Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I am a 7.5-year-old cat, and my mama and I have a question for you. My mama has recently noticed that I am sporting a large patch of super-short hair on my stomach (that’s my tummy up there in the photo). This large patch did not exist there last year, and it used to be much smaller! Now mama has noticed a second smaller patch. At first mama thought maybe I was grooming a bit too much, but she is now a bit worried! She plans on taking me to the vet to check me out, but I thought, “who knows better to answer cat problems than other cats!”
I eat a raw diet, groom and do my litter box business just fine. I am the middle child in a household of five kitties, and while we occasionally fight, we mostly get along fine (although I am a bit fearful of my oldest sister Lucky, she doesn’t like me very much!).
My mama is a very busy human, but she makes time to give us lots of attention. I am a very active kitty, but living in a small apartment makes it a bit hard for mama at times to always keep us active (but she does her best, we have lots of high places to climb up to and lots of toys and even a laser beam). We are worried about this patch of super-short hair and were wondering what could be the cause?
Thomas: Oh, poor Pitzie. I wish I could be there to give you some reassuring grooms — on your head and ears, of course, not your belly!
Bella: Let me tell you a secret, Pitzie: I have a little patch of naked on my tummy, too. Part of it is where my spay scar was, and part of it is that I sometimes like to groom down there a lot, too.
Tara: There are a bunch of different reasons why cats over-groom, and it looks like your mama’s doing everything right to figure out why this is happening. We’re glad to hear she’s going to take you to the vet to rule out any medical problems, because that’s always the first step a human should take when they notice a change in their cat friend’s behavior.
Thomas: We notice in the photo that your skin looks like it might be a little irritated. That could be from all the grooming. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, cats overgroom because they are itchy or experiencing pain.
Bella: The itchiness could be from fleas or from an allergy. The allergy could be environmental or it could be food-related. We suspect it’s not food related in your case, because raw diets rarely cause allergy or intolerance symptoms.
Tara: But you may have gotten a flea or two somewhere along the line. In cats that are sensitive, even one flea bite can result in a huge reaction!
Thomas: Another possibility is that you’re having pain in your lower abdomen. It could be that your stress is causing a problem called feline interstitial cystitis (FIC), an inflammation of the bladder that can be quite painful. If you’re urinating frequently, or if you’re having trouble peeing or crying out when you pee, this could be a symptom of FIC or a urinary tract infection.
Bella: But it’s pretty rare for cats your age to have urinary tract infections. FIC is more likely since that’s usually due to stress, and with five cats in your home, you may be more stressed than you’re letting on to your mama.
Tara: If your vet rules out physical causes, which they’ll probably do by stealing your pee and your blood (humph!), then he or she will probably treat it as stress-based and give your mama some tips on how to help you feel better.
Thomas: Sometime it takes a short course of anti-anxiety medication (don’t tell Tara, but she gets anti-anxiety medicine hidden in an extra treat Mama gives her with her meals) to help you feel calmer and more secure.
Bella: Your vet also might recommend that your mama try to play with you more because that can help build your confidence, which you need in order to deal with your sister Lucky.
Tara: Just for the record, we think your mama is doing great in keeping all of you happy with all sorts of high places and lots of play and love despite the fact that she’s so busy!
Thomas: One more question: Did your mama start using any new products — laundry detergent, house cleaners, fabric softener, incense or air fresheners — just before you started your excessive grooming? If so, she may want to switch back because these things could be irritating you and causing you to itch.
Bella: We cats can be very sensitive to the chemicals in house cleaning products. Mama uses detergents and house cleaning stuff that are as natural and environmentally friendly as possible to help keep us (and her!) allergy-free. That means most of the things she uses are unscented or have very light natural scents.
Tara: So, if your mama is using heavily scented things, she could try changing to less “stinky” stuff. That might help you feel less itchy.
Thomas: What about you other readers? Do you have any tips for Pitzie’s mama on how she can help Pitzie stop her overgrooming?
Bella: Have you had a cat who barbered her fur? What did you do to help her?
Tara: Please share your answers in the comments!