Cats spend a long time grooming themselves. Keeping their fur clean not only makes them feel good, but it’s healthy for them.
Part of the grooming process is using their teeth to bite their claws and their fur. Biting their fur helps remove dead skin, dead hair, and parasites.
However, cats should not bite their skin open or pull vast hunks of fur off of their bodies.
Why Do Cats Bite Their Fur While Cleaning?
Cats normally bite their fur when they groom. This helps remove the parasites while keeping the coat clean. Cats should not bite off hunks of hair until they are bald or wound themselves. Cats doing this needs a vet visit. The cat could be suffering from allergies, another illness, or extreme stress.
Normal Grooming Behavior in Cats
Self-grooming is very important to cats. How important? According to Cornell University, cats spend 30 to 50 percent of their waking hours on grooming activities like biting their fur.
Biting helps to effectively remove bits of dead skin or hair, separates mats, and relives itches.
Normal grooming behavior includes biting, licking, pulling the fur, and scratching. Cats consequently chew and lick on their claws as well.
Some cats prefer to groom hidden away from others, especially when doing their nails, but others will perform all their grooming out in the open.
The key for any cat owner is knowing what is normal for their particular cat.
If a cat is normally seen biting the fur when cleaning suddenly stops completely or starts biting far more than usual, then something is wrong.
You should then bring your feline to a vet.
Many health issues can be cleared up if caught early.
Abnormal Grooming Behavior in Cats
It’s not normal for cats to spend every waking minute grooming, just as it’s abnormal for cats to completely stop grooming.
Any grooming that seems frantic for long periods of time means the cat should be given a closer look.
Cats should never lick or bite themselves so that the skin breaks open. Although it is normal to pull out some fur, a cat should not leave bald patches.
Behavior like this means the cat could be suffering from parasites or allergies.
Cats that focus their overgrooming behaviors on their rear ends may be suffering from impacted anal glands or a urinary tract infection.
The cat may not have a problem with the skin, but may still suffer from a physical issue that causes overgrooming and biting more than usual.
Cats in pain tend to overgroom the area where the pain is coming from.
Stress Grooming in Cats
Cats also overgroom when they are stressed. Grooming is a way to help soothe themselves since grooming releases endorphins or feel-good chemicals.
Have the feline checked out by the vet to rule out potential physical issues, if there are any. If it’s not physical, then work on what is causing the cat stress.
Common causes of stress to cats are changes in the cat’s life.
This can be due to a move, the disappearance of a beloved family member, the addition of a new pet to the household, or if the furniture has been rearranged.
Cats that overgroom to the point of self-mutilation may need to be put on antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.
Talk to your vet about what nutritional supplements may help.
Plug-in diffusers release man-made pheromones that mimic what mother cats give off when around their kittens is a drug-free way to help soothe a cat.
Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome
This syndrome, otherwise known as rolling skin disease, is so new that a study about it wasn’t done until 2019.
The cat’s skin is so sensitive that the cat winds up biting the skin open. This syndrome most often appears in Siamese cats or cats with Siamese ancestry.
Cats with feline hyperesthesia tend to suffer from other symptoms than just excessively biting themselves or overgrooming.
They often drool, attack other pets or even people, the skin may seem to ripple, pupils dilate more often than usual, chase their tails more often than usual, and often cry more than usual.
Although this is a frightening syndrome, many cats with patient owners are able to be successfully treated with medication.
The owners also have to adapt their lives to make sure their cats live in as stress-free an environment as possible, since stress causes the condition to be worse.
A Note About Older Cats
Older cats often cannot groom themselves normally, since they are not as flexible as they were when they were younger.
An older cat may have arthritis or other health issues that keep him or her from grooming, including biting their fur. Overweight older cats are most prone to getting arthritis.
Brush an older cat every day, if possible, to help keep the coat clean and to help the cat feel good.
Brushing is also a good time to look for any wounds or any new lumps or bumps that need looking at by a vet. Claws should be clipped weekly.
The skin of an older cat often produces more oil than when he or she was younger.
If not brushed regularly, this oil quickly leads to mats in the fur, especially in longhaired cats. Mats form quickest around the tail.
Frequently Asked Questions About Why Do Cats Bite Their Fur While Cleaning
Why Do Cats Bite Their Claws When Grooming?
Cats rely on their claws for grooming, hunting, and self-defense, so they make taking care of them a priority. They chew on their claws to keep them short and sharp as well as remove any debris. Indoor cats usually need their claws clipped regularly, even if they chew their nails.
Do Female Cats Bite Their Fur More Than Males?
According to PetMD, female cats do bite, lick and pull their fur more than male cats do. Just why is unknown. It is normal for females with kittens to groom themselves more often than usual.
Do Some Breeds of Cat Bite Their Fur More than Others?
Oriental breeds of cats like Siamese, the Oriental shorthair, Burmese, Abyssinian, and Balinese often lick, pull, bite or groom their fur more often than other breeds of cats. Just why is unknown. It could have to do with their being more territorial than other breeds since grooming spreads their personal scent about their bodies.
The Least You Need to Know
It’s normal for cats to bite their own fur when grooming. This helps them stay clean and healthy.
It is abnormal for cats to pull out hunks of fur so they have bald patches or bite their skin open. In these cases, the feline needs to see a vet.
Cats can overgroom out of anxiety or illnesses like skin allergies.