Cat Hair Loss - Common Reasons For A Cat To Lose Hair

Cat Hair Loss

Cat hair loss is not that uncommon and can be caused by many different ailments and problems.

Your veterinarian is the best person from whom to obtain advice, diagnosis and treatment.

Here are some of the more common reasons for a cat to lose hair. The list is by no means exhaustive.

Fleas, Ticks and Allergies

Loss of hair on the stomach and inner thighs may be caused by the animal obsessively licking, biting or scratching due to irritation from mites, fleas or other parasites.

Many cats are allergic to fleas, one bite can result in a severe reaction, resulting in the cat worrying the area so much that it not only loses hair but also, eventually, becomes ulcerated.

With advice from your veterinarian you will need to eradicate the parasites not only from your pet, but also from your pet's environment.

Food Allergy Causing Cat Hair Loss

Other causes for hair loss in cats can show very similar symptoms, and often the cat has more problems than a food allergy alone.

cat with healthy looking coat

Because of this your vet will likely want to rule out other causes before testing for food allergies.

Cats with an allergy to a food, or food ingredient, itch all over and may scratch excessively.

It is the eating of certain proteins that causes the problem and your pet could be placed on a 90-day trial diet.

 Cats are more likely to become allergic to a food that they have been fed for a long time.  It is wise to vary your cats diet by changing. for instance from chicken to turkey to lamb to salmon and then back again to chicken.  It is more difficult to do this if your cat was only fed one food during kittenhood.  Learn more about food and nutrition for cats.

Ringworm and Cat Hair Loss

Despite its name Ringworm has nothing to do with worms. Ringworm is a fungal infection that grows in the cat's hair, the exterior layers of the cat's skin or in its claws.

Some cats with ringworm will have a very noticeable skin condition, including loss of fur, while others will look normal.

Often there are circular patches of hair loss on the head, body and ears.

Cats can become infected with ringworm by coming in contact with an infected cat, or other animal, from a human or by being in contact with an infected object such as bedding, carpet, furniture or grooming tools.

Ringworm is contagious and can be passed from animal to human and vice versa. Children are particularly at risk of infection.

Ringworm can clear itself without treatment (although the cat remains a carrier of the fungus.) It is best to take your cat to your veterinarian in all cases where you suspect infection.

Treatment will usually be by tablets and ointment, or lotion for the skin.

Endocrine Alopecia - Hormonal Hair Loss in Cats

The endocrine system regulates the hormones that are discharged into the cat's body. Specific hormones are responsible for the growth of hair and when there is a surplus, or a deficiency in these hair growth hormones hair loss can occur.

Under normal conditions hair grows in cycles. A period of growth, then rest and then the old hair will shed. When the growth cycle is defective, such as an imbalance of hormones, new hairs will not grow to replace the shed hairs.

The hormonal control varies with different parts of the cat's coat, therefor loss of hair can result in bald patches in one part, whilst the coat is normal elsewhere.

Most usually the body and tail are affected but normal hair growth remains on the head, face and legs. Your veterinarian may treat cat hair loss due to endocrine alopecia with a course of hormone therapy.

Feline Atopy

Atopy is a pruritic (itchiness) disease, one of the symptoms is fur being lost around the underbelly, base of the tail, feet and face. It affects a small minority of cats who suffer a hypersensitive reaction after inhaling ordinary house dust or other allergens.

The onset of Atopy is usually when the cat is around six months to five years and, if left untreated, the condition typically worsens as the cat ages.

Psychogenic Alopecia

If your veterinarian rules out any possible medical causes for your cat's hair loss, he or she may determine that the problem is caused by Psychogenic Alopecia.

This put simply, means your cat is over-grooming or hair chewing because of psychological reasons such as stress, nervousness, fear or anxiety.

Cats are intensely susceptible to changes in their routine or to their environment.

Practically any change can upset and stress out a cat. An addition to the household, new baby, new partner, or a new pet can cause kitty anxiety.

Even the arrival of short stay guests can be a source of stress, as well as changes to the food that you feed your cat or even changes to the time you leave the house to go to work.

Cat with healthy coat.A cat with a healthy coat. Any hair loss or bald patches on a cat may be a sign that all is not well.

Cats not only groom themselves to keep their coats clean but also to give themselves a feeling of comfort and as a way to relax.

It is usual for a cat to groom as displacement behavior when temporary stressed, but with some cats there is a danger of excessive prolonged grooming to the point where hair loss occurs.

Extreme licking and chewing can produce patches where the cat's hair has become nothing more than stubble. Some cats may bite and pull out substantial chunks of hair.

Sometimes even though a medical condition triggered the cat hair loss, a nervous cat may continue its excessive grooming long after the condition has been successfully treated.

If it is established that it is psychogenic alopecia alone that is causing your cat to lose hair, you can try and find the cause of the anxiety and if possible eliminate it.

head of a cat

Often though the exact cause cannot be pin pointed or the cat, being of the nervous type, reacts in the same way to every possible cause of stress in its environment.

In this case your vet may prescribe anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication to keep the psychogenic behavior in check.

Many people find that using the Feliway Diffuser in their home calms their cat down enough that the over grooming behavior ceases.

Comfort Zone Feliway Diffuser Kit for Cat Calming

Cat Hair Loss and Feline Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid glands produce the hormones used to regulate the cat’s metabolism.

If these glands become overactive, they release too high a level of hormones and this can be detrimental to the cat’s state of health. Hyperthyroidism can result in, heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, liver damage, weight loss, patchy hair loss and a dull coat. - Feline Hyperthyroidism.

A very rare condition in cats that can cause hair loss is hypothyroidism.  In this case the thyroid is not producing enough hormones. It can occur after thyroid surgery and is temporary.

Pyoderma and Hot Spots

Pyoderma is a bacterial infection of the skin.  There can be moist, red hot spots or sores with pus. They develop when the cat's immune system is low enough to allow the bacteria to grow in places where the skin has been broken like bug bites, animal bites, scratches, burns, abrasions, or rashes.  The cat licks and scratches the area and a bald spot appears. The condition is treated with anitbiotics either orally or with an antibacterial salve.  Treatment needs to take place before the infection reaches the blood stream and a more serious infection occurs.

Cat Hair Loss -- Mange

Demodectic Mange

This is a very rare form of mange in cats and is more common in Siamese and Burmese breeds. However, any breed that is an outdoor cat is at high risk.  It is caused by the Demodex mite which lives in the hair particles of the cat or in the outer layer of skin. They cause severe inflammation of the skin and  cat hair loss..

The first signs of this type of mange is a redish brown discoloration and hair loss around the nose and the edges of the ears. It must be treated by a veterinarian and it can be fatal if left untreated.

Notoedric Mange

Notoedric mange is also known as scabies. It is extremely contagious and itchy. The mites are usually infected in the head and neck area but can also infect the legs and genitalia areas.  Intense itching and hair loss on the head and ears along with scabs are the first signs. This mite can also spread to other animals in the home but infection of humans is temporary. If you suspect your cat or another animal in your home has scabies, you must get them to the vet as soon as possible.

Feline Cushing's Disease

Cushing's disease is a serious condition that sometimes affects middle-aged and elderly female cats and sometimes male cats. It is a tumor on the adrenal gland and can cause thinning hair and bald spots.  There is a long list of other symptoms for this disease as well as cat hair loss.

Usually the best treatment for cats is surgery to remove the tumor and sometimes the adrenal gland or glands.

Read about more cat skin problems.

Please remember that this page is purely informational, the best source of advice and treatment for your cat losing hair is your veterinarian.

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