Helping the Senior Cat Who Has Stopped Grooming

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Helping the Senior Cat Who Has Stopped Grooming

As cats age, they go through changes that affect their physical and mental well-being. One of the more common changes owners might notice in their senior cats is that they stop grooming themselves. This can happen for a series of reasons from reduced flexibility to underlying medical conditions.

If your senior cat has stopped grooming, it’s important that you understand why, and how you can help them to keep them happy, healthy, and hygienic.

Why your senior cat might stop grooming

When a senior cat stops grooming, it can often be a sign of pain, a medical condition, or even depression. If you notice that your cat has suddenly stopped grooming, get them seen by your vet to rule out any underlying health issues. You should also watch out for other unusual behaviour, such as hiding away or not eating.


One of the most common reasons your senior cat may avoid grooming themselves is arthritis. This is a common ailment in older cats and can cause considerable discomfort when trying to reach certain areas.

Dental issues

Dental issues may also stop your cat from grooming, as they can cause pain and make it difficult for them to groom around their mouth and face. Check your cat’s teeth and gums regularly for potential problems, such as cracked or broken teeth; red, inflamed gums; and build-up of tartar and plaque.

Skin conditions

Some skin conditions, particularly those that cause itchiness, may inhibit a cat from grooming as it can worsen irritation of soreness. This can be the case if the condition is caused by an ingredient in their food or an external irritant. On the other hand, some skin conditions may also cause a cat to overgroom, in response to itchiness. It’s always best to have a vet examination to determine the underlying cause.

Lack of energy

As cats grow older, they may also find that the act of grooming has become too exhausting for them, so it is no longer a priority.


Cats suffering from depression often stop grooming altogether, while others over groom. Other signs to look out for include being off their food, withdrawing, or hiding.

How to help them with grooming

Cats are usually independent when it comes to grooming themselves, however, there are times when they could use some help. Regular grooming sessions not only keep your cat's fur clean and shiny but also help to prevent hairballs, skin irritation and infections. If you notice that your senior cat is struggling with their grooming, there are things you can do to assist them.

Getting them used to being helped

Begin by getting your senior cat used to having someone touch them regularly, by petting and massaging them. You can also try to introduce them to the brush or comb slowly, allowing them to sniff it and get used to it before attempting to brush them.

Grooming them in short sessions

Keep their fur in good condition by brushing them, using a wide-toothed metal comb or natural bristle brush, in the direction their hair grows. Be sure to cover areas that may get tangled or matted, such as behind their ears and their armpits. If you come across knots, be gentle and carefully tease them out with your fingers. To ensure you don’t overwhelm them, it’s best to keep each grooming session to a few minutes.

Making grooming a good experience

You can make grooming enjoyable for your senior cat by introducing it slowly and gently and by making sure they’re in a good mood. Use treats and praise to encourage them during the grooming process and ensure the room where you're grooming them is quiet and comfortable, free from distractions, and not too bright. Senior cats like routine, so creating a schedule and sticking to it will also help them feel at ease.


Taking care of a senior cat requires extra care and attention. If you notice that they’ve stopped grooming themselves, try to identify the cause and get them the help they require. Always reward your cat for desirable behaviour, and above all, make sure their grooming sessions are bonding moments for the two of you. And remember, if your cat shows any signs of discomfort or distress, stop immediately and seek advice from a veterinarian. For more advice on caring for your cat, check out our pet care blog.


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