Overgrooming in Cats

Grooming is a normal behavior for cats; It helps them to keep their coats clean and silky smooth.

Sometimes, however, cats can exhibit a behavior known as overgrooming. This condition can be due to a variety of reasons and can be difficult to find a solution.

How Much is Too Much?

A lack of grooming is just as much of a concern as overgrooming is. Sometimes overweight, elderly, or sick cats will not groom themselves as much as they should and as a result, their coat can appear greasy, matted, and unkempt.

If your cat is excessively grooming, their coat will typically have patches of thin hair or hair loss. When severe, a cat that is overgrooming themselves may experience sores or skin infections from the constant licking and grooming. If overgrooming, your cat may also experience hairballs from all of the excessive hair ingestion.

As with most conditions in cats, overgrooming has many potential causes, outlined below. Your veterinarian can help you decide which cause may be affecting your cat and the best treatment plans.

Skin Infections/Diseases

Skin infections can be the primary cause or a secondary outcome of overgrooming in cats. Skin diseases in cats such as allergies can also lead a cat to overgroom themselves.


Cats aren’t able to verbally tell us they are uncomfortable or in pain. Sometimes, when cats are in pain or discomfort, overgrooming can be a visual clue. Some older cats experiencing arthritis or muscular pain may repetitively lick themselves in the area they are feeling pain (usually over a joint like a wrist, elbow, or knee).

Cats that may be experiencing abdominal pain from gastrointestinal issues, or other organ pain may repeatedly lick themselves on their sides or belly.

Your veterinarian can determine if there is any evidence of pain that may be causing your cat’s overgrooming behavior.

Depending on the source and cause of the pain, additional diagnostics may be recommended such as x-rays and bloodwork. If pain is the cause of overgrooming, pain medications may be prescribed.



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