Did you just pet your cat and out came a few strands of its precious hair? Do you keep finding clumps of your kitty’s hair around the house? This leaves you wondering - why is my cat losing hair?! Does he have food allergies? What is going on? Before you fret, know that there can be a number of reasons for your feline’s fur loss.
Cat hair loss is a common problem. They could be losing fur in an asymmetrical or symmetrical pattern. You'll know when you see a bald spot on a cat or cat hair loss patches.
Also known as alopecia, hair loss in cats can be full or partial. You’ll need to take your fur baby to a veterinarian to get a full check-up done to rule out medical reasons for your cat’s fur loss.
In this article, we’ll be probing into feline fur loss- reasons behind it, treatment, and preventive steps you can take.
Cat Losing Hair - Symptoms
It is easier to spot hair loss when your cat is losing clumps of it. But sometimes hair loss can be subtle and gradual. You’ll be able to spot it only when your cat has lost a significant amount of hair or developed bald patches over its body. These bald patches are called hot spots.
These hot spots or bald spots are probably the symptom you'll first notice. They can occur almost anywhere on your cat's body, but pay attention to their ears, around the eyes and on the belly and back.
You can prevent significant hair loss by being attentive to the slightest change in your fur baby’s coat. Before observable bald patches appear, your cat would show signs like fuzzing of hair, or rough fur.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
Why Is My Cat Losing Hair?
There are a number of reasons for feline alopecia, which can sometimes lead to misdiagnosis. It is important you take your kitty to a vet for a thorough examination as soon as you spot the first sign of hair loss. Early diagnosis improves the chances of your cat being treated successfully.
Broadly speaking, the causes of hair loss are either due to behavioral/emotional issues or medical conditions. Let’s decipher them one by one.
Does your cat keep licking itself all the time? Is your cat losing hair on legs or belly? You might think that’s just what they do to keep themselves clean. But there is a chance your furry feline is grooming itself a bit excessively.
Excessive grooming is a common problem among cats. It’s one of the main reasons why your cat might be losing its hair. This is a calming technique used by a lot of animals but unfortunately, it can get out of hand leading to hair loss.
One reason for this behavior could be that your cat gets nervous easily.
Wondering how your cat could be a nervous goofball? You shower your attention on them, you even groom them yourself and they have been with you since their birth. So, from where did they pick this personality trait? Well, some personality traits get passed on from the mother. It’s possible that despite being in a loving home, your cat still grooms itself excessively.
Stress and Anxiety
Another reason your cat is losing its hair is because of stress and anxiety. Under stress, cats tend to scratch and lick themselves way too much. This is a condition called “psychogenic alopecia”.
There could be several reasons why your cat has anxiety. If your neighborhood has too many dogs or there are changes in their immediate environment, it could put your cat under duress.
Your cat could also be suffering from separation anxiety if you are away from home for long durations. Surprised? You thought your cat couldn’t care any less whether you are at home or away? Well, the truth is- they care! Some cats could build up anxiety around it leading to excessive grooming.
Even bringing in new furniture or taking a step as huge as changing houses (another reason for cat microchipping) could stress your fur buddy. If you bring in a new cat or a dog into your house, your cat could take some time to get used to it, or in the worst-case scenario reject the new pet altogether.
Allergies are one of the biggest reasons behind hair loss in cats. Your kitty can be allergic to insects, dust, pollen or even medicines. It could also be an allergy to a certain type of food.
Keep an eye on your cat to observe if it is licking a specific area. Your fur baby could be excessively licking the area where it hurts because of allergies, so much so, it could develop bald spots. The good news is allergies are easy to treat. However, you may have to keep giving your cat allergy medications or hypoallergenic cat food for the rest of its life.
Ringworm infection is a fungal infection that causes loss of hair in a ring pattern. If you see a scaly, crusted, or bald patch on your cat, it can be because of this infection.
The most common spots for ringworm infection are the face, tail, feet, or on-ear tips. If the infection is widespread, you’ll see a few bumps with open sores on your cat.
