Cats lick their fur to keep clean, to cool themselves, to relieve stress, and to absorb Vitamin D. When the licking becomes excessive, it usually stems from an underlying medical or behavioral problem. This excessive behavior can result in hair loss (alopecia), bald spots, skin inflammation, ulcerations, and scabs. It is important to get your cat to the vet, as soon as symptoms of a grooming problem appear, for an examination and diagnosis.
Common causes of excessive licking:
1. Parasite Infestation
* External infestations usually involve fleas, ticks, mites, lice or scabies.
* Internal parasites include tapeworm and roundworm, but cats can also get a fungal infection from ringworm. (Ringworm is zoonotic, which means the infection can be transmitted from your cat to you, or from you to your cat.)
2. Food Allergy (nutritional deficiency)
* Roughly 35% of cats are allergic to an ingredient in their food and may need to be fed a non-allergy cat food formula.
* An improper diet can cause a nutritional deficiency, which may to contribute to excessive licking behaviors.
3. Allergic Reaction to inhaled allergens (Atopy) or Irritant Contact Dermatitis
* Cats can have an allergic reaction to pollen, mold, dust, perfumes and cleaning products in their environment.
* The skin on some cats is very sensitive to certain metals, synthetic plastics, rubbers, wools, dyes, chemicals and plants.
4. Psychogenic Dermatitis ("fur mowing")
* Cats that were weaned too early, are bored, left alone for long periods of time, or overly stressed by changes in their normal routines or living situations, often react to their anxieties by engaging in excessive licking.
In single-cat households, separation anxiety (from the owner) and isolation can produce excessive grooming behaviors. Fighting is often the cause of anxiety when there are multiple cats in the home.
Other factors, like moving, or the introduction of a new human or animal into the home, can disrupt a cat's normal routine and dramatically increase their stress level.
When a cat reaches its "senior years", they may become a bit senile. Some will hardly groom at all, while others will simply "forget" that they just took a bath and continue to repeat the activity.
6. A serious medical condition
Autoimmune, hormonal, and metabolic imbalances, as well as a neuropathy problem, may be the cause of a cat's excessive licking. Common medical conditions involve:
* Anal gland impaction
* Cushing's Disease
* Sebaceous ardenitis
* Soft tissue or bone inflammation
* A reaction to certain medications, especially chemotherapy
* Anemia (cats will often lick odd things, like window panes, and this can be a symptom of feline leukemia.
Whether your cat is licking excessively due to a parasite infestation, an allergy, anxiety, or has an underlying medical issue, the only way to ensure that your pet continues to live a happy, healthy life (with a full coat of fur) is by taking them to your veterinarian.
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