How to Acclimate a Cat to a New Home

Do you know how to acclimate a cat to a new home? Adjusting to a new home can be very difficult for a cat, especially when it is a stray who has gotten used to living outdoors. During the initial adjustment period, you will need patience and understanding to help your new cat feel more at home.

Start by thinking about your cat’s previous experiences. If you have a kitten, it may have recently been separated from its mother and litter mates. The cat may have had to deal with the transition of a shelter, or the stress of being spayed or neutered. An adult cat may have been separated from a familiar home and has been forced to break his bond with his human companions or other household pets. In every case, the cat will need to adjust again to totally new surroundings.

How do you acclimate a cat to a new home? It may take several weeks for your cat to adjust to his new living situation. Here’s what you should do during the adjustment period. Keep the cat indoors. The cat needs to get used to you as his new provider of love, food, and shelter. It is not uncommon for cats to display behavior problems during this adjustment period, but these problems should disappear in time. Your cat may hide under the furniture. If he does, just sit and talk quietly to the cat. Make sure that there are food, water, and a litter box nearby.

When you take your cat out of the carrier, immediately show him the location of the litter box. Provide a bowl of water but don’t feed him immediately. Don’t overwhelm the cat with attention. Allow him to acclimate to his new surroundings on his own terms.

It is best to introduce your cat to his new home gradually. Begin by restricting him to one room. During this time, isolate other animals from your new cat and supervise your children when they interact with the cat. Try to spend a few hours with your cat as he settles into his new home. You may want to place a cozy cat bed in a quiet corner of the room.

If you have other animals in the home you will need to introduce them gradually. Remember, the cat is being introduced to a territory already claimed by your resident pet, so you need to take both of their feelings into account. The ability of animals to get along together in the same household depends on their individual personalities. There will be one animal who dominates. It will take a week or two for a successful transition. It may be a little hectic but be patient. Things will most likely work out in time.

Here’s how you can introduce your new cat to other animals in the home according to Dr. Monique Chretien.

Cat-to-Cat Introductions

You should put your new cat in a private room during his first week in his new home. Your resident cat should not be allowed to enter this room or to stay at the door hissing.

  • After a week has passed, allow your resident cat to explore outside the door of the room where the new cat is residing.
  • Only when all signs of aggression (hissing, growling) are absent, open the door a crack. Use a doorstop or hook to secure the door. Wait for the hissing and growling, if any, to disappear.
  • If you have a large carrier or crate, place the new cat in it. Then bring it into your main living area. Try simultaneously feeding both cats treats or delicious food so that they associate each other’s presence with a pleasurable experience.
  • Once the cats are comfortable in this situation, allow them to interact under your supervision. If there are any signs of aggression, you might have to limit their exposure to 5 or 10 minutes, or perhaps go back to the separation phase.
  • Gradually increase the time the cats spend together as long as they are not aggressive to each other.
  • Remember cat play can be pretty rough.

Your cats will be more likely to get along if they are happy in their environment. Make sure there are plenty of hiding places for your cats. Place the food, water and litter boxes out in the open so the cats will not feel trapped when they eat, drink or use the litter box. Make sure that you have one litter box per cat, plus one extra litter box. (So if you have two cats in your home, you should have three litter boxes.)

Cat-to-Dog Introductions

Follow the above guidelines when introducing a cat to a resident dog. At the time of the first introduction, apply a leash to the dog and occupy it with some obedience exercises (sit – stay) with food treats as a reward for calm responding.

  • Don’t ever let the dog rush toward the cat, even if only in play.
  • Provide your cat with a variety of escape routes and high hiding places that are easily accessible at all times. Your cat must be able to get away from the dog whenever necessary.
  • Slowly allow the dog and cat to spend more time together but always supervise them until you are absolutely sure there is no threat of danger to either of them.

Cat-to Bird or Small Mammal Introductions

Cats are natural predators, so keep your small furry friends safe by housing them in an enclosure that cannot be opened by an agile paw. Keep them in a room that is off limits to your feline family member when not supervised. Follow the same protocol with your feathered friends but be careful where you choose to keep them. Birds have some restrictions on where they can be kept for health reasons (not in direct sun or draft).

Should You Try Taking in a Stray Cat?

If you are thinking about taking in a stray cat, there are several things you should keep in mind. First of all, you must determine if the cat is stray or feral. A stray cat is a cat that is lost or separated from its owner, or it has been given up by its owner. A stray cat is socialized to human companionship. A feral cat is a cat that lives outdoors in a colony of feral cats. These cats will hide from humans and avoid human contact. These cats cannot be domesticated. (You should never try to pick up a feral cat.)

Taking in a stray cat is a big decision. It’s not as easy as simply opening your door and your heart to the new cat. Here are a few things to consider.

  • Since the cat has been living outdoors, it most likely has fleas, ticks and other pests that they’ve picked up while roaming in the wild.
  • The cat may be overdue for worming medication and vaccinations.
  • If the stray is a tom cat, you will want to have him neutered before bringing him into your home or allowing him to continue roaming your property.
  • If the cat has been living outdoors for some time, it may be necessary to re-introduce him to life as a pet. You will need to teach him to use the litter box, and not to scratch with his claws.
  • If you are taking in a stray cat, start with a trip to the vet.
  • You will also have to socialize the cat with any other cats, pets or people in the home.

