All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Siamese cat grooms constantly...

One of the things I have been doing for the past 25 years is giving advice to folks about pets, wildlife, and laws pertaining to animals. I get lots and lots of questions each and every day and I reply to every one. I've covered everything from urban legends about mythical animals to debates over what humane laws are needed (or not needed). Every time I think I've answered every possible question about animals, someone comes up with something new. So fee free to challenge me! Ask me something (relating to animals!) in the comments box and I will reply with a new post that addresses your question. Here's a good one that I've been asked by a lot of cat owners over the years...especially those who own Siamese cats...

My 12-year-old Siamese cat will not stop licking her fur. Whenever she is awake she is licking. She has lost at least 30 percent of her fur and is making her skin raw. She has no fleas and is an indoor cat that gets regularly monthly does of flea medication. If I try to stop her from this obsessive grooming, she gets mad at me and tries to bite. I don't know what to do. She's given herself open wounds from this behavior, and it's only getting worse. At this rate, she's going to be bald and covered with sores by the end of the year. This has been going on for about four months – right around the time we moved to a new apartment. Please help.

Obsessive grooming in Siamese kitties is not at all uncommon, although any cat (or dog) can suffer from this disorder. Often, this behavior is triggered by an emotionally traumatic event.
At 12 years of age, your cat was probably ill-suited for a move. But, staying in your old home to satisfy the emotional needs of your kitty was doubtless impractical. Though this is a dollar short and a day late, it is always important to take steps to make your pets feel safe and secure whenever you move. The best way to do this is to keep your pet exclusively in one room of the new place for a few weeks – preferably a room that will contain a lot of your old, familiar furniture.
Bedrooms are perfect for this since most people bring their old beds to new homes and mattresses are filled with pleasant, familiar smells that help keep cats, in particular, calm.
Even though the relocation probably triggered your cat's obsessive-compulsive licking behavior, she was genetically prone to having this problem. Unfortunately, purebred animals tend to have more than their share of specific health troubles – and for Siamese cats, researchers have found that overzealous grooming (to the point of self-mutilation) is the breed's special difficulty.

Under stressful conditions, any cat may begin grooming itself. It's a way of calming down and relieving stress. It's when the stress is not relieved that the grooming becomes compulsive.
If you take corrective actions fairly early on, you can redirect your cat's attention elsewhere and break the grooming cycle. This requires a lot of time on your part. Get some feather toys and try and get your cat to play. Brush your cat. Your grooming will help comfort her. Teach your cat some tricks and give her some treats when she does well. Another fun activity that will take your cat's mind off grooming is to place tasty, aromatic food treats inside special toys that she will have to play with and work on to get the treat out. Anything you can think of to keep her busy will serve to correct the problem.

In general, spend as much time with your cat as possible. I know that's easier said than done for working adults, but if you can take some time off work now, it might save you some money in vet bills later.

You should know that once the behavior becomes all-consuming, even if you take the steps I've outlined above, your chances for success with behavior modification become minimal. This is truly a mental illness and worsens logarithmically over time.
The good news is that this disorder can usually be treated very successfully with prescription drugs – yes, add pets to the ever-growing list of living beings that need drugs to cope with life's left hooks.

Of course, to get your cat a prescription, you will need to visit your vet. Do not try to medicate your cat with drugs that treat human depression. Your kitty needs a complete physical to rule out any other health conditions that may be contributing to the excessive grooming. If she gets a clean bill of health, then you and your veterinarian can talk about the options for caring for her and getting her back on the road to good mental health. Best of luck to you and your kitty.


  1. Bet you never wondered, why your cat grooms itself. More than likely you thought "the silly cat does not have anything better to do." Not true! There are some very good reasons for the whole cat grooming process.

    Cat Groomer

  2. When grooming your cat you should always make checking your cat for disease and illness part of your routine. It is advised that you groom your cat at least twice a week and if you have a long haired cat then daily.

    Cat Groomer

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