My cat’s licking her fur off. Help!

Greetings, kind readers. We’re letting Mama take a break from her NaNoWriMo efforts in order to help her write this week’s column. We told her she should do NaNo because it’s been years since she’s written a long work of fiction, and she’s been wanting to write a story to honor our beloved sister Sinéad (may she frolic forever in the catnip fields). Sinéad says it’s about time Mama got back to writing novels! But for now, here’s our letter of the week.

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I’ve got a female kitty named Trinity who has recently been licking all the fur off her lower abdomen, tail and legs. I’ve seen this behavior in other cats, and the vet tells me it is nothing serious, maybe just an allergic reaction to something. I have recently been feeding her Hills’ Science Diet, which seems to help some, since she no longer looks like (and forgive me for this) a mini poodle with a bad furcut.

Other than the naked belly, she is happy, affectionate and playful, emphasis on the last two, as she has taken to begging for attention when we (my boyfriend and I) stop paying attention to her. The only health issue I know she has is a mild form of either epilepsy or something, since she has tremors when she sleeps. There is one other cat in my houselhold named Tyga, but she has never exhibited this behavior. My father has a long-haired cat named Fuzzy who began doing this a couple years ago, but I know he has allergies, since his sinuses run constantly.

Have you come across anything like this before, and if so, have you any advice for Trin and myself?

~Belinda

Siouxsie: This compulsive fur-grooming is not at all uncommon in cats. In fact, my sister Sinéad went through a very similar thing — although she only licked the fur off her tummy.

Thomas: Sometimes allergies do play a part in this compulsive self-barbering. We cats generally show symptoms of allergies through changes in our bowel habits or through issues related to our skin.

Dahlia: Cats can develop allergies to certain foods. In fact, food allergies account for about 10 percent of the allergies seen in cats. The most common allergens are fish, beef and dairy products — which are also common ingredients in pet foods! Cats can also develop allergies to the grains that form the base of many cat foods; again, corn, being one of the most common grains, tends to be more likely to cause allergies.

Siouxsie: Apparently changing Trinity’s diet has helped to relieve some of her allergy symptoms, so you might take a look at the ingredient list for your Hill’s Science Diet food and compare it to the stuff you were feeding her before.

Thomas: Sometimes artificial colors can cause allergic reactions. If your other kibble had red or yellow pieces in it, then it had artificial colors. Naturally colored kibble is typically some shade of light to medium brown.

Dahlia: You might also have good luck feeding Trinity a premium natural cat food. Brands of kibble such as Eagle Pack, Wysong, Wellness, or Evo typically sell for about the same price as Hill’s Science Diet. These manufacturers also make “gooshy food,” so you can feed Trinity a combination of dry and canned food if you like.

Siouxsie: But if food allergies account for only 10 percent of all allergic reactions, what accounts for the other 90 percent? Well, like people, cats can be sensitive to things in their environment. If you wore clothing that contained something you were allergic to, you would likely begin to have itchy skin and maybe even develop a rash wherever that item of clothing touched you.

Thomas: It may not necessarily be the clothing that’s bothering you, though. It could be the detergent or fabric softener you used when you washed it. Or perhaps a fabric spray that you used on it. The same thing can happen to cats. We cats are very sensitive to chemicals in our environment, and if you use a lot of smelly things like artificially scented detergents and fabric softeners, or “odor removing” sprays for furniture, these can cause irritation on our skin.

Siouxsie: To that end, we’d recommend that you discontinue the use of any chemical air fresheners and switch to unscented laundry detergents and fabric softeners. If you’re using scented or “deodorant” kitty litter, definitely change over to an unscented product. You can deodorize your furniture and rugs with baking soda (sprinkle it on, let it sit 15 minutes, and vacuum it up).

Thomas: Allergies are not the only thing that can cause a cat to lick all her fur off. Sometimes this behavior is a result of stress. Cats vary in their ability to tolerate stressful events in their lives, and some things that don’t seem stressful to people can make cats very upset.

Dahlia: A common behavior for cats when they’re stressed is what’s called “displacement grooming.” You may have witnessed this if your cat made an ungraceful landing somewhere, noticed you were looking, and suddenly discovered an itch somewhere on their body that they just had to lick. It’s the “I meant to do that!” response.

Siouxsie: Generally the grooming stops after a minute or so. But if a cat feels intolerably stressed — by a move of house, a changing of schedule, addition of a new animal or baby, construction or other noise, or even a new cat moving in next door — she may resort to compulsive grooming to ease her stress.

Thomas: There are some ways you can help your kitty cope with stress. First, you could purchase a feline pheromone plug-in. These devices release a synthetic version of the pheromone relaxed and happy cats use to mark their environment. The positive feedback from these “happy cat” pheromones can help to eliminate stress-based behavior ranging from urine marking to fighting to, perhaps, compulsive grooming.

Dahlia: Mama has had good success with using “happy cat” pheromones to deal with the stress of adding a new cat to our household as well as with the stress of moving to a new home.

Siouxsie: If eliminating allergens and trying to reduce Trinity’s stress level through non-medical means doesn’t produce satisfactory results, your vet may recommend a short course of treatment with anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications (“kitty Prozac,” so to speak). These have been proven effective and safe for short-term use in treating stress-based behavior problems, because the medication seems to eliminate the anxiety that triggers the behavior issues.

Thomas: Typically, cats don’t have to stay on anti-anxiety meds for their entire lives. A short course of treatment generally “rewires” the cat’s nervous system effectively.

