Rosie has been overgrooming her belly for what seems like forever, but she only started doing it about two years into our time in Utah. By that time, she had been my kitty for three years, and I wish I could pinpoint when exactly it was that she started licking her belly constantly and what made her start doing it. It was like suddenly she was missing all of the hair from her belly and I couldn't figure out why that was. All I know is that it started about a year after Melody and Sybil came around, so I don't think it was because of them (wouldn't she have started sooner?).
I've read up on cat overgrooming, and it's caused by so many different reasons that it's really hard to figure out what the true reason could be unless you get lucky the first time. It could be an allergy to something environmental or to something in food. It could be due to fleas. It could be due to an internal problem (licking because there's pain and they're trying to make it go away). It could be stress-related. See? Where do you even start?
Here's a list of what I've done so far:
• Feliway (cat pheromone diffuser)
The Feliway diffuser, which releases cat pheromones, was recommended to me as a way to keep the stress levels down between the three cats. While the girls get along for the most part, they aren't super buddy-buddy and sometimes things escalate. I initially thought Rosie's overgrooming was because of stress due to the addition of two more furry friends, but I'm not sure that this helped much with her overgrooming.
I purchased the Obsession Remedy (now called Obsession Solution) Spirit Essences at the end of last year along with the Skin Soother just because I figured they were worth a shot. (Does anyone else watch his show, My Cat from Hell, on TLC? It's a good one if you're a cat owner!) Spirit Essences are his holistic remedies for various cat issues. They get rave reviews, so I was hopeful they'd work for Rosie. You're supposed to either put a few drops in her food and/or rub drops on her body and/or spray some of the solutions around her bed or other favorite areas. I usually only put the drops in her food and every once in a while remembered to rub some on her body. It seemed like her hair was starting to grow back more after a few months of using the Obsession Solution, but now she's on the Skin Soother and it doesn't seem to be helping much. (I used one at a time so they could be evaluated separately.)
• Changed her diet
All three cats used to be on the Natural Balance brand low-calorie dry and wet cat food (this was because Rosie needed to lose weight and they all needed to be on the same diet, because, well, they eat each other's food). I thought maybe that Rosie had developed a food allergy, so I switched her (and the others by association) over to the limited ingredient green pea and duck dry and wet food. The low-calorie food contains chicken, salmon, lamb, and duck, but duck is lowest on the list so I figured we could start there. Luckily, they all still love the food, but her overgrooming doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon. She could have a gluten sensitivity which would require a grain-free diet and that could be a next step.
I think it's possible that Rosie could have feline hyperaesthesia syndrome because I find her biting and licking viciously at her belly sometimes (but she doesn't attack her legs or feet). There were a couple of times where she had made parts of her stomach raw and bleeding, though it doesn't happen very often (thank goodness). If she does have some sort of neurological syndrome, it likely can't be treated and will just need to be managed.
I'm not sure what to do next! Maybe try another bottle of Jackson Galaxy's Obsession Solution Spirit Essences? It is really hard to tell if that worked because I didn't use it as regularly as I should have, but her hair seemed to be kind of growing back when she was on it. Short of testing to make sure she doesn't have any problems internally, I'm stumped as to how to proceed.
Have any of you dealt with overgrooming before? Was your cat able to overcome it, and if so, how? I'll be sure to update if I find a solution for Rosie!