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Cat licking herself

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Our question this week was:

Hello, I have a 6-month-old cat that I just got from a shelter. She is constantly licking herself. I did give her a bath. I don't see any fleas. Is this normal, or is something wrong with her?

Mary Tuma


Hi – thanks for your email. Your cat is licking herself a lot but you don't see any fleas. Hummmm..... How does her skin look? Is it normal? Do you see any evidence of fleas e.g. something that looks like fresh ground pepper (which is actually the bowel movements of the fleas)? Is she also scratching?

Cats do groom quite a bit and can spend 15 to 18% of their lives grooming. But there is a difference between grooming and excessively grooming or itching. I've found that some new pet owners have a hard time telling the difference.

There are several reasons cats and lick themselves. Licking can range from normal grooming behavior to excessive with fleas, skin infections, or allergies.

An article that might be helpful is called Itchiness in Cats. This article will take you through the causes and treatments.

The safest thing to do is to have him examined by your veterinarian to help you figure out the problem.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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