7 year old Bombay female has problems with excessive grooming

tinyvoid

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So, my family has owned a Bombay for 7 years. She's an indoor cat. Through the years, she's had a few problems with excessive grooming. It seems to come and go, but it's become especially bad this year. She will sit on our couch and lick her lower back, tail & arms/legs aggressively for 20 minutes straight. Or, she starts chasing her tail and aggressively biting it and hissing. She will also do that for 20 minutes or more, unless someone walks over to her and pets her until she stops. Her lower back, tail, and behind her arms are almost completely bald.

We've taken her to the vet several times. We've changed her diet several times & given her flea medication, it didn't do much. We've also taken her to the vet where she gets steroid shots, that calms the behaviours for about a month, but it eventually starts up again. Does anyone know what's wrong with her? I'm thinking it's something along the lines of feline OCD, but I'm no expert. Thanks to anyone who can help!
 

lutece

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If steroid shots calm the behavior, then I would guess that the cause is likely to be some kind of itchy allergy or sensitivity to something. What dietary changes have you tried? It's also possible that she could be sensitive to something in the environment, or you may have a few fleas that were not eliminated by the flea medication.

Is she a purebred Bombay from a breeder? If she came from a breeder, I would also contact them, as they may have suggestions.
 
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tinyvoid

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We tried having her on hypoallergenic food, that didn't change anything, then we had her on duck for 6 weeks, she didn't like that one, and nothing changed. Right now we have her on Hill's Science Diet hairball control. The vet doesn't actually know if she has fleas, they just recommended the medication. Is it possible for her to have fleas as an indoor cat?

I managed to find a vet paper from 2016 where we had her on cetirizine for "itchiness" it's been so long I forgot whether that was about the licking or something else.

We didn't get her from a breeder, we found her as a stray cat in the summer of 2013, she was starving, and you could see her ribcage. She was still very small. Bombay is my best guess as to what she is, she's a black cat and that's the best match. Here's a picture of her. (This photo was taken in the winter of 2018, her backside is worse now.)

I also think it's worth mentioning she is yet to have surgery for her tooth resorption. I don't know if that would have anything to do with her current condition. Thanks!
 

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Moonlight_wolf

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I would try some other diet changes before because as a previous person said, if steroids are helping then it might be an allergy.

Check the ingredients in the cat food bag. Some things can say hypoallergenic but not be hypoallergenic. Try to avoid Corn, wheat and Soy. And chicken and Beef are the most common protein allergens from what I’ve heard. Even though she was on a duck diet at one point it’s possible that the food had chicken in it even though it’s main protein was duck. I’m not a fan of hills just because they often add a lot of unnecessary fillers. But just read the ingredients list and try to find ones that are free of possible allergens. Limited ingredient diets are less likely to contain allergens but it’s still possible that some still contain the ingredients she may be reacting to. So it’s important to read labels. Also you want to keep your cat on that diet for quite a while. And not feed her anything else. No treats or anything. A thing I read online said food trials should last 10-12 weeks but you should usually start seeing results in 2-4 weeks. Maybe someone else has advice on the amount of time that’s best for a cat to be on a Hypoallergenic diet before you can gauge if it’s working or not.

Additionally it could be environmental, as stated before. I don’t know what kind of things cats can be allergic to, but I know they are sensitive to any sort of aerosol or things that you burn to get good smells. Plugin air fresheners too. I don’t know if you have anything like that. Again, this is all just speculation.

Also your cat is probably just a regular old Domestic short hair! Most cats not from a breeder are that. It basically means that they are a mutt or their breed is unknown, at least to my knowledge 😂

Beautiful kitty though! I hope you can get this issue sorted out 😊
 
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tinyvoid

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Thanks for the advice! We're going to try it step by step. We're trying the flea medication now, if that doesn't work we'll try putting her on another diet.

I also would like to mention that her licking escalated a ton in 2018 when we purchased two aquatic turtles. We have many reptiles as pets, and she was fine with the other animals in the house until we got those 2 turtles. After we sold them, her licking calmed down. However, in December of 2019 I took in another aquatic turtle. I don't know if this has anything to do with her escalated licking this year, but if it does it was very gradual unlike the first time where as soon as those 2 turtles came into the house she started licking clumps of her fur out. Is this because of the change in the environment or could she possibly be allergic to something in the aquarium?

It seems unlikely, however I'm exploring every possibility because she truly is a beautiful cat with a full fur coat. I hate to see her lick it off like this. Thanks!
 
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tinyvoid

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A little bit of an update.

We gave her about 3 doses of flea medication through July, and she would stop for about 2 days after the initial dose, but after the substance disappears from the back of her neck, she goes right back to over grooming.

However, her behaviour has changed a bit. Before, her first instinct would be to over groom her lower back, arms, and legs, but now her first instinct is to aggressively chase, bite, and over groom her tail. Whenever she is stopped from essentially mauling her own tail, only then will she start over grooming her typical spots.

I don't know what caused this change, but aside from the obvious (she's harming herself) she makes loud growling and hissing noises, which is very unpleasant to hear. The tail chasing has definitely gotten worse from when I last posted on here.

Is this aggression normal behaviour for a cat with allergies? Thanks!
 

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I think he's self-soothing, both grooming and tail biting are known as stress related behaviors. It could explain why new animals brought to home would escalate the behavior.

While I would keep trying to change his diet & environment in case of it being allergy, I would also try extensive play times and environment enrichment to see if that makes a difference.

I would seek a specialist like a cat behaviorist for help.
 
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