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.
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.
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.