Cats are known to be very vigilant groomers, but it can be quite disturbing when he seems to lick himself too much—or even starts scratching, biting, and chewing himself. You know this isn’t normal grooming behavior when he actually ends up damaging his coat, or looks visibly agitated or uncomfortable.
Since cats can’t ‘tell’ us what the problem is, it’s up to the caring cat owner to try to get to the root of the problem. You should bring him to the vet, but this article can help give you an idea of what’s wrong.
Some cat breeds are actually more prone to compulsive licking or chewing. This behavior is more frequently seen in Oriental breeds (like Siamese) and tends to develop more in female cats. The behavior can also be a sign of a health problem.
The most common culprit is parasites, such as fleas. The cats may be trying to remove these pests, and to relieve the itchiness and discomfort. Look for scabs especially along the lower back. Aside from fleas, your vet may also check for ticks, mites and ringworm.
Your cat may also be experiencing skin irritations because of an allergic reaction to something in the house or garden. This can include garden pesticides or household cleansers, or perhaps the material in a new carpet. He may also be allergic to a certain food, so observe him closely after introducing a new cat food (and avoid giving ‘human food’ as treats—these can contain chemical compounds like food coloring or ingredients that are not suitable for animals). Weather conditions, such as dry winter air, can also make your cat’s skin very dry and flaky.
Or the problem may lie deeper than your cat’s skin. He may be feeling pain or discomfort somewhere in that area. Have your pet checked for urinary tract infection, stomach problems, or any internal problem. This is especially important if you have noticed changes in appetite or personality (such as increased irritability or lethargy).
The problem can also be boredom or anxiety, in which case you can try to entertain your cat with homemade cat furniture. Your cat may also be stressed because of a change in routine or environment, like a new baby. (Read our article on signs that your cat is stressed.) Help calm him and assure him with lots of attention, and make sure he gets plenty of exercise (which can alleviate stress, for pets and humans alike).
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