers. If they are feeling overly anxious, they might stop grooming themselves. Other signs of stress include changes in appetite and sleeping patterns.


2. Arthritis

Like humans, cats can develop arthritis as they age. This painful disease can make it difficult for them to groom, so they do it less.


3. Dental Issues

If your cat suffers from dental issues like tooth decay or gum disease, it might be too painful to groom as often as they would like. Dental disease is a serious issue for cats, with some experts suggesting that it affects more than 85% of cats over the age of 6.1

cat teeth resorption
Image Credit: Yaya Photos, Shutterstock

4. Skin Conditions

If your cat suffers from allergies or dermatitis, it can make the grooming process uncomfortable, resulting in them grooming less. They may stop grooming completely if the skin is itchy or painful.

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5. Obesity

If your cat is overweight, reaching certain areas, especially their back end, can be difficult. They might also get tired quickly, resulting in even less grooming.


6. Other Ailments

Your cat may stop grooming if they are suffering from other ailments. The pain and/or systemic issues caused by the ailment may lead to a kitty that no longer grooms themselves. For example, a cat with a flu might not groom themselves because they’re feeling unwell. At other times, a cat suffering from a UTI might be experiencing too much pain associated with their urinary system to keep up with their grooming habits. Likewise, if your kitty encounters an unfortunate tumble and ends up spraining a leg or breaking a bone, nursing their injury and dealing with the pain will probably take priority over grooming.

cat grooming itself
Image Credit: Deedee86, Pixabay

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When to Take Your Cat to the Vet

Your Cat Has Stopped Grooming Altogether

Grooming is an essential behavior for cats, and even if they’re stressed or in pain, they should still continue to do it, even if only in small amounts. If your cat has stopped grooming completely, it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, so it’s a good time to make an appointment with a veterinarian.

Your Cat’s Coat Is Dull or Matted

If your cat has a dull or matted coat, it can be a sign that they are not grooming themselves properly, leading to a buildup of oils and debris. If they can’t groom themselves correctly, it’s likely a sign of an underlying condition, like obesity or dental issues. A trip to the vet can help you determine the problem and take steps to correct it.

cat matted fur
Image Credit: Petra, Pixabay

Your Cat Has Developed Skin Irritation or Infections

If your cat develops skin problems, it can be a sign that they are not grooming themselves correctly. A buildup of oils and debris can irritate the skin and enable bacteria to grow, which can cause infections.

Your Cat Has Bad Breath or Difficulty Eating

If your cat isn’t grooming as much as they used to and has bad breath or seems to be having difficulty eating, it can be a sign that they are suffering from dental issues. A veterinarian can look at their teeth and tell you what steps you need to take to help relieve your cat’s pain and get them grooming themselves again.

You Suspect Your Cat Is Unwell

If you feel your cat is unwell (with any ailment), they need to be seen by a veterinarian before the condition worsens.

divider 3 paws

Why Do Cats Groom Themselves?

  • To keep their fur clean
  • To distribute natural oils throughout their coat
  • To regulate their body temperature (in hot weather)
  • To bond with their kittens or another cat who they are friends with
  • To help remove parasites from their fur
tabby cat lying on couch grooming fur on belly in sunlight
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

How Can I Help My Cat Groom?

  • If your cat struggles to groom themselves, one of the best things that you can do is brush them frequently with a cat-specific brush or comb. It will help prevent matting and spread the oils throughout the coat.
  • Start brushing your cat while they’re still young and don’t need help grooming to get them used to the process and into a routine.
  • Use positive reinforcement when grooming your cat to help keep them coming back for more. It may help to provide treats while grooming your pet.
  • Consider using a professional groomer, especially if you have difficulty grooming your cat yourself.
  • Grooming wipes can help you keep your cat clean without needing to give them a bath. Many cats also prefer these to brushes and combs.

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It's hard to beat the convenience of pet-safe wipes after a big adventure, between baths, or when cleaning sensitive areas. Our favorite option is Hepper's Wash Wipes, premium wipes designed to safely and gently remove grime from cats and dogs of all ages and sizes. These hypoallergenic wipes are made in the USA and feature moisturizing ingredients to soothe your pet's skin.

At Catster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

divider 2 cats

Conclusion

Grooming is an essential behavior for cats. If you notice that your cat has stopped grooming completely, it’s best to call the vet to have them looked over to rule out any underlying health problems or to get started on the road to recovery. Your cat might also reduce the amount of grooming that they do because of factors like obesity, arthritis, and dental issues. You can help groom them by brushing them regularly or hiring a professional groomer.


Featured Image Credit: Ilona Koeleman, Shutterstock

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