Why Isn’t My Cat Grooming?


Sometimes, cats start to look a bit disheveled. You may even notice that they don’t spend as much time grooming as they used to. But why is that?

Cats might decrease grooming over time for a variety of reasons.

1) Weight gain: Sometimes cats put on some extra pounds and it then becomes difficult for them to groom themselves. I had a feline patient who had put on a lot of weight, as a matter of fact, when he came in for his annual exam he weighed 25lbs! As a result, he had developed diabetes and his back had become terribly matted due to his inability to groom. We recommended shaving him to treat his mats, and as a result he felt much better (Boehringer Ingelheim).

If you have noticed that your cat has put on some extra pounds, take action before their weight gain causes additional problems.

2) Arthritis: Cats can develop arthritis which can make it difficult for them to groom themselves.

Accordion to Drs. Foster & Smith, here are some signs that your cat may have developed arthritis:

Stiffness or limping, especially after they stand up from sleeping or resting

A change in the way they walk (their gait)

Reduced muscle mass (also known as muscle atrophy)

Inability to jump or navigate stairs or furniture

If your cat has reached their senior years and you suspect arthritis is the reason they aren’t grooming, you should take your cat to see the veterinarian and discuss potential treatments and medications (Boehringer Ingelheim).

3) Illness: Sometimes cats have stopped grooming because they don’t feel well. The cause of them not feeling right could include a number of illnesses. Start to think about their most recent eating habits and activity. Have they been lethargic? Have they had a good appetite? Are their consuming more or less water?

Answers to all of the above questions will ultimately help your veterinarian determine the cause of illness.

4) Dental Disease: If your cat is suffering from severe dental disease, it may be uncomfortable for them to groom. If you believe that your cat has stopped grooming due to dental disease, take them to see your veterinarian (Animal Planet).

I once had a patient whose dental disease was so bad that almost all of his teeth needed to be removed. His parents had noticed a change in his overall appetite and behavior. When we took X-rays of his mouth, we found that he had a fractured jaw! A few months after his dental, both his jaw and his mouth had healed and he had gotten his appetite back!

What can you do to help?

Firstly, take your cat to the vet to determine why they have stopped grooming.

Secondly, if your cat is arthritic or overweight, you can encourage them to groom by helping them. Start by grooming a little at a time, and try to pay extra attention to those areas they cannot reach (Animal Planet).

Although lack of grooming and mats may not seem like a big deal, they are incredibly uncomfortable, and can be a sign that your cat has underlying health issues.

I want to point out that Boehringer Ingelheim, AAHA, and the American Association of Feline Practitioners have put together an awesome website resource called HaveWeSeenYourCatLately.com. I highly recommend cat parents take a look at this awesome health resource.

Have you ever had a cat who stopped grooming?

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18 Comment

  1. Reply
    Kimberly Gauthier
    July 14, 2015 at 9:22 am

    I need to take my cats in for teeth cleaning. I’ve been trying to keep their teeth clean on my own, but it hasn’t been successful. They’re kind of jerks about the vet so this will be interesting.

    I haven’t notice any decline in grooming, but this post is a reminder that it’s time for a vet visit.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Why Not All Canned Cat Foods are Created EqualMy Profile

  2. Reply
    M. K. Clinton
    July 14, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    When we had cats, if they had suddenly stopped grooming I would have known something was wrong. They were constantly primping! MOL!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…PetSafe and Pet Hydration MonthMy Profile

  3. Reply
    The Island Cats
    July 14, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Wally grooms me a lot so I don’t have to do a lot of cleaning myself. 😉 ~Ernie
    The Island Cats recently posted…Purrfect Play Cat Toy Review & GiveawayMy Profile

  4. Reply
    Camille Schake | Good Pet Parent
    July 14, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Great article, Rachel!! It’s been my experience that when your cat stops grooming for any length of time, have him checked over, pronto. It’s often one of the very first signs of illness that happens long before they start exhibiting any other symptoms. Thanks for the info!
    Camille Schake | Good Pet Parent recently posted…Puppy Mouthing and Nipping: A Survival StoryMy Profile

  5. Reply
    Sharon Seltzer
    July 15, 2015 at 8:31 am

    Great post. I appreciate you discussing this problem. Last year I was puzzled when my Maine Coon cat stopped grooming himself. When we went to the veterinarian he was diagnosed with heart disease. Lack of grooming was my only signal that he was very sick.
    Sharon Seltzer recently posted…Review: I and Love and You SupaBoost Joint Stix Dog TreatsMy Profile

  6. Reply
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady
    July 15, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Very interesting!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Siberian Husky Graphic CreationsMy Profile

  7. Reply
    Ilse Devriese
    July 15, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Another really typical symptom that it’s dental issues is drooling, ime. I recently had a cat that looked..disheveled and drooled on me when she was stressed. Due to the melanin, even the vet didn’t fully grasp the severity of her dental issues, so when he went in there for a cleaning, he ended up removing half her teeth and she has to go back for the other half as well, as they’re at this point pretty much the consistency of glass. My heart still breaks at the amount of discomfort she must’ve been in and couldn’t communicate.

    Anyways, great article – too few people realise that this is a symptom and many, like myself, underestimate the severity of what it could indicate.

  8. Reply
    Sometimes Cats Herd You
    July 15, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    What a great roundup of reasons a cat may not be looking their tidiest! This is a such a common problem in older cats as arthritis sets in, but like so many other signs of arthritis, it often goes unrecognized. Thanks for keeping this top of mind. We’re sharing it.
    Sometimes Cats Herd You recently posted…A Belated Gotcha Day GiftMy Profile

  9. Reply
    Tracy Williams
    September 19, 2015 at 1:37 am

    I agree with the point that cats stop grooming because of some illness. We should take care of their eating habits. I think the food they eat may be the reason behind their illness. Proper diet is always important for the cat’s health.
    Tracy Williams recently posted…17 Best Cat Prime Movies You and Your Cat Will LoveMy Profile

  10. Reply
    October 26, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    I agree that you should check with the vet. But don’t worry, it’s happens to some cats.

  11. Reply
    Shantanu Sinha
    April 8, 2016 at 2:36 am

    Hello Rachel,

    Great post 🙂
    Cats usually do not stop grooming but if they do so, it is a matter of concern.
    My cousin owns a cat, he often, was troubled with the gaining weight of hers.
    He also faced some dental issues regarding her.
    Actually my cousin has got a lot of work, so he didn’t get much time for her cat.

    This would help many of the cat owners world wide.
    Thank you for sharing this post among us.
    Shantanu sinha

  12. Reply
    May 7, 2016 at 10:41 am

    A very informative post for such a common cat issue. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Reply
    May 25, 2016 at 5:43 am

    I didn’t know some cats stopped grooming. They are so clean, that it definitely means there’s something wrong. Thanks for the great post!
    Emma recently posted…Beautiful White Cat Has The Most Incredible EyesMy Profile

  14. Reply
    August 6, 2016 at 6:11 am

    great post, thanks for the great information !!
    Katy recently posted…Trixie Bunny Hutch ReviewMy Profile

  15. Reply
    Khalid Farhan
    December 18, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    I think weight gain is the biggest among all reasons. I heard that around 61% of cats are obese. That’s a huge number. Your cat is super cute <3

    1. Reply
      December 22, 2016 at 8:25 am

      Yes, Khalid! I completely agree, in my experience weight gain and arthritis were some of the most common reasons cats stopped grooming.

      1. Reply
        Khalid Farhan
        January 22, 2017 at 5:57 am

        Do you accept guest post? I would love to write for you guys if given opportunity. I am a cat lover myself and I run a small cat blog too.

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