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My Cat Is Licking Their Belly Raw, What’s Wrong? Vet-Reviewed Possible Causes

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on May 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

tabby cat lying on couch grooming fur on belly in sunlight

My Cat Is Licking Their Belly Raw, What’s Wrong? Vet-Reviewed Possible Causes


Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo


Dr. Karyn Kanowski

Veterinarian, BVSc MRCVS

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

Learn more »

Cats normally spend a great deal of time each day grooming themselves, and it’s a perfectly normal behavior. However, sometimes the grooming can get out of hand, and some cats can lick their belly raw. If this is happening to your pet, know that there are several reasons that this might happen, and fortunately, there are also solutions.

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Common Causes of Overgrooming That Can Lead to a Raw Belly

1. Allergies

cat licking its fur
Image Credit: Ekaterina Kolomeets, Shutterstock

Cats can have allergies to various things, including food, pollen, fleas, or substances in their environment. If they come into contact with them, they can suffer from various clinical signs, which can include coughing, sneezing, vomiting, flatulence, diarrhea, and itchy skin, and this can lead to overgrooming.

What Can You Do About It?
If you know what your cat is allergic to, you can avoid it. For example, many cats are allergic to a specific ingredient in their food, such as beef, chicken, or fish, which can trigger a negative reaction. An elimination diet, in which you carefully expose your cat to different proteins to find the one that bothers them, can help you permanently eliminate food allergens from your pet’s diet. There are also some medications that can help cats with severe allergies, so talk to your vet.

2. Parasites

Fleas, mites, or other parasites can cause severe itching and discomfort, causing a cat to lick their skin excessively, especially in sensitive areas like their belly, leading to raw spots.

What Can You Do About It?
Discuss parasite prevention with your vet, and keep an eye out for fleas each time you groom your pet. Many prevention medications are available that can protect your cat for 30 days at a time, and they can also prevent heartworm and other internal parasites.

3. Infections

skin allergies on cat's belly
Image Credit: Zhuravlev Andrey, Shutterstock

Cats can develop bacterial and fungal infections on their skin, much like humans, which can lead to itching, scratching, and excessive grooming anywhere on the body, including the belly. Often, these infections set in after the skin has already inflamed or sore.

What Can You Do About It?
If you suspect that a bacterial or fungal infection is behind your pet’s excessive belly licking, schedule an appointment with your vet. They can provide medication and guidance for getting your pet back to normal. You may need to get the infection under control before working out if something else triggered it in the first place.

4. Stress or Anxiety

Felines often lick themselves as a soothing mechanism. If a cat is stressed, anxious, or bored, they may engage in excessive grooming, which can lead to raw spots.

What Can You Do About It?
You can help reduce the amount of stress and anxiety that your cat feels by providing them with a safe space that they can use as a retreat, such as a secluded corner, cat tree, or box. Establish a routine with a consistent schedule for feeding, playtime, and cuddles, and enrich their environment with stimulating toys, catnip, scratching posts, and perches with views of the outdoors.

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5. Hormonal Imbalances

gray tabby cat licking its belly
Image Credit: White_horse, Shutterstock

Hormone imbalances, like hyperthyroidism, can lead to several issues, including weight loss, increased appetite, and excessive grooming, which can manifest in the belly area.

What Can You Do About It?
If you believe that a hormone imbalance is the cause of your pet’s overgrooming, book an appointment with the veterinarian. In many cases, they will prescribe medication that can help your pet recover and live a long and happy life.

6. Compulsive Behavior

Cats can suffer from a condition known as feline psychogenic alopecia, which can lead to excessive licking and the pulling out of tufts of hair. It doesn’t have an underlying cause.

What Can You Do About It?
Increasing interactive play time and providing multiple chew toys and catnip-filled toys can help occupy your cat so they don’t turn to grooming excessively. Adding more perches around your home, especially ones with a view of the outside, can also help.

7. Skin Cancer

calico cat licking its belly
Image Credit: Nihan Ersoy, Shutterstock

Unfortunately, overgrooming can be a sign of cancer, especially if your cat is experiencing pain or you notice other signs, such as dry and brittle fur, hair loss, and excessive shedding.

What Can You Do About It?
Contact your vet immediately to schedule an exam if you think that your cat might be suffering from cancer. Regular visits will also help you detect any problems early.

8. Abdominal Pain

Sometimes cats will groom their belly if they are experiencing pain from conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or pancreatitis.

What Can You Do About It?
If your cat is licking their tummy a lot, pay close attention to their appetite and litter box for any signs of digestive issues. If a digestive problem is suspected, your vet may recommend some blood tests and an ultrasound to get to the bottom of it.

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Frequently Asked Questions

When Should I Be Concerned About My Cat Licking Their Belly?

You should be concerned and consult a veterinarian if your cat’s licking leads to hair loss, raw skin, or signs of infection or if they seem to be in distress or exhibit significant changes in behavior or appetite.

Are There Any Specific Breeds More Prone to Licking Their Belly Too Much?

While any cat can develop the habit of licking their belly raw, it might be slightly more common in breeds with known skin sensitivities or predispositions to allergies, such as Siamese or Sphynx cats (although hair loss won’t be a noticeable sign in the Sphynx!).

How Effective Are Pheromone Diffusers in Reducing Stress-Related Licking?

Pheromone diffusers, which mimic the natural pheromones that cats produce, can help your cat feel more relaxed, which can lead to less excessive grooming if your pet is licking their belly due to stress or anxiety.

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Your cat can be licking their belly for several reasons, including allergies, parasites, anxiety, hormone imbalances, and cancer. If you notice your pet grooming more than usual, scheduling an appointment with your vet can confirm or rule out serious health issues so your pet can get the treatment that they need. If the overgrooming is due to anxiety, increasing interactive play and mental stimulation and providing a safe and comfortable area and plenty of toys can be useful.

Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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