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  • 1.  Feline barbering/anxiety

    Posted 01-22-2019 03:15 PM

    We have a 5 year old spayed female kitty who over-grooms and barbers herself to baldness. This cat presents social, content, and enjoys human affection and interaction. She has a history of stress cystitis and prefers a quiet environment. She is in what we would consider an ideal foster home and has been started on fluoxetine (2.5 mg once/day).

    After four weeks of a quiet home and anxiety medication her condition has not improved. We are questioning her quality of life, though her personality would suggest otherwise. Has anyone experienced or worked with a cat like this? Looking for any behavior guidance. Thank you! 


  • 2.  RE: Feline barbering/anxiety

    Posted 08-27-2019 07:42 AM

    Overgrooming can be a difficult one. This is the general protocol we follow, although I will say that we do not always have success.

    As with most behaviour concerns, the first recommendation is often ruling out a medical cause (painful conditions, neurologic diseases, dermatological disorders, etc.). Additionally, if the problem is diagnosed as a compulsive disorder, the AAFP recommends Clomipramine (, pg 32) so you might want to talk to your veterinarian about if this would be right in your case (disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian).

    In terms of techniques to reduce the behaviour:

    1. Provide a predictable routine (including regularly scheduled social interaction sessions)
    2. Use a puzzle feeder (I like Sense 2.0 Digger)
    3. Have the foster parent play David Teie's "Music for Cats" (can be found on YouTube) when they are out of the house (a few studies show this music can have an impressive impact)
    4. Feliway diffuser (the research is less clear on this one, but at very least it won't hurt)
    5. Finding something you can distract her with when she is exhibiting the behaviour to help break the habit (without punishing her)
    6. Start training a trick (we often default to target training, but sometimes branch out) to build confidence and engage their mind
    7. Sometimes we try a social companion (i.e., another cat) but we usually only try this in shelter as it is MUCH easier to facilitate

    It is also wise to ask the foster parent to keep a log of the behaviour (in terms of what happens immediately beforehand, time of day, etc) to see if you can determine a trigger, and then focus efforts on eliminating the trigger, or desensitizing and counter-conditioning him to it.

    Also, I would avoid measuring QOL based on this one behaviour unless it progresses to the point of significant injury, especially in light of the description you gave of her in general (social, content, and enjoys human affection and interaction).

    Hope this helps!


    Jackie Ellis PhD

    Toronto Humane Society