Cat Chewing Tail, Over-Grooming

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains how to help over-grooming cats through enrichment.

Q: My 15-month-old calico cat, Penny, suffers from separation anxiety. I noticed she bonded with me immediately. After a four-day one-on-one with her, she began chewing a ring around her tail. The vet ruled out the obvious causes and prescribed pheromone therapy and a lavender collar, which she was not pleased with. I started to see healing and regrowth. Then, after an absence of mine, she started chewing other areas in the same region.

I have come to the end of normal vet activity. She is completely an indoor cat, who eats very well, uses her litterbox, loves to scratch her scratching box and loves to play alone with small toys and occasionally, with me.

A: Your cat might be exhibiting OCD behaviors or separation anxiety. She also might be bored or stressed. Without doing a consultation and finding out more information from you, it is hard for me to determine the cause of the behavior and come up with precise recommendations.   

Your inquisitive and active young cat might be over-grooming because she is bored. Try enriching her environment and engaging her in activities:
•    Keep her mentally stimulated when you are not around with interactive toys such as ball and tract toys and puzzle boxes
•    Give her vertical territory — high places to climb and hang out on. Shelves, window perches and tall cat trees are all good choices for vertical territory. Positioning a cat tree next to a secured window will keep her entertained with the goings-on in the neighborhood.
•   Play with your cat at least twice a day, in a way that imitates the hunt. The best times to play are in the mornings and evenings — the times when cats are typically most active.
•    Hide treats around the house, on the cat trees, window perches and in her toys.  If you have stairs, make your cat work for her treats — roll the treats down the stairs.

A variety of other stressful circumstances might cause your cat to over-groom: household disruptions, changes in living arrangements, other animals, a favorite person’s absence and home remodeling.     

Some cats who over-groom respond well to behavior modification and environmental changes — others also need a course of medication. If your cat’s over-grooming does not resolve or it escalates, consult with a good veterinarian.

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