Dahlia: We hope this helps, Belinda. Please feel free to update us on how Trinity is doing with her fur-pulling problem.

  • Justine

    We had the same problem with our rescue kitty, Lorelei, last summer, but oddly it was after a year and a half of her joining our family. The vet thought it was allergies, which we didn’t really believe as nothing had changed and her mother (Juliet, another rescue) wasn’t at all affected. We reasoned it was more likely stress as we’d been gone intermittently over the summer. So we kept them on the same food (Innova and Fancy Feast).

    In thinking about it, we also realized the crazed grooming had started soon after we’d gotten a laser point for the kitties to chase. They _loved_ it. But it also was stressing out poor Lorelei. We gave up the laser pointer and after a few months of keeping a more regular schedule, Lorelei stopped the over-grooming and now the fur is growing back. She’s regained most of her Maine coon fluffiness, except in her tail which does seem to want to poof as much as it did.

    So maybe there’s some stress in your kitty’s environment you could eliminate?

    The tremors I think are fairly common. They’re just dreaming. My cats growing up (rescues and pet-store purchased alike) all did it.

  • caroline

    My 7 yr old female is naughing at her forarms, underarms, and belly.so no fur any longer. i thought it was anxiety when i took the puppy out with me, but it is still continuring. no redness, sores nothing, absolutely normal skin underneath.
    help.

  • Mihaela

    I had a cat with the same problem. She is part of a two cat household. Besides getting a simple anti-biotic for the redness in her exposed skin, I had to devote complete alone time with her. I would take her into the bedroom once a day for at least 30 minutes alone, without the other cat in sight. This one-on-one attention did the trick.

  • alice h

    My Chloe cat, short-hair black tortie, has been on cyclosporine 25 mg for over 2 years now; it stopped the licking/hair removal, altho she continued to keep her lower abdomen trimmed. We moved a year ago, and I’ve tried to wean her off more than once, from 1 per day to one every other day, then 2 days off between pills. When it gets to the latter she starts licking off the fur again. There do not seem to be any side effects to the meds, but one hates to keep anyone on meds for life!!! She is also playful, affectionate, good appetite, and has a feline house-mate whose fur is fine. Chloe does not appear stressed or depressed. Clearly an allergy, but finding the cause is hit-or-miss!!!

  • JoAnn

    My female cat did the same thing. I took her to one vet that said she grooms excessively because she has fleas. After 2 years of listening to that vet I took her to another vet that diagnosed a urinary tract infection along with urinary crystals. You should get the cats urine checked to rule out a urinary tract infection!!!

  • Tanner

    My cat diggy started licking all the fur off the base of his tail (near his body) and i noticed it starting getting bad so i took him to the vet. he has excessive hair balls due to his over grooming and throws up everywhere… UGH. so the vet gave him a dose of steroids. he stopped throwing up but then he licked all the fur off of his paws front and back and his inner hind legs. so i took him back for another shot. he stopped throwing up again. but then i wanted a second opinion so i went to another vet who said it could be stress, which i though it was too, so she put him on anti-anxiety pills but now he won’t eat…. so here i am wondering now what? maybe it was allergies?… diggy is 12 and has been with me his whole life and just started this stuff about 6 months ago… but he’s been throwing up for about three years now… and the vet told me initially it was just hairballs… my little kitty… i need help. now what?

  • Melissa

    One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned that comes to mind is a syndrome called hyperesthesia. Mild cases can manifest as twitching back and over-grooming, severe cases can actually involve the cat self-mutilating (usually on the rump, tail, and rear legs). The nature of it is not completely understood, but one theory is that it is a mild seizure disorder (which brought it to mind in the case of Trinity). In my cat, it it relatively intermittant and is usually triggered by stress or allergies. Once she starts over-grooming, she’ll lick herself bald (and sometimes raw), and doesn’t like to be touched, like her skin is hyper-sensitive. When she gets this way, my vet puts her on a short round of low-dose seizure meds. Once the cycle is broken, she’s fine, and stays that way until the next stressor (months to years later). I’m not diagnosing your pet, but it’s something you may wish to ask your vet about!

  • Amber

    my cat JT has been doing the same thing for a year and half. I got him from a rescue shelter and have been fighting to find a way for this to stop. Like many other stories, he did not start to do this until halfway through of me owning him.
    I have gone to many vets and they all suggested steroids. I dont feel my cat should be on meds. but we tried them any way. they of course did not work. he lives in a house hold of 4 other cats and i believe he may be stressed. so the best of luck to all of you, i will be trying a stress removal spray, the feliway spray. If you have any advice please let me know.

  • Todd

    My cat sammy, she has just turned 9. For most of her life she has licked a bald spot on her side on the top of her back leg. She has always licked a bald area on her belly near her vagina. She stopeed for about 2 years and then this year she has went on a licking spree. She has licked almost all the hair off her belly, inside and outside of her back legs and on the bottom of her front paws. I have spent a small fortune to try and find the cause and still have not found out anything. I have been told food allergies, outside allergies, behavioral. If it was behavoral she would do it year round, as this only occurs in the fall. Food allergies, it would also occur year round. Have done the normal change foods, litter,still no luck.

  • Enigma

    My sister’s cat does the same thing – licking all his fur off. However he also has really swollen and chapped lips. So I told her to take him to the vet because of a possible allergy.

