This problem, known as neurodermatitis or psychogenic alopecia, is an
energy-displacement phenomenon that occurs in cats
who are inordinately stressed. Siamese, Burmese, Himalayans, and Abyssinians
may have a predisposition. It occurs in cats who are hospitalized, boarded,
stressed, deprived of their freedom, or subjected to long periods of
Before considering this to be a behavior problem, medical issues need to be ruled out.
Cats will lick an area that is painful and may lick in response to skin
conditions and external parasites. It is interesting to note that a large
portion of cats presented to veterinary behavior clinics for compulsive grooming turn out to have allergies and other skin conditions.
There are several types of ear mites that can live in cats’ ears, but the most common are Otodectes cynotis, tiny, eight-legged parasites that feed on the wax and oils in a cat’s ear canal. An individual mite has an approximately three-week life cycle, and is barely detectable by the naked eye. Causing irritation and inflammation, ear mites can infect the external and internal canal, and lead to more serious skin or ear infections if left untreated. Infection usually produces a characteristic...
A prominent sign of compulsive grooming is thinning of the hair in a stripe
down the back or a bare abdomen. The skin does not appear inflamed in most
cases, but compulsive self-licking and chewing may progress to involve the
abdomen, flanks, and legs. Unless you see this behavior, it may not be obvious
that the cat is doing it.
Diagnosis is made by excluding other causes of hair
loss and areas that may be painful. Modifying the cat’s routine to include
a more active and varied lifestyle, along with a reduction in stress, is the
best approach to treatment. There are medications that can be used to decrease
this behavior, but they should only be used in conjunction with behavior and
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"