Obsessive scratching, licking and gnawing in cats

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 19.10.2021

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We consider the main reasons why a cat can bite, gnaw or scratch itself.

Most cats take good care of themselves. But what happens when they do it excessively? For a number of reasons, licking, scratching and gnawing becomes obtrusive, which can irritate you and cause harm to the coat and skin of your pet.

If your cat is obsessively scratching, licking or gnawing yourself, you probably find it regularly on this activity. But if you do not notice, the first sign may be the disappearance of the coat, often along the back and stomach of the cat. Cats with this behavior can also form red irritated areas, which are called foci, but this is less likely than in dogs.

Despite the fact that obsessive scratching, licking or gnawing can develop in any animal, most often this behavior is observed in Siamese cats and other eastern breeds. The females often lick, gnaw and pull out the wool than the males.

Because there are a number of diseases that lead to excessive scratching and licking, be sure to consult a veterinarian to help determine the cause and best plan of action.

Why do cats obsessively scratch, lick and chew themselves?

Parasites. Fleas are often the cause of obsessive scratching and licking of cats. Because cats take great care of themselves, they can really remove all traces of fleas. If you notice that the cat is excessively licking the lower back, she has scabs on her neck, this is a sign that fleas can be the cause of the problem. Other parasites, including ticks, itch and ringworm, can also contribute to scarring, licking or gnawing.

Allergies. Just like people who develop skin irritations in response to certain foods or environmental factors, cats can have itchy, irritated skin if they are allergic to anything in their environment.

Dry skin. Dry winter air or malnutrition can contribute to the fact that the skin becomes dry and flaky, which causes the cat to lick or scratch to facilitate its condition.

Pain. If you notice that the cat lickens again and again or bites itself in the same place, it may be that it is experiencing pain or discomfort in this area.

Boredom, anxiety and compulsive disorder. Obsessive gnawing, scratching and licking often develops in cats that are bored, depressed or anxious. These mental disorders are more likely to occur in cats that live in confinement, which may be due to the fact that they are less active and experience less emotion than street cats. Compulsive disorders often begin when changes occur in the environment of a cat, including the appearance of a new animal or child in the house, as well as moving to a new location. Also, the behavior that has arisen in response to the disease, sometimes becomes obtrusive after recovery.

Treatment of intrusive scratching, licking and gnawing

Destruction of parasites. Since it can be difficult to diagnose flea infection in cats, some veterinarians recommend trying to use reliable flea control that can be purchased from a veterinarian for six to eight weeks to see if this reduces the frequency of licking, scratching, or gnawing. Likewise, treating pruritus and other available parasites can relieve the cat of discomfort and problem behavior.

Replacement of products. Planting a cat that demonstrates compulsive behavior on a six-week exemption diet is a good way to find out if the food allergy is a cause. You may have to try a few options before you find an effective diet. Vets can also prescribe the addition of certain fatty acids or other nutritional supplements if the cause of endless scratching and licking of the cat is dry skin.

Use of medicines. Depending on the degree of skin damage that is caused by licking, nicking or scratching, your veterinarian may prescribe the use of steroids, antihistamines and antibiotics. In addition, some types of obsessive behavior of cats caused by psychological factors can be treated with clomipramine (antidepressant) or amitriptyline, which helps fight anxiety and also acts as an antihistamine.

Fighting anxiety or boredom. If you and your veterinarian have determined that there is no physical reason for such behavior of your animal, you can do something to improve the mental state of your cat. It is important to make sure that the cat feels safe in your home, comfortable and that it is loved, as it provides enough stimulation and physical activity. You may find that desensitizing a cat by slow and cautious exposure to what it fears may be helpful. Do this gradually, so as not to overload the cat and not exacerbate obsessive licking, scratching and biting. Anti-conditioning by training a cat to associate something pleasant, for example, a treat, with something that it fears, can also help reduce stress and anxiety. Often, licking caused by boredom (also known as psychogenic alopecia) is facilitated if another cat or other pet appears. But there is always a risk that the second cat will cause a new stress in your pet, which can aggravate the loss of hair.

Translation Disclaimer: The original language of this article is Russian. For the convenience of users of the iLive portal who do not speak Russian, this article has been translated into the current language, but has not yet been verified by a native speaker who has the necessary qualifications for this. In this regard, we warn you that the translation of this article may be incorrect, may contain lexical, syntactic and grammatical errors.

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