    However, I noticed you mentioned you think your cat is having small seizure’s when she sleeps. To maybe clear up your mind on that – that is actually completely normal. Cat’s, like humans and dogs and most other living things, go through sleep cycles. When they are in deep sleep sometimes they will twitch. It is a sign they are dreaming! It is just like when people mumble or move around when they are dreaming. So on that aspect she is completely fine! :D

  • Jen

    My cat has been doing the same thing. She has completely licked her own belly raw, now has moved onto paws and now is scratching and removing all the hair from around her eyes, they are all cut and swollen. Took her to the vet and they gave her steriods and antibiotics – they helped slightly but now its back w/ a vengence. I recently switched to Hills Science Diet Hairball and have moved – I think it is a combo of both. She is a stress case and is only happy when I am home and asleep so she can cuddle next to me. Tomorrow I take her to the vet again – and I will beg them for kitty valium and in the meantime have changed her food to all natural. I hope it works I can’t bear to watch her mutilate herself any more! Anyone have luck w/ anything please let me know!

  • http://YAHOO.COM NICOLE

    MY CAT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY. HE IS LICKING THE FUR FROM HIS HIND LEGS,BELLY AND HIS LEFT SIDE IS BALD UPTO HIS RIBCAGE. HE IS ON AMITRIPTYLINE ONCE DAILY AND IT ISN’T ANY BETTER! I WORK FOR A VET CLINIC AND WE MAY UP THE DOSE FOR AWHILE THEN TRY PROZAC!! THAT IM NOT HAPPY ABOUT BECAUSE THIS CAT IS LAID BACK ENOUGH, ON PROZAC HE WOULD SEEM COMATOSE! ANY SUGGESTIONS PLEASE!!!

  • Melissa

    My older cat, Charlotte, has licked her belly raw so there are sores, too, and she bites the fur off part of her back. We’re not sure what it is. It started my sophomore or junior year of college (I’d been away all 4 years and would come home for Christmas and summer breaks). She got shots of stearoids and it would clear up for a little while. She also has Animax cream.

    We got a new kitten over the summer and my Charlotte began doing it again. We had gotten Charlotte from the humane society, along with another cat, when they were kittens but the other one had ran away a few years after-though Charlotte never overlicked herself anytime then. Charlotte doesn’t really like my kitten. If they’re not both sleeping and are near each other, Charlotte growls at the kitten and hisses and growls when we pick her up. Sometimes I give them both time to spend with me alone but I’ll try to do it more. (I don’t want either to feel like they’re unwanted or something so both get alone time with me).

  • Shavaun

    Hey guys. I obviously have the same problem.

    My little Mouse (who is also a rescue kitty from the HS) He has always licked. He pefers his right arm and now his chest. A few months ago he got out and was stuck in a tree over night. Since then it has been a lot worse. We recently added another kitty to thwe family (that makes 4) and he is licking like a mad man. Seems to me all of the signs point to stress. We try to spend extra time with him as much as we can. I hate to see him doing it. It makes me sad :(

    I was thinking about getting a cone. I read somewhere that is take 26 days to reset an animals (or maybe just cats) habits. If you can stand to leave the cone on for that long it might help. You’ll have to help kitty keep his unmentionables clean though :D

    (Something I found interesting in reading this is that a lot of you have your cats on Science Diet.)

  • Lasco

    Our cat always goes nuts a few weeks before we leave for our yearly vacation. She sees us pack and starts licking like crazy. Her back legs and tummy are licked clean. And the every popular fur balls are hacked up every day as well. But the last few years we give her a mild sedative for a few days when she starts licking and she clams right down. I don’t give her it for long , just to break the cycle of excitement she has. Then she’s mellow and just goes on her merry way, not watching the suitcases all day and night. I don’t know what the heck is wrong with her but I know our vet wanted to put her on drugs and x-rays and tests and allergy tests and phyco therapy and we cant spend that type of money on a necrotic cat. And the next day shes running around the house just fine.. She seems fine, eats like a horse and seems happy , so I am going with a few days of one half of my calm down pills stuck into her food before I go packing for a trip. Worked for us..

  • Nicole

    I have a cat who has over licking issues too.

    He(Chocolate) is almost 9 year old male black cat (short hair).

    I found him when he was around 5 months old, in some blackberry bushes.

    Ever since I found him, he’s had some kind of emotional issues, very timid around most people(except me)..with me he is very clingy, always has to sit on my lap.

    He first started over licking in 2005 (took hi to the vet) they first ruled out fleas..then gave him a steroid injection.
    That didn’t seem to help. The vet said it was most likey a mental thing causing him to over lick/ go bald.

    The vet did prescrib a form of kitty prozac…
    Giving a pill to a cat is not the eaisest task, and it didn’t really help either.

    For awhile he seemed to mellow out with the overlicking..but this past year, he has been going crazy with the licking.

    I don’t know what to do anymore.
    I feel like a bad cat parent.

