Categories: Cat Health

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)

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.

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

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

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Sep 10, 2010 Thanks
by: Michael

Thanks Ruth for that insight. Best.

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.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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