Cats Hair Loss: Learn the Causes and Solutions
Cats Hair Loss is a very common condition, affecting many of the cases I see each week. Fortunately, it is rarely serious in the sense of being life-threatening. However, it can indicate that your kitty is quite miserable. It also can, in some cases, be a sign of a more serious underlying disease that, if diagnosed promptly, may be very treatable, but without early treatment can indeed be life-threatening.
For this reason, it is always important to notice if your cat is losing hair abnormally and to seek veterinary help if that happens.
Cats, of course, lose a certain amount of hair normally, just as people do. Anyone who lives with a cat knows that it's almost impossible to not get cat hair on your clothes and other belongings if you sit where the cat has sat.
This normal shedding of hair by cats is more pronounced during season changes and also during stress. If your cat seems to be perfectly healthy and doesn't have any bald patches or other abnormal areas, but is just shedding a lot, there is definitely something you can do to help.
The best thing you can do for your cat and for yourself to decrease the amount of cat hair in your home is brush your cat regularly. The best tool for this is the FURminator. It removes the loose undercoat and keeps your home tidier and helps prevent hairballs from forming inside your kitty.
There are times, however, when cats hair loss goes beyond normal shedding and indicates that there is a problem.
When cats lose excessive hair, it is either because (1) they are causing the hair to fall out themselves, often due to feeling itchy, or (2) due to a disorder that causes the hair to fall out by itself.
The first cause, traumatizing the hair themselves, is the most common reason, by far.
So ...if the most common reason of cats hair loss is from the cat removing the hair themselves (by licking, biting, scratching, etc.), then what is the most common reason a cat would do that? Itchiness.
And what is the most common cause of itchiness in cats? Allergies.
And what is the most common allergy, by far, from which cats suffer? If you guessed flea allergy, you'd be absolutely correct. Flea Allergy surpasses all other causes of hair loss in cats by leaps and bounds. If your cat is itchy and has hair loss or scabs on the skin, flea allergy should be assumed until proven otherwise Yes, there are other types of allergies: food allergy and inhalant allergies, but they are far less common.
And, yes, there are other causes of hair loss in cats:
- other parasites, such as mites (mange, ear mites)
- fungal infections like ringworm
- abscesses (usually caused by bite wounds from other animals)
- Psychogenic - the best way to understand this is to think of it as a sort of obsessive/compulsive disease. Some cats lick and bite and overgroom to the point of hair loss due to psychological reasons.
- Endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism, Cushings disease (rare), and diabetes
- A reaction to a medication or other substance taken orally
- Contact dermititis - a reaction to direct contact with something irritating or allergenic
- Dry skin
About 2 months ago, he started licking himself excessively at the base of his tail on his back. He licked so much the hair came off. I purchased an anti-itch hydrocortisone spray and applied as directed and he seemed to improve. But now he seems to be obsessed with licking himself in other areas like his stomach and back. He licks so much he has developed an open sore on his lip. What should I do for this? What causes cats hair loss?
Whiskers goes outdoors in the summer and stays indoors in the winter.
ANSWER Whiskers has a classic case of flea allergy. There can be many fleas on cats, but if the cat doesn't have true flea allergy, there will be practically no reaction. However, cats that have true flea allergy can become miserable from just one flea bite. A cat scratching from flea allergy irritates the very areas you mention.
Whiskers needs serious flea control for cats! A product such as Frontline Plus Cat or Revolution for cats applied once monthly to the back of his neck will kill the cat fleas.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis is very common and very uncomfortable. Frontline Plus Cat or Advantage for Cats are both excellent, safe products to use, but they are flea treatments and do not alleviate the itching until all the fleas are gone. Whiskers doesn't need to suffer needlessly until the flea protection has a chance to get rid of his fleas when there is cat medicine to stop the itch. Whiskers needs to be seen by your veterinarian right away.
Of course, there are other causes of cats hair loss. Cats can have a type of obsessive/compulsive disorder and lick themselves until their skin is raw. Sedatives and antidepressants along with Feliway can help such disorders, but there is no doubt in my mind that this is not the problem that Whiskers has.
Also, the open sore on his lip is almost definitely not from his licking, but is another allergic reaction to the fleas, often referred to as Rodent Ulcer (eosinophilic ulcer). The steroids will help with that condition also.
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