  • Heather

    my little over-grooming cat willy recently joined our family two months ago ( with three cats).. her previous owner kept her as an outside cat, and he was a profuse cigarette smoker. she got put outside because she has a VERY NEEDY personality, but in reality, she’s sweet as sugar (unless you are another cat, then death to you!) willy always has been a groomer, but since moving in, the girl is going bald with a side of scabs! she doesn’t like it when we pet her bald spots (lower back, tummy, legs, bottom, shoulders), and meows as if in pain. the only way we can comfort her is to pet her head gently, so as not to disturb the scabs that she’s hacked into her head and neck. Poor girl! she’s a shelter kitty (7 y.o.). had a brother who got eaten by a coyote. lived with a smoker (heavy metals in second hand smoke can cause nerve and gastro-intestinal damage (food allergies!) and stress in the body). moved to a more loving family, but had three new cats to ‘deal’ with. was an outside kitty, now an indoor kitty (it’s too cold for a naked bottom outside!) very picky eater (wellness, raw meat, raw milk) (likes the vit. d capsule contents on her chow. doesn’t like the fish oil). loves to sit on your lap at the computer, sleep on your chest at night, meows a lonely meow when you isolate her from the cats overnight. if i let her sleep on my chest at night, no matter how many layers of sleep clothes i wear, i will itch too. sometimes smells like corn chips (a yeast issue?) could it be a nutrient deficiency? i know i tend to overgroom when under stress, which I find is corrected by high magnesium doses (used up quickly in a stress state)… could that be helpful for a cat??? she’s always been a groomer, but never naked and bleeding before!
    she’s started to twitch and shudder at night too.
    i’m really happy to see that other people have the same problems as us. and i’m really happy that this isn’t just a neurotic prozac deficiency.
    Keep Sharing!!!

  • Carmen

    I have a cat with similar traits as all of you. She licks the fur off her belly, hind legs and armpits. She is indoor/outdoor, was born a to a feral mother. I have had her since she was a small kitten, having gained her trust by feeding her and her mom since she was very little. I have tried various medications, steriods and cat foods. I have had no success until I recently discovered raw feeding. Since I started her on a raw diet, her overgrooming has ceased completely and her fur is filling in all over. She is starting to look like her beautiful self again! It’s something to think about. Processed cat foods contain so many unhealthy and unnecessary ingredients. I’ve heard of many people curing their pets of various conditions that were uncurable by conventional means (medications, shots, ointments, recommended by vets) through raw feeding. BUT, if you try this route, you have to be sure you are using fresh, quality meat, not the kind you get at the grocery store. There are many raw food distributors that will ship pre-packaged, frozen, prepared raw food to you.

    As an aside, the tremors which may not be related to dreams, could be a deficiency in fats. You may want to try and supplement with fish oil in their food. The brain and nerves require a good source of fats, omega 3’s, to function properly….

  • Robin C

    I have a female, 7 years old. At 3 years old she went to emergency vet for 4 days. Had twitching in her head and could hardly sleep. They put iv’s in all her legs at some point during the stay. Did all tests known to do except for MRI/Spinal Tap which we said no to. Brought her home, it went away. She was very thin so we started feeding her canned (human) tuna each day in addition to dry cat food. At the time she was on Iams but we have switched to Pet Promise in the last 6 months. Litter has always been the same. No change. She started licking fur off her tummy and legs where the iv’s were in about 6 months after coming home. It’s continued and is now the worse, she keeps tummy, rear legs, thighs, genitals and front legs clean of hair. She is very much a loner, doesn’t want to be touched or bothered unless she instigates it. We have brought 2 strays into the house(separate room for the evening during bad weather) and now she won’t go to that part of house either. She does live with a male 8 years old that she has been around her whole life. Steroids at the vet worked for about a week and she gets so stressed going to the vet that it’s just not worth it. What to do with her? I feel for her and only want her to have a happy life.

  • Marie

    I had an older cat (21yrs) who started licking the fur off of his tummy later in life. I turned out that he was allergic to poultry. Once we switched him to a lamb formula he stopped the licking. His licking was confined to his stomach.

  • Alice

    My male cat, Peanut, an English Grey rescue cat, started licking about 3 years ago. He is more than 10 years old. We have lived in the same house for 8 years, yet he only started this a few years ago. He licks his belly, inner back legs and parts of the underside of his front legs until the fur is gone and the skin is pink with sores. My other cat, a Maine Coon rescue cat, is 9 years old and perfectly fine. I was feeding regular Science Diet dry and canned to both until this started, and switched to Science Diet prescription formula d/d at my vets recommendation. While it seemed to help at first, and reduced the frequency of throwing up that both cats were doing, the licking continued. It got so bad last month that the vet gave him a round of antibiotics. Having read all of your comments, I began to wonder if Science Diet food – regular or prescription – might be the problem? But my younger cat is healthy – no licking, so far. The Science Diet d/d formula, by the way, is for allergic cats and comes in Venison, Duck and Rabbit – no chicken or fish flavors.
    Two years ago, I had also started giving them only dry food to help keep their teeth in better shape, but it seems they throw up more and are frequently constipated (hard stools and yowling in the litter box.) Thinking this may be causing Penaut to lick his belly, I’ve added canned food back to the daily diet. The throwing up has stopped, along with the yowling. I’m hoping the licking will stop too.
    At wits end, Alice

  • Five

    My 13 year old cat licks herself to pieces. She and I have always been a team and even though I am only 24, I have had my cat since I was in fifth grade (given the name) and she has only done this one other time. A few years ago I spent a few months in California, and she licked all the fur off her belly and stopped eating, the vet said she was depressed with out me and the grooming soon stopped. She is now much older and licks herself regularly. There isnt any real reason for the over grooming, and I’m worried that she is depressed again, but I dont know why and how I can help… She is a long hair and has licked all the fur off her bottom too. Could it be her age? She may be too old to put on medications, and to use pheramones, so I am curious to what else i can do…

