Cats normally lick their fur and paws and we see this as one of their natural habits. After all, they are epitomes of cleanliness and can spend half of their waking hours grooming themselves. However, it is a cause for concern if your cat begins to excessively lick materials such as the carpet or the wall.
Cats start to lick and groom themselves when they are about four weeks old and at around five weeks they will also start to lick and groom their siblings and mother. This is called allogrooming and it helps to strengthen the bond between cats.
Why is my cat licking the carpet?
Here are the most probable reasons why your cat is licking the carpet:
1. Your cat is suffering from pica.
Pica is the behavioral urge to ingest non-food items like fabrics, paper, plastic, and cardboard. Cats usually have this urge as a means to soothe or entertain themselves or to satisfy dietary cravings. Cat experts believe that certain breeds like the Siamese are more predisposed to suffer from pica.
These are some of the causes of pica:
- dietary deficiencies
- your cat was weaned too early
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- may be due to underlying diseases like leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism
Signs and symptoms that your cat may be suffering from pica:
- decreased appetite
What to do if your cat has pica:
If you suspect that your cat has pica, you should bring her to the vet for a thorough evaluation. Remove any objects she wants to chew like cords, blankets, or carpet within your cat’s vicinity. Give your cat safe objects to chew like catnip-filled toys and puzzle feeders and spend at least 30 minutes with your cat each day for some playtime. Also, consult your vet on the nutritional requirements needed for your cat’s diet and if there is a need to switch her food.
2. Your cat may like a scent like food in your carpet.
Your cat may be licking the carpet because she detected scents from previous food spills. The carpet may not have been cleaned or vacuumed well. Make sure to clean the carpets well, vacuum and steam clean it to eliminate any left-over spills and scents.
3. Your cat may be redirecting her grooming to the carpet as it is accessible.
Cats are fastidious groomers and if they cannot easily access certain parts of their body they may redirect their grooming to other things that are more accessible such as the carpet. Check if your cat has difficulty in reaching her rear end and back while grooming. If so, you can give her regular brushing sessions. If your cat is on the heavy side, modify her diet so she can lose unwanted weight.
4. She may have feline pruritus.
Pruritus is the medical term for itching, an unpleasant sensation of the skin that results in excessive scratching and grooming that may extend to inappropriate items like the carpet. Its common causes include mites and parasites, infection, and allergies.
These are the common symptoms of feline pruritus:
- symmetrical hair loss
- over-itching, scratching, and self-induced skin damage
- miliary dermatitis – the presence of dry crusts and dandruff
- skin lesions
To treat pruritus, your vet may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal drugs to be administered for at least a month. If after a month the itching disappears, the cause is microbial infection but if the symptoms persist, the culprit may be an allergy.
5. Your cat may be having an obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD.
Cats may develop an obsessive-compulsive disorder which is manifested by repetitive and compulsive behavior. Your cat may groom herself repeatedly in the same spot and extend the grooming to other items like the carpet. The main causes may be genetic or stress-induced due to changes in your cat’s routine or the presence of new pets or strangers.
Here are other signs and symptoms of feline OCD:
- may obsessively suck, lick, or chew fabric; wool-sucking
- tail-chasing and self-mutilation
- repetitive pacing and vocalizing
- sensitivity to touch and twitching of skin on the back,also called feline hyperesthesia syndrome
To alleviate the condition, provide your cat with stuffed or plush cat toys to keep herself active and occupied. Place cardboard boxes and safe havens for your cat where she can retreat and have privacy. Keep her litter box clean and avoid further routine changes. Synthetic pheromones like Feliway Classic may also be helpful to make your cat calm and relaxed.
Why does my cat lick me?
Cats lick and groom themselves and fellow cats. It keeps their coats clean, improves the circulation, stimulates skin production, prevents hairballs, removes parasites, and they do it also to socialize and bond with siblings and other cats. Cats may also lick their owners and favored humans like by licking your nose.
Here are the common reasons why your cat is licking you:
- she is grooming and nurturing you as one of her own
- it is your cat’s way of bonding with you
- it is a show of affection
- she may have been weaned too early
- she may be stressed or anxious
While cats are known to be diligent groomers, excessive and inappropriate licking of non-edible things like the carpet may indicate a serious medical condition. It may be due to pruritus, pica, or behavioral disorders as discussed above. If your cat manifests unusual licking behavior and she is licking the carpet and other items like cords and blankets, assess what might be the possible triggers for the behavior. Prompt consultation with your vet should also be done so that your cat may be thoroughly checked.
Image: istockphoto.com / krblokhin