Although cats like to keep themselves clean, they can still catch parasites causing hair loss in cats. Mites, Fleas, and lice are the most common parasites that affect cats. Your cat will lick its body excessively when they have a parasite infestation.
Didn’t spot any fleas or other parasites on your kitty? Look for other symptoms like a dull coat, vomiting, and diarrhea. Loss of appetite in your cat is another symptom that it may have a parasite infestation.
Immune system problems
Nutritional deficiencies can lead to immune system problems. Especially scenarios like deficiency of specific white blood cells called phagocytes could be the cause for a weaker immune system. If that’s the case with your cat, it will always be susceptible to infections and other issues.
One of the effects of a weak immune system is your fur baby will have a dull hair coat. Your kitty could end up shedding a lot more hair than normal.
Diabetes is another reason why your cat could be losing its hair. Diabetic cats tend to stop grooming themselves as regularly as they normally do.
This causes a drop down in the quality of your furry feline’s fur, with the coat becoming dull and less dense. Other symptoms for diabetes include excessive thirst and lethargy.
You thought only humans suffer from thyroid issues. Isn’t it? Unfortunately, your pretty kitty could be undergoing troubles posed by an overactive thyroid. In fact, it is one of the most common problems faced by cats. As it turns out, this is also a leading reason why your cat starts to lose hair.
If your cat has stopped grooming itself or has reduced the frequency, it could be a symptom for an overactive thyroid. Other symptoms include an unhealthy increase in appetite as well as excessive thirst.
While it is a rare occurrence, cancer could be one of the reasons why your cat is losing hair. Felines can suffer from a certain type of cancer called neoplasia. This causes aggressive hair loss. If your cat does not show any other symptoms, cancer could be the reason.
Other Reasons for Cat Hair Loss
Cats are least likely to share their pain. They hide it quite efficiently and by the time you notice they’re in pain, the discomfort has become intense. One of the most prominent signs of pain in cats are the subtle changes in their behavior.
Is your kitty licking a particular area rather aggressively? The reason could be pain. But what’s that got to do with hair loss? Well, cats lick to try and heal their pain. Unfortunately, if the pain is internal, licking the area may not be enough to get rid of the pain. In such a case, your cat may continue to lick the area, causing it to lose hair.
For example, if your cat has arthritis, they will keep licking themselves in the area where they’re suffering. This excessive licking will lead to hair loss.
Your kitty can be genetically predisposed to hair loss. Some pure breeds tend to have genes that result in hair loss. This is especially prevalent in the Himalayan and Bengal cat breeds. The good news is- in most cases, the hair usually grows back. Of course, unless you have a Sphynx!
Hair loss in cats might seem like a trivial problem at first. You might be tempted to wait it out assuming the problem would get resolved on its own. That’s where we go wrong. Take your kitty for a thorough medical checkup as soon as you see the first signs of balding.
Your vet will perform a thorough examination to rule out serious causes like cancer. They will first check for fleas and flea dirt as they’re the most obvious reason.
If the vet decides the hair loss is due to a skin related issue, further investigation would be required. In this case, a skin biopsy will be done to determine the underlying cause.
If none of these causes pan out, a blood serum chemistry panel is conducted to see if there is an overactive thyroid or any other hormonal imbalances behind the fur loss in cats. In rare cases, x-rays and ultrasounds would be needed to see if there is cancer or other abnormalities.
Once the diagnosis is made, your vet will decide what kind of treatment your cat would need to deal with the issue.
Treatment for Cat Hair Loss
1. Medical issues
If the hair loss is due to medical issues such as hyperthyroidism or other hormonal imbalances, medication is the way to treat the problem. Topical treatments are available to treat your cat based on the cause.
2. Managing stress levels
If stress is what’s causing hair loss, there are a few things you can do to help your cat. Putting perches or climbing posts in key areas, like near windows, allow them to feel secure. Sitting on higher ground and being able to survey their environment from above relaxes your fur baby.