  • Joan

    I came across this site re: itchy cat. There seems to be a “solution” for it – Apple Cider Vinegar. I’m going to try it on her.

    http://www.earthclinic.com/Pets/allergies.html

  • sara

    My kitty is about 6 years old. He is definitely part Mainecoon part tabby. He is a large male, very sweet and playful. He was a stray that I rescued as a young cat and when I brought him to the vet to get his shots and check up I found out that he has FIV. Since then he has been an all time indoor cat, who’s life has pretty much remained the same for the past 5 years. Last winter he started having seizures. Full blown long ones. My vet put him on phenobarbital which helped but in the mean time he began to lick himself. When the seizures subsided I took him off the meds because he was acting better and I hated making him take them. I hid them in things like proscuitto and salami and he ate them, but he was very lethargic when on them. So eventually he came off of them and things got better. He still licked but the seizures were gone and the licking wasn’t doing any harm. Now we fast forward to today. His licking is out of control. He has done the same thing that you all mention. The fur by the base of his tail went first, and now there is a sore there. His legs are barren and his tummy is short and also has one smallish sore on it from licking too much. I also have always given him science diet, but I’m going to switch to wellness. I’ve tried adding oil to his food, but he doesn’t like it. I dont want to give him steroids because I don’t believe they will help in the long term. Has anyone tried the apple cider vinegar? Please help.

  • kristin

    my cat peanut is approx. 3-4 years old (we rescued him from a shelter) and when we rescued him initially, he had a bald belly (looked as if he had been shaved) and the shelter said they shaved him for his spay. The problem has continued to get worse over time. We have tried everything! We have taken him to the vet and gotten him tested for ringworm and other diseases and he is fine. The vet suggested it may be a food allergy and weve tried many different foods especially expensive ones that dont contain corn and that didnt improve. The whole time weve had him, he’s had issues with his belly being bare, however now he’s moved on to licking and biting his feet and legs. He is a very sweet but needy cat and only generally takes to me. The only other thing we could think of that would be an issue, is a flea problem but we dont see any signs and it is wintertime now and the problem is worse than ever. Also we have two other cats in the house- the male he gets along with fine, and the female cat and himself hate eachothers guts. Anyone have any suggestions?????????

  • Lauren

    So based on all of the readings above is it a safe conclusion that this is somewhat normal behavior?
    My cat has ALWAYS been an obsessive licker, but of licking me or grooming my other cat. Within the past week, (nothing in his normal routine changing), I have noticed almost complete bald spots on various parts of his body. The biggest one is on his right front leg, of which he growls if I start to touch it. Most of the bald spots are on his chest, between his 2 front legs. But there are a few other spots on his body.
    He is an indoor cat with a very serious routine that he keeps me on. The food has not changed for a very long time. I buy natural dry food but I will change it up when they run out for a different brand or flavor. I have 2 other cats and they all get along great. The cat that has the obessive licking is the head honcho. I use all organic cleaning products. and nothing different has gone on in the past week
    My biggest concern is this any sign of cancer or what not in cats?

  • Tom C

    Sounds like almost everyone who has posted here has the same syptoms as my cat Quinn. We had suspected that he had flea allergies and treated both our cat and our dog for months for this condition with no success.
    Sadly he died suddenly yesterday.

    I don’t want to alarm anyone here, but After hours of Research online I discovered that condition that killed Quinn was Sarcoptic Mange. I wanted to notify everyone, because his death was entirely preventable. If we would have only known what it was we could have treated it properly and he would have survived.

    It is a very contagious microscopic mite (which by the way can only be diagnosed by analyzing sraping of the skin under a microscope) that causes this condition. It often goes undiagnosed because it’s syptoms closley mimic so many other things. As it turns out he got Sarcoptic Mange from our Dog who got from other neigborhood dogs. Fortunately we have started treatment for him so he should be ok.

    Here is an excellent website that can provide you with additional information. http://www.earthclinic.com/pets.html If this tragic tale saves even one animal, then at least our Quinn did not die in vein

  • Cindy

    Hi, I just thought I would share our experience. I found this site trying to help our 9-year old cat Sabrina who adopted US when she was about 1.5 years old. She is an indoor pet now and extremely playful and affectionate – thinks she’s a dog! She first started overgrooming when she had an eye infection and it involved just the paw she used to clean the eye. The excessive licking went away and returned periodically but started to be more chronic a year ago. The vet said it could be stress. After some of my own research, I have found (remember I’m not a Dr.) that the most common cat allergies are chicken and corn and she was on Hills Science Diet food which lists ingredients in the order of chicken, rice, corn….. I transitioned her over to a natural/raw food diet (ended up using the Nature’s Variety line) and stayed away from the poultry items. I also stopped using Greenies – they worked for her teeth but contain chicken. The fur started growing back within days. Just so you know, allergies can start at any time and even when the allergen is removed, the cat may need to break the habbit of over-grooming. Also, allergens can take up to 3 months to be completly gone from their systems. I hope this helps someone’s pet!

  • Jeannie

    Ziggy just turned 12, and she has been licking her belly(her belly is oh so soft) and thighs for years, as well as our walls! She has always been healthy (until recently diagnosed with hyperthyroid) and extremely needy of affection, we call her attention deficit kitty! A number of years ago (I forget how many) she had chronic urinary tract infections, but we switched to urinary tract food and they stopped.

    So…could it be OCD in a kitty cat?