A stray cat is a cat that has been socialized to people at some point in their life, but has left or lost their domestic home – and human contact. While living outdoors, a stray cat is more likely to live alone than in a colony of other cats. In many cases, a stray cat can become a pet cat once again. Stray cats that are re-introduced to a home environment after living outdoors may require a period of time to re-acclimate. They may be frightened and wary after spending time outside away from humans, but they can re-adjust to living with humans and can be adopted as companions.

On the other hand, a feral cat is a cat who has never had any contact with humans – or their contact with humans has diminished over time. A feral cat is most likely to live in a colony of cats. A feral cat is fearful of people and survives on its own outdoors. It is very unlikely that a feral cat will ever become domesticated, and it cannot be adopted. However, kittens born to feral cats can be socialized at an early age and adopted into homes.

If you are thinking about taking in a stray cat, the first step is to trap it. Evaluate the cat’s behavior to determine if it is a stray or if it is a feral cat. A feral cat cannot be touched, even by a caretaker. He will likely move as far back in the cage as possible and will appear tense. When trapped, a feral cat will likely ignore all people, toys, and possibly even food.

If you determine that the cat is feral, you should contact a local organization for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). They will spay or neuter the cat, vaccinate it, and return it to its outdoor home. To learn more about this process, go to What Is a Feral Cat?

If the cat is a stray, you should start with a visit to your veterinarian. First, have the cat scanned for a microchip. It could be that he has a family that is looking for him and wants him to come home. If you can’t find the owner, you may choose to adopt the cat. Have the veterinarian give him any necessary treatments or vaccinations before bringing him into your home. If you already have a cat or other pets, the new cat will have to be acclimated to the home. To learn more about this, go to How to Acclimate a Cat to a New Home.

For more information about adopting stray cats, go to How to Turn a Stray Cat into a Pet.

To learn more about stray cats, read the article Surprise Visitors: What to Do With a Stray Cat.

What Is a Feral Cat?

What is a feral cat? A feral cat is a cat that has had little to no contact with humans. They are usually unapproachable by people. These cats have been born into or adapted to outdoor life without human contact, living together in loose families organized as colonies. They hunt wildlife as food, including mice, birds, and lizards. These cats are not socialized enough to be handled by humans, and for that reason, they cannot easily be placed into a traditional pet home – if at all.

If you are wondering what is a feral cat, you should know that these cats cannot become loving companions – and most will never relish human companionship. They tend to stay away from humans. They hide during the day. Feral cats will find it difficult or impossible to adapt to living as pets in close contact with people. If you adopt a feral cat, you will find that it is very difficult to socialize.

Cats roam outside in most neighborhoods in the United States. Many of these cats are community cats that may be feral. According to the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, it is estimated that there are between 60 million and 100 million feral cats living in the United States. The Humane Society estimates the number of outdoor cats at about 30 to 40 million. These cats are most often the offspring of cats who were lost or abandoned by their owners and they are not socialized to humans.

Community cats typically live in a colony that occupies and defends a specific territory where food and shelter are available. They may live near a restaurant dumpster, under a porch or in an abandoned building. But if these cats are feral, you will rarely see them because they hide from humans.

How to Help a Feral Cat

If you can’t adopt a feral cat, what can you do to help? Many experts believe that the best way to help our feral cat populations is through neutering programs that will reduce their numbers.

A female cat can become pregnant as early as 5 months of age. That one cat can have two or three litters of kittens a year. In seven years time, a single female cat and her kittens can produce 420,000 more cats. And as the feral cat population grows, so do the problems that are associated with it. So the feral cat population in a neighborhood can rapidly increase if cats are not spayed and neutered.

That’s why so many people including the ASPCA and the Humane Society believe that the best way to help feral cat colonies is through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) efforts. TNR is a nonlethal strategy for reducing the number of community cats and improving the quality of life for cats, wildlife and people. By catching these feral cats and neutering or spaying them, we can help to reduce the number of unwanted cats. Through TNR efforts, these feral cats will be humanely trapped, examined, vaccinated and surgically sterilized by veterinarians. The tip of one ear is surgically removed as a universally recognized sign that the feral cat has been spayed or neutered. Then the cat is returned to its home environment. These cats will no longer reproduce or fight over mates, and their nuisance behaviors are greatly reduced or eliminated.

Afterward, volunteers may provide food and shelter and monitor the health of these cats. Once neutered, these cats tend to gain weight and have fewer health issues. And with fewer females in heat, fewer tom cats are attracted to the area, meaning fewer risky catfights.

While many people advocate for TNR, others believe it is best to relocate feral cats or to put them down. Relocation is not an effective solution. Feral cat colonies are established in areas where resources like food, water, and shelter are available. If you move a feral colony, it won’t be long before another colony moves into this prime real estate and take its place. Also, a relocated cat may try to find its way home, perhaps suffering an accident or death along the way.

If you’re thinking about adopting a feral cat, think again. Feral adult cats are wild animals that simply cannot be tamed. You should never try to handle or pick up a feral cat. However, feral kittens that are under the age of eight weeks old can often be socialized and introduced into a human home.

So, what can we do to help feral cats?