You can also give your cat some privacy by placing some cardboard boxes around the house. Help them spend their extra energy by using interactive toys. This can also help with releasing all pent-up nervousness and anxiety.
In case these don’t work, you can also try a Feliway diffuser, which releases a pheromone that calms cats. This also works in cases where there are multiple kitties stressing out over a turf war. The diffuser will calm the cats and help them get along.
You can also try cat calming collars. They are infused with calming pheromones, mimicking the ones mother cats produce to calm their kittens. When your furry feline wears this collar, it reminds them of the same love and security they felt with their mother. This calms them down.
Didn’t like the idea of diffusers and collars? You can definitely try thunder shirts! They are cool as well as help you calm down your kitty. Thundershirts are compression vests exerting gentle pressure on your cat, which feels much like swaddling a baby.
This gentle pressure can help calm your anxious cat. Just remember to evaluate how amenable your kitty is to weaning this vet. Be mindful of the pressure your cat can withstand. You don’t want to stress it out with a vest meant to keep it stress-free!
3. Anti-anxiety supplements and medications
If none of the above work, your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety supplements. Anxitane and Composure are two of the options you can try under your vet’s supervision. Some companies also make calming food for cats.
For instance, you can try Royal Canin Feline Calm Dry cat food. This prescription food for kitties is made using a formula, which the company claims to have a calming effect. This digestible and balanced cat food can help you manage your cat’s stress and anxiety. Several buyers have given it positive feedback, with some of them claiming it to be ‘worth every penny’.
Note that most retailers will require a vet's approval before you'll be allowed to purchase this calming cat food.
In an extreme case, your cat could be put under anti-anxiety medication. Medicines such as Fluoxetine and Paroxetine are available for use.
Your vet could also give you certain topical medications to apply to your cat. This can be especially helpful to your kitty, as it would provide much-needed relief from pain or itching it might be experiencing.
You can also opt for behavioral therapy to try and stop your cat from scratching and biting the affected area. If you can somehow break the cycle of scratching, treatments or medication you’ll be using on your furry feline will have enough time to work and heal the problem.
How to Prevent Cat Hair Loss
Prevention is certainly better than cure! There are certain things you can do to prevent hair loss in your cat. If you see your feline pulling at its fur or biting at it, you must thoroughly examine the skin and hair. Use a fine-toothed comb for this so that individual areas can be examined. You can even do this once a week just to be sure there’s no flea or tick infestation.
Is your cat scratching just one particular area? Is your cat losing hair on its belly? Or, tail and ears? Whatever the case, examine these particular areas very minutely. Nip the problem right in its budding stage.
Here comes a shocker- your kitty could be losing hair because of you! Wondering how? Well, the answer lies in the cat bedding. The bedding you’ve provided your cat could be rough on its precious soft fur, triggering hair loss. Even cat toys and cat scratching posts can sometimes be too rough for your cat’s hair.
Recovery from hair loss or alopecia depends upon several factors, including the cause of the fur loss in the first place. If follicle conditions are the main reason, unfortunately, the hair loss might be permanent.
If the fur loss is due to infections or other treatable problems, recovery will depend upon the treatment. Make sure you follow your vet’s instructions thoroughly, monitor your kitty’s condition frequently, and stick by the treatment course. You can help your cat heal faster by feeding them a balanced and healthy diet, reducing stress in their living environment, and by avoiding major changes until your kitty is fully recovered.
Cat Losing Hair - Final Thoughts
There are a number of causes for feline fur loss. It could be due to behavioral issues like stress and anxiety, ringworm infection, parasites, or even allergies. Immune system problems and chronic diseases like diabetes and thyroid problems can also be the reason for your cat losing hair. Your cat can also be genetically predisposed to losing fur.
Overall, hair loss in cats can be due to a number of reasons. You need to take your precious kitty to the vet to check for infections, allergies, and other medical issues causing fur loss. Besides treatment prescribed by the vet, providing a safe environment, healthy food, and playtime can help your cat get better faster.
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