Why is my Cat Over-Grooming?


Sphinx-kissaMace Ojala | more info (via: Wylio)
My cat seems to be ‘over grooming’ if thats possible, he has always groomed excessively. But not he is literally licking himself raw and his hair is falling out. I have treated him for worms and fleas, and am told it is a behavioral issue.

Is there a medical reason we might be missing? Or can you suggest tips on how to get him to stop grooming so much?


Your cat probably is suffering from a condition known as psychogenic alopecia. It is a behavioral condition that is related to obsessive-compulsive disorder and trichotillomania in humans. Like OCD and trichotillomania, it is very difficult to treat, let alone cure.

The first step in treating psychogenic alopecia is to rule any possible medical causes for over grooming such as allergies to fleas, food, or pollen.

Once these steps have been taken, the best bet is to provide lots of enrichment for your cat (in other words, play and interact with him). Also, avoid stress. Try to maintain a regular schedule, and, since cats often pick up on human stress, try not to get stressed out yourself (this gives you a good excuse to take a long bath, meditate, or join a yoga group). Remember that other cats and overcrowding are leading causes of feline stress. Owning multiple cats may trigger psychogenic alopecia in one or more of them. Some cats may even over groom in response to seeing another cat in the yard through a window.

If the above steps fail, you can consider medications. Humans with OCD and trichotillomania often wind up taking Prozac. Some cats with psychogenic alopecia end up on the exact same medication. However, I generally don’t recommend medicating cats unless the over-grooming is causing secondary problems such as skin rashes or infections.

Visit my website for more information on psychogenic alopecia.

Photo: Sphynxs are bald whether they over groom or not.

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