  • Steve

    Please listen to this advice! My Maine Coon had the same problem of and on for several years until I discovered… combing her would cause this problem!! Yes, really. Stop brushing your cat. Stop it completely. No matter how ridiculous this sounds or how much your cat enjoys this I know if you are reading this you are brushing your cat and I implore you to stop and never do it again. If she/he has knots manually take them out with your hands. This will often happen with your fluffy cat. But no more bushing!! After a little time your cat will have a full coat again!

  • http://littermaid.liveautomatic.com Littermaid

    Brushing caused problems for ours too, at least when we brushed him – he didn’t seem to suffer the same when he would rub against things so we bought him a toy that essentially was a pipe cleaner in a u-shape with a carpet base. He brushed himself and everyone was happy.

  • Mikael

    My 13 year old cat Marduk has started excessive licking in the past 6 months. His twin brother Malhavoc died about 8 months ago (of some sort of anemic blood disorder that went missed all these yars). Marduk has licked/chewed away the fur at the base of his tail where it meets his body. His rump looks like a barber took a shaver and shaved it real short – it feels like prickly fur stubs and makes the first 2 inches of his tail look like a rat tail. He has also licked the last 2 inches of his tail to short stubby hairs – I have caught him doing it and it’s like he is licking the fur and then sort of chewing away at it like corn-on-the-cob. There are 3 other cats in the house. He had a UTI a few months ago and he has high amounts of crystals in his urine, so I give him dry food for urinary tract health. For canned food I give them Frisky’s and change around the varieties of flavors – I try to give them a lot of the lamb since I heard that lamb was healthy for them. He throws up a lot, but then he has thrown up a lot since I got him. Vet referred to him as a “puker”. Yea fun for me lol. But I just want him to stop licking his rump bare. There are no sores, it’s just tiny fur stumps and pinkish skin stands out. He looks so ridiculous from behind, and I don’t want him to start getting sores. I am thinking of the pheranome plug-in – I’m gonna try that and maybe switch to that Natures Variety line of food. But does anyone else have any suggestions? That mange thing scared the crap out of me, but no dogs are in the house and all my cats are indoor only. Marduk would like your help. :)

  • Jut

    Our cat has little scaps on its back. he has had them before.and they cleared up. He licks a lot. What is the answer? Thanks

  • T

    my cat is 5 and all of a sudden i cant pet her lower back by her tail…she twitches and licks a lot and i think i felt a little scab or something…she wont let me near it long enough to really check it out…doesnt seem like she is in pain but i am concerned
    thanx

  • C

    Since my cat has also this behavior, I start looking on the net for answers… I found this site that contains interesting informations about it, so we can use when visiting a good vet…
    http://www.cat-world.com.au/over-grooming-in-cats

  • Chris

    My nearly 4 year old crazy part tabby, part Maine Coone boy, Bosie, has started the same thing at the base of his tail. It’s now bald and scabby. Thank you all for your stories. I’m going to change his diet first. I’ve had him on fish jellymeat for a while along with dry food. It’s the only food he won’t throw up on. But I’ll try some alternatives. If that doesn’t work then it’s off to the vet. Like a lot of other people my buddy is perfectly happy, purrs all the time to the point of near explosion, but he’s been a little bit restless. Definitely not in pain. I appreciate all the info.

  • Kimberly

    Well, I have finally found others with cats as needy as my Rosie. She is the most loving and needy cat I have ever had and over the last year has licked her belly, hind legs and parts of her fore legs bald! She’s strictly indoors, no other pets, no fleas, no changes in household products, no changes in family routines. I’ve taken her to the vet and received much of the same advise… “Maybe allergies, maybe stress. You could take her to a very expensive kitty dermatologlist out of town.” etc, etc. Talk about stress! Just getting the carrier out of the closet sends her into turmoil, much less driving her out of town of several hours. Anyway, much thanks to all of your comments posted here. It’s given me many options to pursue. The first I’ll try is the diet change. I do feed Science Diet and she’s always preferred chicken flavors! She hates fish flavors so hopefully lamb or venison will be reasonable compromise for her. If not that, I suppose a new vet will be in order. Wish us luck, and good luck to all of you in your quests for full-furred kitties!

  • DDS

    I have a calico who was as you call a “puker”. She threw up all the time- several times a week- for years. I never took her food away when she was eating a lot and fast because I thought that would be mean. She eats like a dog- woofs it down and eats too much. So now I pick up her food after a brief amount of eating time- she has greatly reduced her throwing up. She was over-eating too fast. I put it down after an hour or so – so she gets fed nicely but does not throw up all the time.
    Poor little girl. Hope this helps- My vet also said she had some cats who threw up all the time. but this has really changed it- and I do not feel so bad and guilty about her discomfort-
    DDS

  • Greg Bell

    My cat has just started licking around his anus to the point of licking all the hair off. He went through about 5 days when he wouldn’t eat all the canned food he’s been eating for about 6 months. Now that he started eating all the canned food again, he has started over-grooming. I’ve put Bag Balm on the bare skin to protect it. I stained his rear-end with Betadine and was able to tell that his lick pattern is from the anus out, as if it is actually his anus that is irritated. He has always been sensitive to toxins in the environment, so the first thing I will do is discontinue the Canned cat food.