Contact your local Humane Society to see if they have a TNR program. If they don’t, they may know of a local program they can refer you to. A little cash donation to these programs will go a long way toward helping feral cats. Shelters can perform a spay or neuter surgery for under $20. So a small donation on your part can really help. These programs are usually run by volunteers, so get involved and donate your time. There are many ways that you can help.

Should You Feed Stray or Feral Cats?

Should you feed stray or feral cats? That’s a good question, but the answer is not always black and white. In some areas, there are laws and ordinances about feeding stray or feral cats – if you feed the cat, you own it. Some areas even impose fines or other punishments for feeding stray or feral cats.

Before deciding whether or not to feed the cat, it is important to note that there are differences between stray cats and feral cats. A stray cat is a cat that previously had a home. The cat has either moved out, gotten lost, or has been given up. Stray cats are familiar with humans and can be friendly. A feral cat, however, is one that has never had a home. A feral cat is more likely born and bred from a feral line or colony. Feral cats will not be familiar with people other than something to be wary of and as a potential source of food.

Stray cats may be friendly and approach you for food or attention, or they may be too scared to let you get close. However, if you put the food down for them they will usually eat immediately. You should always use caution since you don’t know how the cat is going to react.

Feral cats may approach you when they are extremely hungry, but they will only eat the food you’ve given them once you’ve walked away. If you’ve been feeding a cat for several days and can still not approach or touch the cat, it is probably feral. Don’t try to handle a feral cat. Most feral cats cannot be adopted because they are simply too frightened of people.

Feeding a stray cat has its pros and cons. If you decide to feed a stray cat, you have plenty of options. They would probably enjoy dry or canned cat food or some tasty tuna fish. Also, give the cat plenty of fresh water.

What to Do with a Stray Cat

If you’ve found a stray cat, you have many options.

  • You may decide to keep the cat, which will require that you take the cat for proper veterinary care.
  • You can Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) the cat. This will ensure that the cat cannot contribute to the ever-expanding stray and feral cat population.
  • You can find a suitable home for the cat. You may have better luck rehoming the cat once you’ve taken it for vaccines, deworming, flea treatment and spay or neutering.
  • You can take the cat to a shelter or Humane Society where it will be placed for adoption.

If you find a stray or feral cat, it is a good idea to contact local shelters in your area. If they cannot or will not respond to your situation, look for groups that handle feral cat populations. If none of these resources are available to you, you may decide that you want to manage your own feral colony.

If you decide to feed a stray or feral cat on your property, it may potentially upset your own cat. By feeding the stray cat you are essentially inviting an intruder into your cat’s territory and giving them good reason to keep coming back. You should consider the impact that feeding a stray will have on your own cat’s happiness before deciding to feed it. If your cat seems not to be bothered by the stray cat, it may not pose such a problem.

To learn more about stray cats, read the article Surprise Visitors: What to Do With a Stray Cat.

Surprise Visitors: What to Do With a Stray Cat

Have you ever wondered what to do with a stray cat? You’ve probably wondered if these cats have a home. You may also wonder whether or not you should feed these stray cats. These cats could have an owner who lets them outside, or they could be stray or feral cats that live in the community. Depending on their situation, you can help these cats in many different ways.

First of all, how do you know that the cat is a stray? If the cat is wearing a collar, it definitely has an owner. The cat may just have wondered too far from home. Also, the cat could have a microchip that would identify its owner. Stray cats are usually very lean and they may have rough fur coats or an appearance that is generally unhealthy. Quite often, a stray cat will be afraid of strangers, so helping them might prove to be a challenge.

If you’re wondering what to do with a stray cat, here are the guidelines set forth by the Humane Society of the United States.

  • If the cat has identification, try to contact the owner.
  • If you can get the cat into a carrier, take them to a veterinarian or animal shelter to be scanned for a microchip.
  • Contact animal shelters, veterinary offices, and rescue groups to let them know about the cat you’ve found. Someone may have filed a lost-cat report that is a match.
  • Ask neighbors and mail carriers if they’re familiar with the cat.
  • Post signs and place free ads in local newspapers.
  • Create a “found pet” profile at The Center for Lost Pets.

It’s helpful if you can provide shelter for the cat while you search for its owner. If you can’t find the owner, you can try to find a good home for the cat, or you may want to adopt it yourself. But if you take the cat home with you, make sure that you have them checked by a veterinarian before you introduce them into your home with other cats.

Feral cats, on the other hand, should not be handled. Most feral cats can’t be adopted because they are simply too frightened of people.

If you happen to find a litter of unattended kittens in your neighborhood and the kittens are not old enough to be weaned, do not touch them or remove them from the nest. Their mother could be hiding from you – and if you handle her babies, she may be less likely to return to them. Wait a while and see if the mother cat returns. If she does not return, the kittens have probably been abandoned. In that case, you will want to begin bottle feeding the kittens and seek veterinary attention.

When you’re wondering what to do with a stray cat, it’s only natural that you would wonder whether or not you should feed the cat. We’ll tell you more about that next.

Should You Feed Stray or Feral Cats?

Should you feed stray or feral cats? That’s a good question, but the answer is not always black and white. In some areas, there are laws and ordinances about feeding stray or feral cats – if you feed the cat, you own it. Some areas even impose fines or other punishments for feeding stray or feral cats.

