Do Cats Get Oily Fur When Stressed and Why?

Cats are beautiful creatures and normally keep their coats looking good. They are natural groomers and their rough tongues do a good job at distributing the natural oils in the skin. However, sometimes their coat can start to look greasy. 

Do cats get oily fur when stressed and why? Stress typically isn’t the reason why cats get oily fur. The reason for the change is your cat is no longer properly grooming himself. It’s up to you to determine whether the lack of grooming is due to a physical problem or an underlying issue like stress.

Read more in the article below to learn about why cat’s quit grooming themselves and what you should do about it.

Cats and Grooming

Cats love to groom themselves and constant grooming helps keep them healthy. It cleans the coats of allergens and parasites as well as an evening out of the oils from the skin. 

Felines are built to self-groom more than many other animals. They are flexible, have scratchy tongues, and have agile paws. Grooming does several things for the cat besides helping it look good. 

Grooming helps in circulation, helps maintain their proper body temperature, reduces parasites and allergens, and provides an outlet for boredom. Cats also relieve stress by grooming so it’s a bit illogical to assume that they are not grooming because they are stressed. A stressed cat would groom more. 

Yet, not grooming properly may indeed stress out your cat. 

Read: Why Does My Cat Crouching When Walking Outside?

Reasons for Failed Grooming

Physical conditions are likely the reason why your cat isn’t properly grooming himself. This is a type to look at your cat closely and determine if there are physical limitations to his grooming.  Four possible reasons why your cat may not be grooming include:

  • Illness
  • Age
  • Arthritis
  • Weight
  • Illness

Cats will stop grooming themselves when they aren’t feeling well. Greasy fur can mean your cat’s health isn’t all that it was and that should be investigated. 

Oily fur accompanied by dandruff could indicate skin issues like allergies. Cats can be allergic to things just as humans are. Some problems that oil fur indicate are nutritional issues, allergies, infections, thyroid issues, and decreased mobility.

Look at your cat’s other habits to see if they have changed. Check to see if he is eating and drinking normally. It doesn’t hurt to check the litter box too to see if your cat is urinating and pooping normally.

Look to see if the poop has worms or is in other ways different. A cat that doesn’t get well in a couple of days should be taken to the vet for diagnosis. Most feline illnesses, like a cold, will only last for a couple of days so anything beyond that should be looked at by a vet. 

Cats are pretty resilient in recovering from basic illnesses so a diagnosis and treatment will help your cat rebound quickly. 

Read: Are Bengal Cats Stronger Than Maine Coons?

Common Chronic Illnesses That Affect Grooming

Three common illnesses that affect a cat’s grooming habits are periodontal disease, kidney issues, and diabetes. Periodontal disease makes using their teeth and mouth painful and that includes both grooming and eating. Check your cat’s teeth to see what shape they are in and see if your cat is eating the normal amounts.

Some cats, particularly older animals, get kidney disease and that will make them not feel good. That has to be diagnosed by a vet but is usually accompanied by sudden weight loss. 

Diabetes will result in a sudden loss of energy and your cat will just be too tired to groom. This will also need to be diagnosed by a vet. 


Age can be an issue for some cats and grooming. As felines age, some will take less care in grooming themselves. They tire more easily and tend to be more lethargic. You will have to take more time to help them out by grooming them, brushing them, and using non-water products, so they remain as healthy as possible.


Along with age, arthritis could be a reason why your cat isn’t properly grooming himself. This is more common among older felines. Symptoms of arthritis are slower movement, especially in the morning or after the cat has been sleeping, a lack of jumping like he used to do, and seeking out warmer places to lay. 

Cats naturally seek out warm places to sleep but a cat with arthritis will want to lay next to a heater or the fireplace all the time. 

There are treatments for felines with arthritis that will lessen the pain so ask your vet what is available. 

Read: Are Bengals Good Travel Cats? 


An overweight cat is similar to an overweight human in that it can’t reach parts of its body. The cat then gives up trying to groom like he did when he was thinner. Look at your cat and find the right statistical weight and food servings for him. Diet food for felines exists so you can easily put him on a diet if he is too chunky to groom himself. 

Read: Why Does My Cat Wobble When Wearing a Harness? 

Does Your Cat Have Seborrhea?

Seborrhea is a term related to excessive skin oil production in felines. Some cats develop an overabundance of oils because their body produces too much. That can lead to greasy-looking fur. Seborrhea is something that should be diagnosed by a vet. 


Just as not grooming is a sign of possible health issues, overgrooming also is a sign of health issues. Overgrooming can cause skin irritations, infection, and hair loss. One common reason for overgrooming is parasites, like fleas, or allergies. 

Aside from flea or allergy problems, a reason why cats overgroom is anxiety and stress. Rather than stress causing oily fur from a lack of grooming, it is far more likely that stress results in skin problems from overgrooming. 

Read: How to Become a Bengal Cat Breeder?

Treating a Cat’s Oily Fur

You can treat your cat’s oil fur problem after diagnosing the underlying reason for your cat not grooming himself. Some options include improving his diet and helping him with grooming using a degreasing shampoo.

A change in diet could help with the overproduction of skin oils, reduce and basic nutrition to fight illness, weight issues, kidney problems, and even diabetes. 

Many people are buying cheaper pet food because of rising food costs. Yet, that may not be the best solution because it could affect your cat’s health. Be sure to look on the package for the percentage of crude oil and protein. 

Also, look to see where the food is made. It’s safest if it’s made in the United States as U.S. standards are superior to those in foreign countries.

It can take months for your cat to return to normal grooming habits so you may need to help with grooming while you wait. You can use a degreasing shampoo to help control the problem if your cat will allow that. There are also non-wet options for cleaning cats.

Final Thoughts

Oily cat fur looks bad and feels gross. It’s important to watch for other symptoms to figure out what is going on with your cat’s health and to know if it’s something you can manage or whether you should take him to the vet. 

Take your cat to your veterinarian if there is a question of whether he is sick. Most illnesses can be treated now just as many are treated in humans and managing your cat’s healthcare will make both of you feel better.