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Why Do Cats Groom so Much?

Although displacement grooming is a normal stress-relieving behavior, too much of it may be an indication your cat is under constant stress. If you notice an increase in the behavior or if the grooming is causing bald spots (the cat may even start pulling out hair), contact your veterinarian. After medical causes are ruled out you may be referred to a qualified behavior professional such as a veterinary behaviorist.

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Cats Groom to Create a Group Scent

This becomes critically important in a cat colony. As humans, we largely depend on sight to recognize each other but cats rely heavily on scent recognition. Cats in a colony will groom each other to create an identifiable and comforting group scent.

Social Grooming

Cats who have a friendly relationship often engage in allogrooming. This affectionate display is relaxing and shows trust.

Illness or Pain

A common sign indicating that your cat isn’t feeling well will be a lack of normal grooming. An unkempt coat is often a signal that kitty is either ill or in pain.


Another sign of potential illness or pain is when your cat excessively grooms. He may concentrate on a particular area of the body that’s causing him the discomfort. For example, a cat with a urinary tract problem may excessively lick his genitals or abdomen. A cat in arthritic pain may excessively groom that particular spot, such as a paw or leg.

Skin irritation or allergies (such as a flea allergy or food allergy) can also cause overgrooming.

Wound Healing

Animals lick wounds as a form of healing and also to relieve pain or itch. Unfortunately, too much licking often leads to irritation or even infection.

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Prey and Predator Protection

Cats wear the unique label of being both a prey animal as well as a predator. Grooming plays a critical role in their survival here. After capturing and consuming his prey, the cat (in his role as predator) must groom himself to remove all traces of the prey. This post-meal grooming ritual will help to avoid alerting other prey in the area that a hunter is nearby. Since he’s also small enough to be a prey animal, the cat’s post-meal grooming also helps avoid announcing his presence to larger predators who may be lurking.


When the cat licks his body, the barbs covering the tongue help stimulate circulation. This is why it’s important to maintain a good brushing schedule with your cat as he ages or becomes ill. He’ll benefit from the increased circulation provided by the brush.