Before deciding whether or not to feed the cat, it is important to note that there are differences between stray cats and feral cats. A stray cat is a cat that previously had a home. The cat has either moved out, gotten lost, or has been given up. Stray cats are familiar with humans and can be friendly. A feral cat, however, is one that has never had a home. A feral cat is more likely born and bred from a feral line or colony. Feral cats will not be familiar with people other than something to be wary of and as a potential source of food.

Stray cats may be friendly and approach you for food or attention, or they may be too scared to let you get close. However, if you put the food down for them they will usually eat immediately. You should always use caution since you don’t know how the cat is going to react.

Feral cats may approach you when they are extremely hungry, but they will only eat the food you’ve given them once you’ve walked away. If you’ve been feeding a cat for several days and can still not approach or touch the cat, it is probably feral. Don’t try to handle a feral cat. Most feral cats cannot be adopted because they are simply too frightened of people.

Why is My Cat Licking Plastic?

Have you ever seen a cat or your cat licking plastic? The truth is that some cats love plastic! Many cat owners wonder why their cat may lick plastic but also wonder if it is dangerous. We will answer both of these questions in this article.

Why Cats Are Attracted to Plastic

There are many reasons why plastic may be attractive to cats. Some reasons have to do with how the bags hold odors, ingredients in the plastic bags that may attract, and the sound the plastic makes. Below are the most common causes of a cat licking plastic include:

  • Food wrappers. Some cats are attracted to plastic food wrappers and most commonly those that once wrapped lunchmeat. There may be residues of food in the plastic that they can lick. This is especially dangerous because if there is food in a crack, a cat can sometimes begin to eat the plastic.
  • Sound. Some cats love the little crackle sounds that come from plastic bags. The high pitched sounds may mimic the sounds of little prey such as birds or rodents. Cats love to mimic chasing prey and are commonly how they play.
  • Food smells. Most plastic bags are made of ethylene or ethene polymers with the most common grocery bag specifically made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This type of bag is very absorbent of odors and commonly takes on the odors of the products they hold. Cats have an amazing sense of smell that can attract them to many bags that held appealing items such as chicken, fish or steak.
  • Chemicals. Some plastic bags are treated with stearates which are derived from the saturated fatty acid that can be found in oils, vegetables, and animals. Stearates give bags the ability to float on water. They are not toxic but the taste can be appealing to some cats, leading to a cat licking plastic.
  • Animal Fat. Many types of plastic bags are made with “slip agents” which are used to reduce friction in the product. These agents are frequently made from beef tallow which is a beef fat. Some cats enjoy the subtle tastes in the product.
  • Corn Starch. Some plastic bags are made from environmentally friendly components made to be biodegradable. One of these ingredients used in plastic bags includes cornstarch. This ingredient can be appealing to some cats.
  • Pica. Some cats desire to eat non-food items such as plastic or metal. The medical term for this behavior is “Pica”. Some scientists believe Pica is from a nutritional deficiency and others believe it is a behavior created from cats that are weaned too early. Regardless of the cause, it can be dangerous if the plastic is ingested.

The Danger of Cat Licking Plastic

The biggest concern with a cat licking plastic is if the licking turns to eating. Plastic is not digestible and when ingested can become caught in the stomach and the intestines which can cause a life-threatening problem. This can require surgery. An article that might be helpful is Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies in Cats.

How To Recognize if Something is Wrong

If your cat takes an occasional lick of a bag and doesn’t ingest it, then it probably isn’t a big problem. However, if your cat ingests any part of the bag or the licking plastic behavior is excessive or associated with other symptoms such as weight loss, lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea or any other abnormalities, then it is time to worry.

If you believe your cat licking plastic is excessive or you have concerns, the safest thing to do is to see your veterinarian. They will likely do a physical examination and possibly blood work on your cat to evaluate for any underlying medical problem.

Some cats may lick plastic because of boredom or nutritional deficiencies. If your cat is licking plastic, here are a couple more things you can do.

  1. Ensure you are feeding quality food. Ensure your cat is on a good quality AAFCO approved food for her life stage (adult, kitten or senior). This will ensure that your cat is getting all the protein and nutrients required for your cat’s health.
  2. Prevent boredom. Provide plenty of play time for your cat and know your cat’s toy preference. Make sure her environment is enriched with scratching posts, interesting windows to look out, potentially bird feeders to watch, and some cat trees. Cats love high cat trees or perches where they can feel safe and observe their environments.

Tips For Keeping Plastic Out Of Reach

The best way to prevent a problem with your cat is to keep plastic away from your cat. Things that can help include:

  • Request paper over plastic bags if you have a choice at your local store.
  • If you take home products in plastic bags, once you unpack them be diligent in safely storing them away after unpacking the bags.
  • Place all plastic bags, tape and other products made of plastic in a sealed secure trash can.
  • Communicate your concern over cat licking plastic with everyone in your home. This can help create consistency.

