Excessive Licking

Sometimes cats groom one particular area in excess.  Paula H. has one such cat, named Puda.  Paula writes:

My female cat is licking her perineal area all the time. I don’t see any signs of irritation. What could cause this behavior?

Paula, it's most likely Puda's attempting to comfort herself.  Many experts, veterinarians included, will conclude that such grooming is usually psychologically comforting.  While this may sometimes be true, our experience is that it can also indicate physical discomfort related to the area that your cat is focused on.

Our suggestion would be to take Puda to your veterinarian and have her urine analyzed.  She may be developing a lower urinary tract infection (UTI) or even bladder stones.  You should pay close attention to her litter box habits.  Is she making her usual deposits?  Are they their usual size?  If she does develop a lower UTI, she may exhibit signs of straining in the litter box but with very low urine production.  Once that happens, it's critical that she receive veterinary care immediately.  The sooner you catch an infection, the easier it will be to treat.

If you have her checked out and eliminate possible medical issues, you can move on to psychological ones.  Puda may be involved in a territorial dispute that you don't know about.  Since it's springtime, your yard may be getting sprayed by an interloper.  This would certainly be noticed by Puda and she may be soothing her territorial woes by licking herself and inhaling her own scent.  If she exhibits the flehmen response, that could be a clue.  You should check outside with a black light and clean off any of the interloper's spray.  See this post for more on the process of cleaning cat spray.

Last but not least, it could be boredom.  If Puda is an indoor only cat and is left alone for long stretches of time each day, she could develop repetitive soothing behaviors.  If that's the case, she just needs for you to enrich her environment.  Adding some soft music can help.  We particularly like the albums by Bradley Joseph.  Just put them on loop for the day.

 
 

You can also add to Puda's physical space by bringing in new cat furniture.  Even a couple of boxes added and rearranged can help to stimulate her.  Get creative and look at her environment from her point of view.  The more access to vertical space that you can provide, the better.

You could also adopt a friend for Puda.  While not all cats easily accept a new roommate, many do.  It's often easier to care for two cats because they entertain one another.  If you go this route, check out this post on introducing a new cat.

Paula, we're confident that with a little time and effort, you'll be able to sort out Puda's problem.  We wish you luck!