Cats spend a good portion of their day grooming themselves. In fact, it's estimated they dedicate 15% of their day to grooming! For this reason, some people don't realize their cat is over-grooming until they notice bald spots in their cat's fur. If your cat grooms themselves excessively, you're likely anxious to find out the reason behind it. There are many different reasons cats over-groom themselves, from stress to medical issues.
One common reason for excessive grooming is pain or itchiness of the skin. If it is pain-related, cats will generally groom one specific area. This pain can be the result of a variety of problems, from a splinter stuck in their paw to a fight-related wound. Be sure to take your cat to a vet if you think they may have an injury.
If your cat has itchy skin, this could be due to parasites such as fleas or mites. Itchy skin may also signal environmental or food allergies.
Cats also over-groom themselves out of stress. Cats like consistent routines, so if something changes in their environment, this can cause great anxiety for them. Common sources of stress for cats include moving to a new place and losing an owner. If you think your cat is over-grooming out of stress, carefully think about if your cat has gone through any significant changes recently. If they have, do what you can to make the change less stressful for them.
Cats can similarly over-groom out of boredom. They may become bored if they're left alone for long periods of time or if they don't get an adequate amount of play. If you think this is the cause, do what you can to enrich your cat's environment. Set a consistent time to play with them every day, and make sure to give them plenty of attention.
When grooming turns into a compulsive behavior, this is called psychogenic alopecia. Cats of Oriental breeds (such as the Siamese) are more prone to developing this disorder. It is also more common in female cats.
Feline hyperesthesia is relatively rare, but still something that cat owners should be aware of. Cats with feline hyperesthesia often lick and bite their tail or back excessively. Other symptoms of it include apparent hallucinations, rippling skin in the back, and frequent vocalization. Since hyperesthesia episodes are often stress-related, treatment for it will involve removing stressors from your cat's environment and sticking to a consistent routine.
Consult a vet at a place like Babylon Animal Hospital if you need help determining the cause.