  • Sorrokine

    http://cats.about.com/od/healthfaqs/f/ripplingskin.htm

    This disorder might be labeled as “Rippling Skin Disorder” which is an obessive compulsive disorder derived from stress related situations in their environment. Good Article. I have a Egytpian Mau, 5 in December, and she started licking ever since we brought home a small kitten a year ago. Her environment has changed drastically since this cat tries to rule the house. She and I were always tied together at the hip when I lived alone, and I feel stress is the key. Spending time alone is a great idea, also trying to purchase a comfortable neck collar to prohibit licking at night when you are asleep will aid when you’re not around. Also reading up on this, repromanding or rewarding the treatment could as well make it worse. I can also agree on the corn and chicken allergy might add to it as well.

    Noting for the record Mold Poisoning can also be a factor. I suffer from late stage two Mycotoxicosis which I got from a sick building covered with mold. Through that I learned about Candida Albacanis which is naturally in digestive track. It’s a type of Fungi that normally lives along side our gut bacteria. When one’s immune system is lowered, they can take over the body, which is the worse since they omit a highly toxic Mycotoxin. this type of fungal infection eats away at the fat cells in the skin, staying there, then eating away at muscles and organs next as they eat the food that comes into the body. Fungi eat starches, carbs and sugar. Cats can suffer from fungi infections ranging from skin to digestive track imbalance. Oregano is a great fungi killer. If your cat shows discomfort when in the box, or excessive licking in that region of the underbelly they could be suffering from a body yeast infection. There are pet supplements that contain oregano, and this can help. Also tell your vet that your cat needs to be checked for a fungal infection. Apple Cider Vinegar is also a known killer of molds and fungi which lead me to check more on this. I will try the diet change to raw foods, and see how that helps as well. I hope this information helps, as I too am looking for an answer.

  • patricia gregory

    My baby of 8 yrs is an indoor black and white cat of 25 or more maybe lbs. Now all of a sudden is licking and tearing out his fur from his hips, one side is bald and he’s working on the other side and his the front for his paws he’s been very health never had a problem before and i have notice white flacks on his back and he gets really mad if you touch him there? I’m scared what should I do? and if I keep telling him NO stop he does not understand and he thinks i’m mad at him which is not the case at all Help please I love my baby and it hurts me to see him so sad!

  • Kimmie

    I don’t do science diet food for the simple reason of itching! I didnt feed it to my cats, but I did my dogs. I thought this was the best thing to feed them but my golden retriever couldn’t walk 3 steps without stopping to scratch. After months of trying to figure it out, I started weaning her and our lab/sharpei (he itched some but not as bad) off the science diet and started giving the Petsmart brand authority…They have been great just about ever since. On the cat subject, my cat licks some but it is because her last vet kept putting revolution on her for ear mites…after taking her back 3 times because her ears weren’t getting better, her hair started falling out, her skin was burned, and she developed LPGS. Took her immediately to a different vet…where he immediately said she had been poisoned. Almost lost her…now she has gained her weight back, doesn’t lick unless she does get stressed, and she has had to have all her teeth pulled because of the LPGS. She is perfect, other than the fact she will have a flareup from time to time, and she has to be on steroids the rest of her life…Do me a favor…do not put any kind of flea or ear mite medicine on a Ragdoll!!!! And don’t feet Science Diet! Try Authority…compare ingredients :)

  • samantha

    Change the litter guys!! For the people who have cats that eat the hair off their paws, legs and underbelly.. it could be a sensitivity to the perfume in cat litter. My cat almost ate all her hair off, when I came across an article saying cat litter could cause it, so I tried a basic unscented litter.. and miraculously, all her hair is back and she is perfectly fine.

  • Sam

    My male neutered DSH started doing this when he turned 1. He was a kitten rescue from a stray mother. I have tried the pheromone plug ins, I have tried the personal time, I have tried antibiotics for the sores that result from the licking and topical sprays for the irritation. He is on benadryl twice a day, hypoallergenic food and unscented yesterday’s news newspaper pellet litter. All of my detergents are hypoallergenic and the house is kept free of avoidable allergens, and the animals are kept free of fleas. I have two dogs, one had demodectic mange as a puppy, but she was recovered by the time I got the cat. And demodex is basically a dog thing. Mange does not typically kill an animal unless it is allowed to progress to the point of severe secondary infection and subsequently systemic shock. The last thing I can do is have his urine tested, but more likely suspect that he is just an incredibly needy and neurotic cat that would only be pleased if I was home and paying attention to him for 24 hours. Not going to happen. If someone eventually figures out what this is and develops a cure, they are going to be quite rich. Since my cat has a severe case and I am progressively eliminating all the causes and solutions, it’s just as likely it will be me. And for those of you feeding science diet: science diet contains euthanized pets if the ingredients include unspecified protein or bone meal like “animal protein” and “bone meal”. Look it up, it’s actually legal, but I prefer to know what exactly I am feeding my pets and not feed them pentobarbital via euth’d dogs and cats.

  • http://78CainCrestRd Justin

    Our cat Eliot goes a week and then up chucks.two days in a row. What do we do help him out. Thanks Justin

  • Lisa

    I have 2 cats, 12 & 13 yrs old. The 12 yr old has just begun to pull little tufts of fur out, along the top of her spine, not as far as her tail. The little tufts are all over the house. Other cat has no problem. The area is bare, no redness. Tail is ok, everything else is ok. She’s been upchucking all along, they both do, they groom each other a lot. She has longer hair than the 13 yrs old. Nothing bothers her, she runs around, and purrs like a motor. She loves going to the vet. The vet loves her too! This pulling just started within the past week. The two of them are very jealous of each other and they will spit and then lay down together.

