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My Pet World: What to do with a cat that excessively grooms

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I have a rescued feral muted calico cat who's one of the sweetest cats I have ever known. But she is about to drive me nuts because she constantly grooms herself and has scabs and a mohawk. I have tried an expensive vet food, which she wouldn't touch. I can't afford the allergy test offered by my vet, but I can't stand to see her like this. I use Revolution, but it hasn't helped. I've even thought about sprinkling Bentyl on her food! Is there anything I can do to help? -- Linda, Raleigh, NC

Dear Linda,

Your cat may be excessively grooming for a number of reasons, including itching from food or other allergies, pain, fleas and other parasites, or neurological problems.

If the spot is localized it could be pain. If it is widespread then may be the result of food allergies because that can cause a systemic body itch. It doesn't sound like its fleas, since you're using Revolution. Don't give up on limited ingredient cat foods yet; there are many at the pet store that she might like. As for the Bentyl, it is prescribed for food allergies, so if your veterinarian recommends it, by all means, try it with your cat.

Excessive grooming, also known as psychogenic alopecia, also may result from excessive anxiety. Licking releases endorphins that soothe cats, so if they are anxious, they will lick more to feel better. The symptoms including licking, biting, chewing, hair loss, and skin wounds (as you describe). Obsessive behavioral licking, as it is called, is often diagnosed after all other things have been ruled out.


While your veterinarian can prescribe some anti-anxiety medicine, treatment generally involves stress reduction and enrichment. Introduce more play time with your cat, using a laser pointer to get her moving or puzzle toys that dispense treats. Brush your cat, if she will allow it, as she may relax from having contact with you. I also would add a few drops of Bach's Flower Essences in her water and introduce feline pheromones into the home in the form of sprays, plug-in diffusers, wipes, or collars. These things can create a sense of calm, which can help reduce her stress.

Be patient. It can take several months to determine the cause and find a solution for this hair loss.

Dear Cathy,

I inherited two parakeets about three years ago from a family friend. Recently, one of the birds had an overgrow beak to the point where I don't think he could feed himself. I am taking him once a month to get his beak trimmed. Is there any other solution other than trimming? -- John, Westbury, NY


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