Additional Articles that May Be of Interest About Cat Licking

Why Do Cats Lick You? 
My Cat is Licking Her Fur Off, What Do I Do?
What it Means When Your Cat is Smacking Her Lips 
What is Pet Insurance?
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
When is the Best Time to Get Pet Insurance for Your Cat?
Questions To Ask When Choosing A New Vet
How to Have a Trauma-Free Veterinary Visit for Your Cat

What it Means When Your Cat is Smacking Her Lips

Have you ever wondered why your cat may smack his or her lips? Cat smacking lips can be a concern of cat owners as they try to determine the possible cause. This is especially a concern if it is a new behavior or associated with other symptoms such as not eating, vomiting, lethargy, weakness and/or diarrhea.

In general, some cats are bigger “lickers” than others. Some cats lick their lips as well as their other cats in the home, lick the floor, countertops, and more. Two other questions cat lovers commonly ask is why cats may lick plastic or even why a cat would lick them. Check out these articles – Why is My Cat Licking Plastic? and Why Do Cats Lick You?

On the other hand, some cats rarely lick. It can be an equally concerning symptom if your cat has always been a good licker or groomer and then suddenly stops. This can be a sign of illness. Here is a good article that explains the normal cat licking behavior and also when to worry. Go to Everything You Need to Know About Cat Licking.

What Your Cat is Telling You by Smacking Her Lips

Licking and lip licking can be normal in some circumstances. The problem is when the cat smacking their lips turns into an excessive occurrence or is caused by a behavioral or medical problem.

The causes of cat smacking lips can be caused by various problems that vary from minor to serious. The most common problems involve issues related to nausea or oral pain.

Causes of lip smacking may include:

  • Displacement Behavior. Cats sometimes lick when they are anxious which is referred to as a “displacement behavior”. For example, a cat may come into the veterinary hospital and be placed on the table. The cat may be trying to decide if they need to be aggressive or run. Some cats will relieve their stress by a displacement behavior of licking or grooming themselves for a few seconds or minutes.
  • Compulsive Disorders. Some cats may lick their lips excessively from obsessive-compulsive disorders. It is more common that cats will lick their fur.
  • Nausea. Cats that are nauseated or dehydrated can excessively lick their lips or smack their lips. Many times cats will also drool and vomiting will follow the cat lip smacking behavior. Learn more about Nausea in Cats.
  • Dental Disease. Cats with dental disease and/or oral infections can also have excessive lip licking or smacking. As dental disease advances, plaque turns to tartar. The build-up of tartar both above and below the gum line can gradually produce an environment for bacteria to grow that is destructive to the periodontal tissues. Many cats will also not eat well, lose weight and/or drool.
  • Oral Ulcers. Oral ulcerations can cause pain, lip licking, drooling and/or excessive swallowing. Ulcers can develop from oral infections, dental disease, systemic infections such as kidney disease, or from ingestion of caustic substances. Caustic products may cause oral ulcers in cats include ingestion or oral exposure to laundry or dishwasher detergent pod toxicity or liquid potpourri.
  • Something Tastes Funny. Cats that lick the floor that has cleaning chemicals, food, dirt, mold, soap, or other items can have a funny taste that can cause a cat to smack their lips.
  • Wounds. Wounds can cause cats to lick. They may smack their lips but more often you will notice they are licking a wound and sometimes pull out their fur. Learn more about My Cat is Licking Her Fur Off, What Do I Do?
  • Uncontrollable Lip Licking. Some cats can suffer from a seizure disorder that appears as chomping at the mouth, biting at the air or even excessive and uncontrollable lip licking. This is most often a “focal seizure”. Learn more about Seizures in Cats.
  • Foreign Body. A common cause of lip smacking can be that something is caught in the cat’s mouth. Common items that can be caught in the mouth can be a small piece of bone or stick. Another cause can be a plant awn getting caught in the mouth such as a foxtail.
  • Bites. Any type of bite to the face or around the lips can cause cat lip smacking. Bites can occur from other cats, insects such as spiders, horse flies, mosquitos, and/or a bee or wasp stings. Snakebites can also occur around the face and mouth and cause pain, swelling, discharge, and/or lip licking.

Other Signs To Watch For & How To Help

If you see your cat smacking lips, we recommend the following:

  • The first thing to do if your cat is licking his or her lips is to look at your cat’s overall behavior and attitude to determine if there is an underlying medical problem. Two important points include:
  • Evaluate your cat’s behavior. Is your cat nervous? Anxious? Fearful? Try to determine if the lip smacking is a message of anxiety. If your cat is in a situation that you believe may make him or her or uncomfortable, this can be a displacement behavior. You can help your cat by removing the stressor and providing environmental enrichment.
  • It is important to determine if the cat lip smacking is due to a medical problem. The best approach is to have your cat examined by your veterinarian. They may also want to know when the lip licking happens? Is it constant? Is it new? Is it only after eating? Does it occur when your cat is anxious or nervous? They will likely want to examine the skin around the face, lips, gums, teeth and a complete oral examination. They will look for any foreign body in the mouth, dental disease, and an oral ulceration. They will also want a detailed history of your cats eating patterns, food change, exposure to trash or toxins, overall appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and weight loss.

Additional Articles that May Be of Interest About Cat Licking

Why Do Cats Lick You? 
My Cat is Licking Her Fur Off, What Do I Do?
Why is My Cat Licking Plastic?
What is Pet Insurance?
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
When is the Best Time to Get Pet Insurance for Your Cat?
Questions To Ask When Choosing A New Vet
How to Have a Trauma-Free Veterinary Visit for Your Cat

My Cat is Licking Her Fur Off, What Do I Do?

