Cat Grooming: What's Unusual?

If your cat is like most felines, s/he spends hours every day grooming him/herself. Lick the paws, check. Use the damp paws to clean behind the ears, check. Your cat is capable of bending and contorting him/herself into all manner of yogic positions to aim that rough tongue “just so” at a particular problem area.


Why Do Cats Groom Themselves So Much?

In general, our fastidious feline friends are pretty good at keeping themselves clean, and there are many reasons cats groom themselves. Obviously, the main reason is cleanliness, but there are other (mostly) health and safety-related reasons, too!

  • Friendship (allogrooming - when cats groom each other)
  • Protection against predators (cleaning away odor-causing agents that might attract unwanted attention)
  • To keep coat clean and smooth by distributing natural skin oils - good for fur maintenance and warmth
  • To stimulate circulation
  • To cool down through saliva evaporation
  • To eliminate parasites and infectious agents
  • To prevent hairballs 
  • To displace feelings of stress, anxiety or embarrassment (Sources: Hillspet & The Daily Cat


Can You Help Your Cat with Grooming?

It's true. Cats are self-cleaning.

But even though your cat can handle most grooming just fine on his/her own, we think it's a good idea to spend some time each week grooming Kitty, too.  That way, you can check for fleas, unattended mats in your kitty's fur, and overall skin health. Additionally, brushing your cat removes excess hair. This is especially useful if you have a long-haired cat, plus it helps you and Kitty bond.


Good Cat Grooming Habits

Signs of Trouble: Over-Grooming

Of course, cats spend a good deal of time grooming, but sometimes there can be too much of a good thing! Therefore, if Kitty spends too much time grooming, you know something's amiss, and s/he should see a veterinarian. 

"The medical name for excessive grooming in kitties is psychogenic alopecia. It happens when a cat’s normal licking activity crosses over into an obsessive behavior. Excessive grooming is one of the most common compulsive disorders in cats." (Source: Mercola) Medical issues that can cause over-grooming include skin problems (such as flea allergy dermatitis), pain, chiropractic problems, neurological problems, or other allergies.

Additionally, over-grooming can happen because Kitty is stressed or anxious. Cats love routine, so a change in the household - even just moving the litter box! - can upset some cats and lead them to spend even more hours in the day than usual grooming themselves. Remember: cats use grooming to self-soothe and to reduce anxiety. Unfortunately, you may not realize your cat is over-grooming him/herself until you see bald spots or major hair loss. If you spot these, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian - sooner, rather than later. 


More Trouble: Under-Grooming

But what about neglect? What if Kitty stops grooming him/herself, and you notice matted fur, maybe even a little unpleasant odor? Not enough grooming is also cause for a veterinary visit. 

"Pain or illness will cause a cat to lose interest in grooming. Aging cats may suffer from arthritis, which makes it painful for them to maneuver their bodies for cleaning; the simple act of grooming may also tire them out. Overweight cats have a hard time reaching the areas they want to clean and are frustrated by their attempts...A cat that's drooling and eating less than usual may have diseased gums, a toothache, or a mouth tumor, all of which make grooming uncomfortable. Or a lifestyle change that upsets him may also cause your cat to stop grooming." (Source: Animal Planet)

Like over-grooming, under-grooming can also have a number of causes, so be sure to take Kitty to see his/her veterinarian to make sure the cause isn't serious!


You can help your cat groom by brushing him/her, but if Kitty's behavior has changed in any way, it's a sign there could be something physically wrong and you'll want to make an appointment with your veterinarian. If you have any questions or have noticed a change in your cat's grooming habits, give us a call or use our online form to request an appointment!



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