Cat Overgrooming: Causes and Treatment

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/15/20242-4 minutes
A cat lays down while it grooms itself

Excessive grooming can be a response to changes in your cat’s environment that they’re struggling to come to terms with. These are some of the most common causes for cat overgrooming. 

Your cat is naturally on a mission to keep their coat clean, at times spending up to 50% of their waking time self-grooming. But sometimes their behavior can take a turn into excessive grooming. Find out why this happens and what you can do to help your cat. 

What is Cat Overgrooming?

Cat overgrooming occurs when your kitty starts grooming excessively – licking their fur so much that it causes skin inflammation, sores or hair loss. In extreme cases, a cat might even start to bite areas of skin. Sometimes you will notice your cat overgrooming or see damage to the skin or a patchy coat. Make a habit of regularly monitoring your cat’s behavior and skin and coat condition to assess whether your cat may be overgrooming. 

What Causes Excessive Cat Grooming?

The two main causes for overgrooming are behavioral, when the cat starts licking excessively as a form of stress-relief (also known as psychogenic alopecia), and medical, when skin allergies or skin parasites are the main culprit. 

Excessive Cat Grooming as a Stress-Relief Mechanism 

It might not be obvious to you, but the home environment can become very stressful for your cat. The particular stressors for a feline psyche don’t always register on our human scale, but they can cause just as much havoc as one of our work disputes or an urgent last-minute job. 

Some stressful events for a cat include: 

  • Moving home 
  • New furniture 
  • New family member 
  • New schedule 

Before making a change to your lifestyle, consider if it is likely to affect your cat. These creatures of habit will be the first to react to something new going on in your life. However, sticking to a routine can be a relief method for excessive cat grooming. 

Offer Consistency 

No matter how big or small the change, make sure you pay attention to how your cat is reacting to it. In some cases, it is a good idea to keep as many things consistent for your cat as possible. Stick to the normal feeding schedule in the same location with the same bowl. Also, schedule a consistent playtime and cuddle time. Add certain words or sounds that always signal that event is about to happen. Your cat will likely appreciate you showing them a bit of stability.  

Creating a Hiding Spot 

Your cat should have the opportunity to retire every once in a while, from trying to make amends with all the changes in their new environment. Finding a place where the cat can go, and rest is essential in keeping them calm and away from any cat overgrooming ideas. 

Ideally, cats should have multiple hiding spots around the house, including the area where the family spends the most time. Hiding spots don’t all have to be “hideaways.” Utilizing vertical space to add resting spots high off the ground also helps a cat feel more secure in its environment.

Play With Your Cat

Sometimes, all your cat needs is a little extra attention to help them relieve the stress. Encourage them to chase and pounce indoors. Have plenty of soft toys at their disposal, and rotate them frequently, so your cat doesn’t get bored. If they like going outside, then try to ensure they have supervised outdoor access, like access to a catio or time exploring on a harness, as an outlet for their hunting behavior and to reduce their stress. For more ideas on how to safely play with your cat and keep them stimulated, download the myPurina app.


If the reason why your cat is stressed cannot be directly addressed, the vet might recommend treating the symptom itself with antianxiety medication or added supplements. Don’t hesitate to ask your vet for help if the excessive cat grooming habit doesn’t go away. They may be able to recommend pill-form supplements or more natural remedies in the form of diffusers and drops. 

Cat Overgrooming for Medical Reasons 

Allergies or parasites can considerably change your cat’s grooming schedule. 

Lice, fleas, mites, ticks. These almost invisible creatures can make your cat’s skin extremely itchy which can lead to a second problem – that of excessive grooming. 

If you think this is the reason why your cat is incessantly licking their coat, speak to a vet for advice for the most effective treatments. Our cat fleas and ticks article will provide an overview of the causes and possible solutions for these pesky parasites.

However, it is important to keep in mind that when it comes to fleas and ticks, prevention is your best ally. Keep up with the regular preventive treatments against fleas, worms and other parasites, and you are likely to avoid the problem altogether. It is also important to treat the environment on a regular basis – 95% of fleas are contracted this way, so environmental management as well as treatment of the pet itself are very important. 

If you’re looking for more information about cat grooming, read our helpful guide. 

Are Some Breeds More Prone to Overgrooming?

It has been noticed that some cat breeds, such as the Abyssinian and the Siamese, are more likely to groom excessively. However, there is no agreement about how common this behavior is among these breeds. Given the right conditions, such as environmental changes or a skin allergy, cats, regardless of breed, might overgroom as a soothing solution. 

Is it Cat Overgrooming or Hair Loss?

Bald patches on your cat’s coat are a common sign of excessive cat grooming. However, this is not the only cause why your cat’s fur is not as thick as it used to be. Another possible reason is a condition called alopecia or cat hair loss. An unhealthy diet or even a hormonal imbalance can lead to your cat losing some of their sleek fur. Your vet will be able to diagnose the condition, understand what is causing it and recommend ways to treat it.

Whatever the cause of their change in behavior, solving the problem of cat overgrooming can take time. So be patient, work closely with your vet and soon enough, your cat’s fur will get back to normal. 

For more expert tips on keeping your cat healthy, explore our other cat health articles

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