Cat Behavior: Overgrooming

If your cat is excessively grooming herself in one area or has licked the hair off of a part of her body, a veterinary exam is needed to determine if there are any medical causes.

Itchy or painful condition

A cat may lick a spot on her body that is itching or painful. If pain is the issue, the licking will focus on the painful area. Compulsive licking near the tail may indicate a flea infestation, while cats with pollen or food allergies may lick their backs, abdomens or other areas.

Stress and anxiety

Excessive licking can be a “displacement behavior”—a coping mechanism for stress. Licking releases endorphins that help an anxious cat self-soothe, but it can become a habit if the source of the problem persists. Changes, such as a recent move, the addition or loss of another pet, or a change of schedule can cause anxiety in cats. Add cat-friendly high places where your cat can retreat and feel safe, keep routines consistent, and play with your cat. Anti-anxiety medications may help.

Updated: 2018-08-15 07:00:00

Author: Oregon Veterinary Medical Association