Cats are meticulous groomers. Like napping for hours at a time, thorough self-cleaning is a normal aspect of feline behavior. Therefore, when cats significantly reduce or stop their grooming habits it’s a troubling sign that something could be wrong. There are several reasons why cats stop grooming and each is a cause for concern. 


Obesity in domestic companion animals is an increasing problem in households across the United States. Roughly 56% of cats are overweight or obese. If your cat carries too much weight, they may not be able to contort as well as when they were more slender. The difficulty in reaching all their parts hinders grooming. Extra weight can also cause pain or disease that may prevent cats from cleaning themselves. 


As cats age, limitations arise. These can include the ability and motivation to clean. Elderly cats don’t move or bend as easily as they did when they were young. They also tire more quickly than in years before. These aches, pains, and lack of flexibility make stretching and reaching difficult and can hamper motivation and ability.

Change in Routine or Lifestyle

Stress factors greatly into a cat’s overall well-being. Any upset in routine such as moving residence, introducing new pets or people into the household, or even a sudden absence can make cats uncomfortable and leave them feeling unstable. This stress can cause your cat to abandon their usual good hygiene habits.

Pain or Illness

Cats hide pain and illness well and can do so for long periods. A decrease in grooming is a glaring indication of silent suffering. Pain can make cleanliness a low priority. Additionally, when cats are sick or hurt any movement can be uncomfortable or painful.  Aside from feeling miserable, cats with pain or illness often suffer from depression and weakness. This adds an additional element of disinterest.


Keep your cat at a healthy weight and keep regular wellness exams. Even healthy, happy, and svelte cats may need a little human-assisted brushing and bathing occasionally. Some breeds need more than others do. However, if your cat isn’t doing their usual part to keep clean and neat, it’s time to seek advice from a medical professional. 

Because lack of grooming is a symptom of an underlying issue, it’s important to schedule an exam with your veterinarian right away. Discuss any recent changes in diet or lifestyle. Get a proper diagnosis (or a ruling out) of disease and move forward with a treatment plan. 

Once on the path to resolving your cat’s issues, ask your veterinarian about how you can help your cat. Discuss frequency and methods of brushing and bathing as well as product recommendations. Depending on your cat’s underlying issue, change in diet and exercise, treatment of illness, or pain management will help put your cat on the way to becoming healthy, happy, and clean.

Cats have few ways in which they let us know they’re experiencing discomfort, illness, or pain. Neglecting to groom is one clear sign. Whether the cause is age, weight, illness, or distress, if you notice your cat isn’t keeping up their appearance, consult your veterinarian to work on a treatment.

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