Grooming disorders are a group of conditions in which pets, usually dogs or cats, compulsively lick, bite or chew at themselves or their surroundings. These behaviors can be extremely destructive and distressing for pet owners and the animals involved. Often referred to as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), these disorders may also be caused by psychological factors such as stress and anxiety. In severe cases, they can result in injury to the animal's skin or even death due to infection caused by bacteria entering through open wounds caused by excessive licking or scratching without proper treatment

What is Compulsive Skin Picking?

Compulsive skin picking, also known as excoriation disorder, is a form of self-harm that involves the repetitive picking at one's own skin. It is not OCD (neurosis) or addiction; rather it falls under the category of obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders. The term "obsessive" refers to the fact that people with this condition feel compelled to engage in their behavior and cannot resist doing so, while "compulsive" refers to repetitive actions performed over and over without conscious decision making. No one knows exactly how many people suffer from compulsive skin picking; estimates range between 1% and 4% of the population globally (1).

Opponents of an OCD diagnosis argue there are two major differences between OCD patients who pick their own skin compared with those who do not: motivation for engaging in the behavior and associated feelings about themselves. For example, some have argued that individuals diagnosed with compulsive skin picking report having no desire or intention to stop their habit whereas those diagnosed with OCD do not want their symptoms and will try several different ways (including medication) before attempting any form of self-treatment like surgery or cognitive therapy (2).

What is Compulsive Hair Pulling?

Trichotillomania (TTM) is a mental health disorder characterized by the compulsive urge to pull out one's hair, resulting in noticeable hair loss. It can cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.

Treatment for TTM consists of cognitive behavioral therapy and habit reversal training. There is also some evidence that treating major depressive disorder may help with symptoms of trichotillomania.

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a type of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that manifests in a preoccupation with a perceived flaw in appearance. BDD can be more common in women than men and tends to begin during adolescence or early adulthood. The most commonly reported symptoms include an excessive amount of time spent on grooming, checking mirrors, adjusting clothing and taking multiple selfies.

The exact cause of BDD is unknown but research suggests it may involve genetics, neurobiology and psychology; however it’s important to note that there are many other factors that contribute to the development of this disorder such as bullying during childhood or adolescence, low selfesteem and feelings of shame which could lead someone down the path towards BDD later on in life if left untreated.

Other Causes of Unwanted Grooming.

Other causes of unwanted grooming include:

  • Stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Caffeine, alcohol and drug use.
  • Medications like antidepressants and antipsychotics.
  • Thyroid problems and other endocrine disorders.
  • Genetic predisposition (hereditary).

For example, if a parent had trichotillomania or another grooming disorder as a child or adult, there is a good chance that the child will develop it too. However, most people who have this type of problem do not have parents who also experienced it themselves when they were children (or teens).

Symptoms of Overgrooming.

An excessive amount of grooming can be a sign of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In some cases, it may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.

If you notice that your cat is excessively grooming itself, or if your dog is licking its fur to the point where he or she bleeds—or if your child seems obsessed with picking his/her skin—it’s important to consult a physician.

Overgrooming can have many causes, some physical and some psychological, so it's important to figure out which one you are dealing with so you can address it accordingly.

Overgrooming can have many causes, some physical and some psychological. It’s important to figure out which one you are dealing with so you can address it accordingly. If you don't know what the cause is, then how do you know how to treat it?

If your cat has a serious overgrooming disorder and isn't responding to treatment, talk with a vet or a professional groomer who specializes in cats. They may be able to help get your cat under control and feeling better soon!


As you can see, there are many causes of overgrooming disorders, and the symptoms vary depending on what's causing the problem. So it's important to figure out which one you're dealing with so that you can address it accordingly. In any case, if you have any concerns about your cat's behavior that seem abnormal or unbearably painful for them, consult a vet immediately.