Cats are known for their preoccupation with grooming themselves frequently. While cats spend time cleaning their coats, it is also common to see them licking their genital area, as the fur there becomes dirty faster. However, even the cleanest cats can groom themselves too much. Reviewing some causes and warning signs about obsessive genital grooming will help you know if your cat’s grooming habits may indicate a problem.
Although all cats spend a significant percentage of their time grooming, some have more thorough grooming habits than others. Pay attention to how much your cat cleans its genital area. If it has increased to be significantly more than normal or if it begins nibbling or biting its genitals, there may be something wrong. Another cause for concern is if your cat has licked itself so much that there are bald patches in its fur. Once bald patches have formed, the rough texture of your cat’s tongue may break the skin and cause infection.
Causes in Male Cats
Male cats often begin licking their genital area excessively because they have an abnormal discharge around the prepuce (skin covering the penis). A healthy male cat should not have any discharge around the genitalia, except for an occasional yellowish-white smegma, which forms around the opening of the prepuce. A variety of health problems may cause additional discharge. These include cancer or inflammation of the prepuce, bladder infection or inflammation or prostate enlargement due to a cyst, abscess or swelling.
Causes in Female Cats
Female cats should not have any visible discharge coming from the vulva, unless the cat has given birth within the past several weeks. Some health conditions that often cause increase discharge in female cats include cancer of the urinary or genital tract or swelling or infection of the vagina. It may also indicate a retained placenta or undelivered kitten in cats that have been pregnant recently.
Causes in Both Genders
Both genders may have increased discharge due to urinary incontinence, urinary tract infections or feline lower urinary tract disease. Occasionally, cats accidentally ingest rat poison, which leads to a bleeding problem that often produces discharge. Cats may also lick obsessively in response to food allergies, a condition that often makes the skin itchy. They may also groom in response to stress due to recent changes like moving or the arrival of another cat.
If you notice your cat licking itself excessively, examine it to see if there are any obvious causes (e.g., fleas, ticks, stress or rash). If you cannot identify a cause, you may wish to take the cat to the vet. The veterinarian will perform a thorough examination, which may include blood work, urine testing, a discharge culture and X-rays.
There is no specific treatment for excessive genital licking in cats. Rather, you and your veterinarian should work together to treat the underlying cause.