How do you deal with a cat that is licking his or her fur off? What causes it and what can you do? There are many reasons that cats lick and for the most part, these are for normal instinctual grooming reasons. However, this behavior can become excessive with behavioral problems or in response to a medical problem to the point that it leads to the cat licking their fur off. In this article, we will review why cats will lick off their fur.

If you are interested in why cats lick in general, learn more at Everything You Need to Know About Cat Licking.

Some cats make a noise like they are licking their fur but they are actually just licking or smacking their lips. Learn about What it Means When Your Cat is Smacking Her Lips.

Why Cats Lick Their Fur So Much

Cats will lick their fur to remove odors and dirt. Much of this behavior is instinctual to remove odors that can make them vulnerable to prey. Cats can also lick other things, for example, some cats may lick you or even obsess over licking plastic. Learn more about these two behaviors in Why is My Cat Licking Plastic? and Why Do Cats Lick You?

What It Means If Your Cat Starts To Lose Fur

If a cat licks so much that they lose their fur, this is a problem. The problem can be behavioral or medical. Below we will offer some possible causes for cat’s licking their fur off.

Behavioral Causes for Cat Licking Fur Off

  • Displacement behavior. Some cats will lick their fur when stressed. This is commonly called a “displacement behavior.” A displacement behavior helps cats cope with stress by lowering their arousal level. An example is when a cat is confronted with another cat and is stressed…trying to decide if they attack, run, or hide. Some cats will respond by self-grooming, as a way to reduce their stress and tension. This generally only lasts a few minutes but not to the point that the cats licks their fur off. Sometimes displacement behaviors can turn into abnormal compulsive behaviors.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders. Some cats will groom to extremes. It may start as a displacement behavior and if the stressor continues, can become a compulsive disorder. For example, if a cat is repeatedly bullied by another cat, they may take the displacement behavior to extremes and continue that behavior even when not in the stressful situation. Learn more about Feline Compulsive Behaviors.
  • Excessive grooming is commonly referred to as psychogenic alopecia. Clients will notice their cat licking fur off their abdomens, chest, backs or legs. Some cats will pull the hair out with their teeth and create skin wounds and ulcerations. The behavior is often associated with some new stressor in the cat’s life. Psychogenic alopecia is more common in young female cats but can occur in any cat.

Medical Causes for Cat Licking Fur Off

There are various medical causes leading to a cat licking fur off. Below are some of the most common causes.

  • Skin allergy. Some cats can suffer from a medical condition called Allergic Dermatitis. The allergy can be caused by a hypersensitivity to parasites (most commonly the flea), food, dust, pollen or mold. This can cause cats to feel uncomfortable, itch, and lick their fur off. Cats with allergies to fleas have most of their fur loss over their rear end in front of their tail, abdomen, back legs and tail. They will often also have small itchy bumps around their necks. Treatment includes trying to find the underlying cause and remove that problem. For example, if a cat is allergic to fleas, eliminate all fleas in the environment and begin flea prevention medications.
  • Wounds & Infections. There are many types of wounds that can cause loss of hair.
    Cats with wounds such as a bite wound or laceration will lick that area. They will often lick off their fur or the wound may cause the fur to fall off due to infection around the wound. Wounds can occur anywhere on the body but are often on the paws, face, neck, or around the rear end.
  • Another reason cats may lick and loose hair is from anal gland problems. Anal glands can become infected which can cause cats to lick near their rectums.
  • Ringworm, also known as Dermatophyte fungi, can cause areas of hair loss.
    Some licking may be okay but when excessive licking can delay healing and/or remove sutures that will need replacing.
  • Pain. Some cats will excessively lick their fur due to pain. Some cats with inflammation of their bladders will lick their abdomens over their bladder. Some cats will over-groom when they don’t feel well from a variety of medical problems. Some cats will continue this behavior until they feel better.
  • Parasites. Infestation with sarcoptes mange (Scabies) mite is an intensely itchy skin problem that causes fur loss of the ears, elbows, hocks, and other areas. Another mite known as Cheyletiella (also known as walking dandruff mite) causes hair loss and itching.
  • Feline Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex. The term eosinophilic granuloma complex (EGC) refers to a group of skin lesions that represent an allergic reaction in the cat’s skin. These occur in three forms, and your cat may have any or all of them. It can cause areas of hair loss that can occur on the back of the rear legs, in and around the mouth, on the upper lips, neck, shoulders, and/or on the face.

How To Help Your Cat

The best way to help your cat is to determine the cause of the problem that is causing them to lick their fur off. The best way to do this is to take your cat to your veterinarian. They will likely do or recommend some or all of the following:

  • History. Your veterinarian will obtain a thorough medical history. They will ask you questions about when this problem started when the licking fur out occurs, the degree of itching, what medications or treatments you have tried, if you are giving any medications and anything that has made the problem better or worse.
  • Examination. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam and careful examination of the skin and hair. They will pay particular attention to the location of the hair loss, condition of the hair, and evaluate for any skin lesions.
  • Skin scrapings. A procedure called a “skin scraping” is commonly recommended. A sharp blade is gently scraped over the skin to collect cells to look for mites and other skin parasites. These scrapings are examined under a microscope.
  • Fungal cultures. Ringworm (dermatophytes) can cause hair loss. A culture can be performed by plucking hair from the edge of the lesion and placing it on a special culture media. A color change from yellow to red in the culture media suggests the presence of dermatophytes.
  • Trichogram. A trichogram is a test that looks at the hair under a microscope to determine if hairs are developing normally and show broken hairs which would indicate a self-induced alopecia.
  • Food trial. A hypoallergenic food trial or testing for allergens may be done to rule out allergy if the alopecia is related to pruritus.
  • A skin biopsy can be very helpful in diagnosing the cause of fur loss. One or more small pieces of skin are taken from a skin lesion and submitted to a veterinary pathologist for examination.