    She has a hard time reaching the area but she’s doing it. They have been housebound, no going outside. I think she might be constipated, gave them pumpkin, hated it. Hate Laxatone. They have been on Science Diet/Mature for quite a while.

    The 13 yr old scratches behind her ears a lot, has been for many years. Tried SD/allergy didn’t work. She doesn’t lose any fur.

    What next?

  • http://n/a thomas

    You provide a great service by letting us know we’re not alone with our overgrooming kitties. Thank you. Here are two things we’ve tried with our girl, 5 years old, after all the other options fizzled. We took her to the holistic/alternative vet, who prescribed his own mixture of Bach Flower essences. He concocts–I would say, almost psychically–what he thinks best for the cat, and gave her “Moving On” (she was a rescue). But–as you know–getting a cat to take drops often adds to the stress; instead, we rub the mixture (cool, because refrigerated) over her bare area on back and tail. Neosporin also recommended in case area itching, thus causing stress. Too soon to tell if it’s working. Finally, we have just consulted a distance healer who holds pet healing sessions weekly–sent a picture and kitty’s story. No feedback yet, but I’m hopeful. Most of all, folks, know that we’re all good pet caregivers, or we wouldn’t be bothering to help our cats and suffering along with them–therefore, no guilt, please! Thanks again.

  • http://n/a Kent

    After numerous visits to the vets, shots, hormones, special KD Food, changing litter brands, etc… I cut out two things from my house and my cat’s fur grew back.

    It was Baby Powder & what I believe to be the main culprit: Gold Bond Medicated Foot Powder Triple Action Relief

    Sucks cause I really liked that foot powder.

  • Mary

    I have a himalayan, neutered male about 1-1/2 years old. He is as laid back as he could possibly be. About 2 months ago, he started chewing his fur off. My vet thought perhaps it was fleas. No evidence of any, never outside, but I treated him anyway. He is still chewing his fur. He looks like a little kid tried to give him a haircut. His beautiful long hair is chopped off in chunks. Every once in a while he will throw up the fur. I’ve never seen anything like it. The skin is healthy and clean…no pink areas, no scabs, nothing. Even though he is so laid back can it be stress?

  • Jill

    My 10-year old cat, Keaton, has been licking the fur off his belly for about 6 months, and it has progressed to the inside of his hind legs and the base of his tail on the underside. He’s a Maine Coon, and never seems stressed, quite the opposite–he’s the most easygoing cat of the three. He’s had a runny nose since I got him from a shelter 9 years ago–allergies that a round or two of antibiotics failed to clear up. We just moved, so I hope his new environment will have a positive effect, but he’s licking his tummy as I type.

    Keaton will not eat meat of any kind–he shows zero interest in oven-roasted chicken, turkey, etc. All he wants is dry catfood. However, he loves ripe peaches and other fruits, and he’s crazy about milk and vanilla ice cream. He gets a small bowl of skim milk most mornings, but I think I’ll stop for a month and see if that helps with the licking problem. Anybody else have a vegetarian cat?

  • Jordan

    My female cat, Meow Meow has been biteing and licking all the hair off her belly. I’m freaking out because i have read so many different things that it can be. If y’all have any ideas plz help.

    PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jan

    The information from this website has really helped me. I was a little stressed. I will try the suggestions and I am grateful. It has really helped me. You know we love our animals. Thanks, Emilie’s Mom

  • Dabest1

    I have discovered that both my cats steer away from anything that has or had Febreeze (household freshners) on it. One of them licked his fur off his paws, belly and top of back near his tai because of it. It took me years to find out what it was. Now I know and my cats are happier that I am not using Febreeze anymore. Never thought it was something like a freshner, I used to put it everywhere.

  • Julia

    My 10-year old cat had allergies and had licked all the fur off his belly, hind legs and underside of his tail; my other two cats were fine. One trip to the vet for a single shot of steroids IMMEDIATELY calmed his itching, and he has not overgroomed himself since. His fur is all grown back so he’s beautiful again, but more importantly, he’s a much happier, more comfortable kitty!

    Rather than spending months trying to pinpoint the source of your cat’s allergies, I strongly recommend the steroid shot. It’s not very expensive and it works wonders. If cats continue to lick, they can open up sores that get infected, so time is of the essence.

  • Cheryl Johnson

    I have two cats. Tia is now 12 years old and for the past 18 months she has been chewing off the fun on her belly and lower legs. I figured it was stress as she was always a timid cat. We had been remodeling the house to prepare it to sell. Then we left them alone while we went house hunting out of state. A neighbor came in to change litter, check food and water and play with them while we were gone. AS we packed up our things she kept on chewing.

    The move came and she traveled so well and once in the new house she had more room to run and chase her companion cat. The hair begin to grow back within a couple weeks. Now she is doing it again and the only thing different is I’m now retired and home all day. You’d think that was a good thing but it is a change. She has no fleas, never goes outside and other then looking a little silly, she is playful, affectionate and seems happy. I feed her hair ball food so no problems with those but once in awhile.

    A lot of the responses I read here sound good and I may try some of them. Thank you

  • Erin

    I think everyone is being really lax saying it is just allergies. Could easily be a urinary tract infection or blocked anal glands. Take her to the vet!

  • sharlene

    He had tape worms, not allergies. They cause a kitty to have irritated skin. So when you see bald places, don’t assume allegies. I treated him with Profender & I hope he feels better soon.