Cat is a very lazy, aloof, and cool pet. As a first time cat owner, you may find that it seems lay around licking themselves all the time. This may concern you that whether or not it is sick. In fact, sometimes it does this simply for coping with boredom. Apparently, their causes are quite different. So, as a cat owner you should tell the difference between the normal cat-grooming habit and excessive or compulsive licking behavior. By the way, the key here is to make a judgment based on the frequency or duration.
Causes of normally licking themselves
Cats cleaning themselves all time doesn’t necessarily mean that they are sick. Instead, as meticulous groomers they do it for a few good reasons.
1. We all know that cats are a very clean creature. In order to keep their bodies clean, they frequently lick themselves to get rid of the dust, dirt, and the fallen hairs;
2. Unlike dogs, cats can’t keep sticking their tongues out to dissipate heat. For that reason, in the hot summer days cats rely on licking their fur to dissipate heat. The secret is the saliva left on the hair because it will be gone along with some body heat as it evaporates. But as you can see, the amount of dissipated heat by the evaporation of saliva is so little that they have to do it over and over again;
3. On the contrary, in the cold winter cat’s licking is mainly to keep warm. This is because doing so can help them effectively maintain the body temperature. That’s to say, this behavior can make them feel a little bit warmer;
4. Studies also found that cats groom to eliminate stress. For example, they will stabilize their emotions and relieve stress by licking hair once they are criticized by doing something wrong.
Besides, they tend to lick themselves after a bath, after eating, while you pet them, when you scratch their back, when they are wet, and so on.
Causes of excessively or compulsively licking themselves
Although cats love to clean the bodies, licking themselves too much, especially in the cases of licking off patches of fur, tends to indicate the association with some underlying diseases. At this point, it is necessary to do a body check for your pet. Or, delaying treatment for symptomatic cats may lead to the deterioration of the underlying diseases.
1. Your pet may suffer from hair loss due to the psychological impact, which thus often causes excessive licking behavior, especially in male purebred or oriental varieties. As mentioned briefly previously, your pet relies on this repeated behavior to help them feel better and release stress. Generally, changes can always cause problem to cats since they are such a timid animal. These situations include being transferred to a new home, changing the position of the litter box, the presence of guests, new pets or family members, and so on;
2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is another possible cause. Don’t be surprised that pets can suffer mental illness too. In fact, in many cases it is the OCD that causes your cat to groom themselves so much, especially when it feels anxious or nervousness. As you know, this mental illness is characterized by repeated, obsessed behaviors;
3. Your pet may lick themselves for pain and skin irritation due to parasites. In addition, other most common causes also include allergies, some neurological problems, thyrotoxicosis, cystitis, cysts, and other diseases;
To sum up, to reduce your cat’s licking frequency or duration, first of all you should give it a safe, quiet living environment. Specifically, you can help it by minimizing the source of stress, giving it toys to play with, isolating it from other pets and family members, keeping the litter box clean, avoiding major changes in its daily lives, and the like. If this behavior is caused by some underlying diseases, your pet should be taken to an animal hospital for the proper treatment.