Once the underlying cause is known, specific treatments can be recommended to address the cat licking fur off problem.

3 Methods to Prevent a Cat from Licking Out Fur

Treating and preventing licking depends on the underlying cause of the licking. Telling the cat no can work for seconds but is not sustainable as you can not be with your cat all the time.

  • Bandage. Some wounds can be covered by bandages to prevent licking. For wounds on the torso, an infant t-shirt may do the trick. For the front half of the body, put a t-shirt on in a natural way. For wounds in the back half of the body, put the t-shirt on backward, with the tail going through the hole for the head and the rear legs going into the arms. You may have to use a strip of sticky tape to tape the bottom hem of the t-shirt to the cat to prevent the shirt from slipping. Some cats detest clothing so this may not work.
  • Topical Products. Some products such as Chew Guard®, cayenne pepper, lemon juice or Tabasco® have been used to deter licking due to the bitter taste. Some products can even safely be applied directly to the wound or placed on the bandage. Discuss the best product and plan with your veterinarian before applying any of these products directly to a wound.
  • E-Collars. The Elizabethan collar, commonly called an E-collar, are often the most effective way to prevent licking to some areas. The collar fits around the neck and looks like a lampshade that surrounds the cat’s head. This can prevent licking and pulling your cat’s fur out.

Additional Articles that May Be of Interest About Cat Licking

Why Do Cats Lick You? 
What it Means When Your Cat is Smacking Her Lips 
Why is My Cat Licking Plastic?
What is Pet Insurance?
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
When is the Best Time to Get Pet Insurance for Your Cat?
Questions To Ask When Choosing A New Vet
How to Have a Trauma-Free Veterinary Visit for Your Cat

Why Do Cats Lick You?

Have you ever wondered why your cat licks you? Licking is a very normal behavior in cats and serves a variety of functions. Most cat licking functions have everything to do with their normal instincts and grooming behavior. To understand why cats lick you, you need to understand the normal grooming behavior of cats. In addition, there are other reasons for cats to lick that can be outside of the normal behavior or can indicate an underlying medical problem.

Normal Cats Licking Behavior

A normal healthy cat will lick to keep themselves clean and spend approximately 15% of their time grooming which is approximately three and a half hours a day grooming.

When born, kittens are licked by their mother, the queen, and to remove the amniotic sacs from around their faces and bodies. The licking also helps stimulate them to breathe and move. The queen will also chew through the umbilical cords and eat the placentas. This also creates a bond between queen and kitten.

Following birth, the queen will lick her kittens to keep them clean but also lick their abdomens and anuses to encourage them to eliminate waste (urinate and defecate) which they are unable to do without this stimulation.

As adults, cats will groom to keep themselves clean and as an instinct to protect themselves.
In the wild, cats may kill their prey leaving blood and odors on their own fur. To protect themselves, cats groom to remove any odors from killing their prey so they do not become prey to another animal. Licking and grooming is a survival instinct.

Learn more about cat licking here.

Steps in the Typical Cat Grooming Activity

According to Dr. Nick Dodman, the typical steps in the licking and grooming process of cats goes something like this:

  • Licking of nose
  • Licking of lips
  • Licking a paw until damp
  • Using that paw to clean one side of the head, ears, eyes, nose
  • Licking the other paw
  • Using that paw to clean the other side of the head, ears, eyes, nose
  • Licking each shoulder and foreleg
  • Licking the flanks
  • Licking anal and genital areas
  • Licking the hind legs
  • Licking the tail from base to tip

Why Do Cats Lick You? How Cats Show Affection

Back to the question – why do cats lick you? Once kittens have learned to groom themselves, they may then begin to groom each other which is known as “allogrooming.” This is especially common in cats that grow up together. Allogrooming is most commonly focused on the neck and head areas. Studies show that in the cat hierarchy, higher-ranking cats groomed lower-ranking cats more often. Most often the cat that is doing the grooming positions itself higher than the one that is being groomed. For example, the cat that is grooming may be standing or sitting while the cat being roomed is sitting or lying.

Cats may lick you as you are they would another cat. Most often cats will lick your hands, fingers, and sometimes hair. It is believed that as the queen licks their young, this grooms, and communicates a bond. Just as with the young, why a cat licks you can communicate a bond with you. The licking also can mark you with the cat’s scent and communicate that you are part of the cat’s territory. They are literally marking you.

Another reason some cats will lick you is that they enjoy the taste of certain lotions or creams and lick you after application.

In return, many pet owners reciprocate by combing and brushing their cats. This can be beneficial to the cat encouraging the bond and removing unwanted hair and preventing hairballs.

