Please help. My cat grooms vigorously and shakes a leg at the same time!

by Liz
(Canterbury, UK)

Photo added by Michael (Admin) - Photo by Dasha Gaian (Flickr)

Photo added by Michael (Admin) - Photo by Dasha Gaian (Flickr)

I have adopted 2 seven year old long haired cats who are brother and sister.

They are very human orientated and lovely cats who are indoor mostly.

When they groom they will suddenly jump up, lick their backs as if something is really irritating them and shake a leg or foot for a few seconds.

Their coats are lovely and they have no parasites. Any suggestions?


Hi Liz... thanks for visiting and asking..

You refer to two bits of behavior. "Jumping up" to lick their backs. What you mean, I guess, is that they move vigorously and fast, almost suddenly. And groom with purpose.

The other is shaking the leg or foot for a few seconds.

I'll ask you first to double check if there are fleas. Fleas can be hard to see. You more or less have to have a flea comb to catch and see the flea and the small black bits that they produce. The small particles are feces and eggs. When combing with a flea comb you have to do it with purpose, gently without pulling on the fur and move fast when removing the comb as fleas combed out jump back onto the cat and they do it fast. I crush them against the comb with my thumb nail!

It is important to make the experience pleasant for the cat. Cats like flea combing because it removes the irritation. The key is to do it lovingly and not to pull fur too much or at all if possible. This is based on personal experience.

If you haven't got a flea comb I would advise getting one. They are very simple and very cheap. Your vet will sell them.

If you have not checked for fleas with a flea comb, and if there are fleas (no criticism as even in the best homes they can be around) this might explain the leg shaking. Cats scratch the irritating areas of their coats where fleas are present. They sometimes don't connect with their body! This looks like leg shaking. Scratching is an automatic reaction to irritation and cats sometimes just scratch thin air near their fur but in the fur.

If you have checked for fleas as described then the leg shaking is probably of no consequence. Some cats do this if for example you touch their hind leg. They don't like it normally and pull away and shake it a bit. Or they may have dry skin which irritates. Oily food (mackerel for example) might help for dry skin.

As to the jumping up and licking (grooming) cats do groom themselves vigorously sometimes. They can be very focused and they can move quickly into position ignoring stimuli around them. This can happen even if the coat is parasite free.

But the vigor of movement might also indicate irritation from the dreaded flea (or some other parasite that you can't see or as suggested dry skin).

I would check again for parasites. The presence of fleas if in small numbers does not alter the appearance of the coat. It can still look great despite one or two fleas.

Good luck. Hope this helps. Please report back. If I am miles off the mark simply add some more information and I will have a second go!

Our excellent regular visitors might well have a better answer.

Michael Avatar

From Please help. My cat grooms vigorously and shakes a leg at the same time! to Cat Health Problems

Comments for
Please help. My cat grooms vigorously and shakes a leg at the same time!

Click here to add your own comments

Sep 10, 2010 Thanks
by: Michael

Thanks Ruth for that insight. Best.

Michael Avatar

Sep 10, 2010 My thoughts
by: Ruth

Hello Liz, if you are sure your cats have no fleas and if you worm them regularly too then it's possible that while grooming themselves they are touching the sensitive spot all cats have on their backs. Notice if you scratch them there they sort of look round and pull a funny face. It's nothing to worry about.
The only other thing which causes cats to do what you describe, is blocked anal glands, but that's quite rare in cats and I wouldn't think both your cats would have the same trouble anyway.The glands irritate and the nearest the cat can get to them is the top of the tail.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

This entry was posted in Cat Health and tagged , , by Michael Broad. Bookmark the permalink.

About Michael Broad

Michael is retired! He retired at age 57 and at Aug 2018 is approaching 70. He worked in many jobs. The last job he did was as a solicitor practicing general law. He loves animals and is passionate about animal welfare. He also loves photography and nature. He hates animal abuse. He has owned and managed this site since 2007. There are around 13k pages so please use the custom search facility!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please try and upload photos that are small in size of max 500px width and 50 KB size. Large images typical of most default settings on digital cameras may fail to upload. Thanks. Comment rules: (1) respect others (2) threatening, harassing, bullying, insulting and being rude to others is forbidden (3) advocating cat cruelty is forbidden (4) trolls (I know who they are) must use real name and upload a photo of themselves. Enforcement: (1) inappropriate comments are deleted before publication and (2) commenters who demonstrate a desire to flout the rules are banned. Failure to comply with (4) results in non-publication. Lastly, please avoid adding links because spam software regards comments with links as spam and holds them in the spam folder. I delete the spam folder contents daily.