A shiny, full, luxurious coat is a great sign of a healthy cat. Likewise, if your cat begins losing hair in patches, clumps, or overall, it could be a sign of a greater health issue. The possible causes of cat hair loss, called alopecia, are many, and diagnosing the condition that underlies hair loss might take some time. You should work closely with your vet to identify the source of the problem.
Common causes of cat hair loss, or alopecia, can range from allergic reactions to hormone imbalances to an infestation of some pest or another. Although the different causes can be difficult to pinpoint, most are fairly easy to address and remedy.
Below are some of the most common reasons your cat might be losing hair and what can be done about it.
Cat Hair Loss Due to Allergies
Like humans, cats can suffer from both environmental and food-based allergies. Such allergies are a leading cause of feline alopecia and can present in patchy loss of hair and itchy, inflamed skin.
Determining the exact source of an allergic reaction can be difficult. Your vet can run a series of skin tests to pinpoint the cause. You can also try removing certain things from your cat’s play area to see if that has any effect; or slowly change elements of your cat’s diet if you suspect the allergy may be foodborne.
In the case of environmental sources, your vet may prescribe topical or atopic allergy medications and treatments. If your cat is allergic to their food you will need to change their diet over the course of a week, so as not to upset their digestive system. Cats particularly prone to food allergies may do well with hypoallergenic cat foods.
Feline Hair Loss Due to Fleas
Cats who are particularly sensitive to fleas may develop hair loss during an infestation. It’s not the fleas themselves that cause hair loss, but their saliva. Flea-based alopecia is particularly evident as patchy hair loss on the cat’s hindquarters.
Rid your cat of fleas using a cycle of flea shampoos and treatments. You may also treat the itching and hair loss with corticosteroids or antihistamines. Prevent future flea infestations by applying a regular monthly spot-on treatment.
Ringworm as a Cause of Feline Hair Loss
Another common cause of feline hair loss is a fungal infection known as ringworm. Ringworm, which is easily spread through contact with infected animals, causes the hair in adult cats to become brittle and break off in patches. Kittens exhibit reddish areas on the face, ears, and paw pads, sometimes accompanied by a white or gray crust.
Your vet can determine if a ringworm infection is present through a fungal skin culture. Those cats who test positive will be treated with antifungal shampoos, creams, sprays, or medications.
Thyroid Disease as a Cause of Cat Hair Loss
Cats can suffer from conditions of the thyroid gland that cause too little or too much thyroid hormone to be produced. Hyperthyroidism in cats can cause many problems, including hair loss. Hair can become very dull and brittle, thin, or may be easily pulled out while you’re petting or brushing your cat.
Again, a trip to the vet is the only reliable way to determine thyroid disease. Treatment for hyperthyroidism may include surgery or the use of radioactive iodine.
Psychogenic Dermatitis as a Cause of Hair Loss in Cats
Some cats may suffer from alopecia due to excessive grooming habits. This condition is known as psychogenic dermatitis, and your cat may have it if they lick to the point of hair loss.
Usually, excessive grooming is the result of stress or boredom. This condition is best treated through changes to your cat’s environment. If you can make your cat’s world more exciting, less stressful, or more interactive, you might see a positive effect.
Medications for behavior and anxiety modification are also available.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.