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!
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 (https://catvets.com/public/PDFs/PracticeGuidelines/FelineBehaviorGLS.pdf, 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:
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