Other Licking

Lip licking. Some cats will lick or smack their lips. Licking lips can be a sign of nausea in cats. Some cats will lick their lips just prior to the act of vomiting. Lip licking in cats is a big concern if your cat is not eating, vomiting, and/or acting lethargic. Learn more about What it Means When Your Cat is Smacking Her Lips and Nausea in Cats.

Licking fur. Some cats will excessively lick their fur. This can be due to normal grooming procedures, due to parasite infestation such as fleas, from injuries such as bite wounds, or skin infections. Learn more about this – go to My Cat is Licking Her Fur Off, What Do I Do?

Licking bags. Some cats will lick inanimate objects such as plastic. Learn more about Why is My Cat Licking Plastic?

Additional Articles that May Be of Interest About Cat Licking

My Cat is Licking Her Fur Off, What Do I Do?
What it Means When Your Cat is Smacking Her Lips 
Why is My Cat Licking Plastic?
What is Pet Insurance?
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
When is the Best Time to Get Pet Insurance for Your Cat?
Questions To Ask When Choosing A New Vet
How to Have a Trauma-Free Veterinary Visit for Your Cat

Everything You Need to Know About Cat Licking

Some cats pretty much never seem to lick and other cats lick all the time. Cat lovers sometimes ask questions about why do cats lick and try to determine when cat licking is normal and when the licking is abnormal. Cat licking is a part of the normal maternal instinct and grooming behaviors, however, these behaviors can become excessive and abnormal.

The answer to the question if cat licking is abnormal depends on if the behavior is new, if the licking appears to be part of the normal grooming behaviors, or if the licking is associated with an underlying behavioral or medical problem.

First, let’s look at why cats lick.

Understanding Normal Cats Licking and Grooming

A normal healthy cat will lick to keep him/herself relatively clean. Most cats are fastidious and spend a significant amount of time grooming. The amount of time per day cats groom can vary substantially from cat to cat but studies suggest that cats spend approximately 15 percent of their time grooming.

  1. Cleaning. The primary reason cats lick themselves is to eliminate dirt, debris, and odors. In the wild, cats may kill their prey leaving blood and odors on their own fur. To protect themselves, cats groom to remove any odors that remain from killing their prey so they do not become prey to another animal. Cats may also want to remove other odors from their coat such as human odors. Some cats will grooms themselves immediately after you pet them to eliminate your scent and even out their own scent.
  2. Displacement behavior. Some cats will use grooming or licking as a displacement behavior. When some cats are stressed, they will cope by grooming (which gives them comfort). This displacement behavior helps cats cope with stress by lowering their arousal level. For example, if a cat is intimidated by another household animal, at some point during an encounter, the cat may stop and seemingly nonchalantly groom himself for several minutes. This behavior can turn into a compulsive disorder.
  3. Post birth grooming. After giving birth, the queen grooms herself to clear normal discharge and blood. This is an instinct to minimize odors that could attract prey.
  4. Maternal grooming. After birth, the queen immediately licks the kittens to remove the amniotic sacs from around their faces and bodies which also stimulates breathing. She will also chew through the umbilical cords and eat the placentas. This is completely normal behavior. Following birth and during the first several weeks of life, the queen will frequently lick her kittens. Licking their abdomens and anuses encourages the babies to eliminate waste (urinate and defecate). Kittens generally learn to start grooming themselves around 3 weeks of age. Often by 6 weeks of age, kittens are grooming themselves competently.
  5. Allogrooming. Once kittens have learned to groom themselves, they may begin to groom each other. This behavior is known as allogrooming. This is fairly common in cats that grow up together.
  6. Heat regulation. Licking the hair coat can help cats maintain their body temperature. During cold weather, cats may lick their fur to smooth it, which traps the air to keep them warm. During the summer months, cats may lick their fur, which evaporates and helps to keep them cool.
  7. They like it. Other cats lick…just because they like to. Some cats enjoy and find comfort in the sensation of licking.

Focused Licking

The biggest concern about cat licking is when it is excessive or focused on a particular area. Below is information on various causes of cat-licking behaviors that may be focused on one area or object.

Licking you

As kittens learn to groom themselves, they may also allogroom which means they lick and groom cats close to them. This behavior can extend to us, after all in many cases we are the kittens or cats surrogate parents, right? Learn more about Why Do Cats Lick You?

Licking lips

Licking lips or lip smacking in cats can be a sign of nausea. Some cats will lick their lips just prior to the act of vomiting. Lip licking in cats is a big concern if your cat is not eating, vomiting, and/or acting lethargic. Learn more about What it Means When Your Cat is Smacking Her Lips and Nausea in Cats.

Licking fur

Some cats will excessively lick their fur. This can be due to normal grooming procedures or be caused by parasite infestation such as fleas, from injuries such as bite wounds, or from skin infections.

Another reason cats may excessively lick an area is to comfort themselves. For example, if we hurt our wrist, we may rub it. Cats may lick at a wound or a sore area in an attempt to comfort that area. Sometimes the area may be a wound or it could be over an area that is painful. For example, some cats will excessively lick the fur on their abdomens over the location of the bladder when they have bladder pain and urinary problems or lick their carpus (wrist area) after an injury.