Over-grooming in Cats
Luescher et al (1991) found that
the commonest stereotypy in cats is self-mutilation. It is thought
that stress is a contributory factor in self-mutilation such as
over-grooming. One of the other most obvious signs of stress is
To treat the problem the cause of
the stress must be identified. The cat may become stressed for
a variety of reasons, which include; a new pet, person in the
house, a new dog/cat in the neighbourhood, a new piece of furniture
or carpet, a new visitor and confinement e.g. perhaps when travelling.
This type of problem can usually
be treated by a desensitization regime. Your vet should be able
to refer you to a qualified behaviourist for this. However, using
Feliway (available from your vets) may help. The Feliway diffuser
releases pheromones, which may pacify the cat.
* If the cat is consistently biting
around its tail and anus then the problem may be due to blocked
anal glands. The anal glands can be found either side of the anus
and discharge a substance when the cat urinates and defecates;
this scent is used to mark territory.
* The anal glands may also act as dustbins, by collecting any
waste matter in the system. This waste matter can be a result
of an unsuitable diet. Many people believe that a high fibre diet
can help, however changing the cat to a highly digestible diet
that produces very little waste should help.Unsuitable diet may
also lead to over grooming.
* Excess moulting, balding, excessive grooming and eczema all
have a common cause, namely the accumulation of toxic waste in
the system, which usually results from unsuitable diet. Shedding
of hair and skin eruptions show that the body is attempting to
expel this burden of toxic matter.
These toxins may result from diets
that contain ingredients which are hard to digest e.g. wheat,
Soya or dairy products. The toxins may come from chemical colourings
or preservatives or even diets which are too high in fat or protein.
Grooming between cats
Allogrooming is the act of grooming
another individual. It is commonly seen in primates, however it
also occurs between cats, especially those in the same house.
Reluctance to groom
There are a few reasons why a cat
may not groom itself, including;
• pain when stretching to groom
(this may be caused by arthritis or other conditions)
• depression (as seen during some illnesses such as cat
• ulcers/lesions on the tongue (this would also make eating
painful, so beware of this sign)
• a greasy oily coat (caused by an unsuitable diet)
The condition known as ‘Stud-tail’
may also stop grooming. Although this condition is usually only
seen in intact males, it can be seen in females and neutered animals.
The problem is characterised by the over-production of a greasy
discharge at the base of the tail. This makes the fur greasy with
an unpleasant odour.
However, if the cat is fed on a good
quality natural diet then these discharges should not occur.
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John Burns Pet Health