What does it mean if your cat is losing hair? If you’ve noticed your cat having patchy hair, bald spots, or thinning hair, you’re probably wondering why.
This article was reviewed by our expert veterinarian, Chris Vanderhoof (DMV).
Hair loss or alopecia can be characterized by all of these symptoms in cats. The hair loss may be partial or complete. There are two types of cat alopecia:
Cats with congenital alopecia are born with the condition, and hair loss is characterized by hair follicles not developing normally.
Acquired alopecia on the other hand is hair loss that develops as a result of an underlying health condition that disrupts the hair follicles. It can happen at any age, and there are a variety of possible causes that range from an allergy to parasites such as mites, and metabolic disease, among others. More often than not, this can cause discomfort, and the scratching or biting can lead to hair loss.
So if you notice that your cat is exhibiting symptoms of alopecia, should you be worried? The answer depends on what is causing it. There are causes that are just minor, but there are also those that indicate an underlying illness that may be serious. Let us get to know more about alopecia below.
What Causes Hair Loss In Cats?
Self-trauma secondary to discomfort or itchiness
This is the most common cause of acquired alopecia. According to research, most of the time, it is a result of conditions such as allergies, parasites (ticks, fleas, mites), and infections. A way for you to know if your cat is causing trauma to their fur is to pluck one strand of hair and view it with a microscope. If the hair is normal, the end will taper but if it is traumatized, the end will be blunted.
Diseases that can directly damage hair follicles
Such diseases include fungal (ex. ringworm), bacterial, and parasitic-related (fleas, lice, mites).
Diseases that can prevent or slow down hair growth
Examples are: Hormonal imbalances such as hyperthyroidism, nutritional imbalances, and Cushing’s disease.
Conditions that may cause temporary hair loss
These include: lactation, pregnancy, or after having a severe illness.
Post clipping alopecia
This may happen when hair takes a period of time to grow again after having been shaved.
Hair Loss On a Cat’s Different Body Parts
Cat losing hair on back legs
There are various reasons why a cat may be losing hair on their hind legs. Some of the possible reasons include: feline folliculitis, stress, pain, allergies, and parasites.
Cat losing hair on the back near tail
For cats who are losing hair in their lower back (near the base of their tail), a common cause is a problem with fleas.
Cat losing hair on ears
Cat losing hair around eyes
When a cat loses hair around their eyes, it can be attributed to genetics (more common in short hair breeds), aging, stress, mange, and fleas.
Cats may also lose hair in their bellies, necks, and noses. The causes of this may vary so it’s best to consult with your veterinarian to be able to determine the cause and administer treatment if necessary.
Treatment of Hair Loss in Cats
Depending on what the underlying cause of your cat’s hair loss is, treatment may vary. Below are some of the possible treatments that may be recommended by your vet:
1. Treatment for Parasites
Because many products may have forms for both dogs and cats, always remember to only use a product on your cat that is specifically labeled for use in cats.
2. Topical Treatments
Examples include prednisolone, antihistamines, cyclosporine, and fluoxetine (for behavior management).
4. Antifungals and/or Antibiotics
5. Environmental Enrichment Methods
Improving access to their litter box, food, and water; mental and physical activities; toys.
6. Elimination Diet
This may be recommended if any allergy is suspected.
When to Visit The Vet
If you notice any of these changes in your cat, contact your vet to determine what is causing your cat’s alopecia. There are many possibilities, ranging from minor to serious, so it is important to have a diagnosis from your vet to know what exactly is causing your cat to lose hair and how you can address it.
- Patches of dark skin;
- Scaly, dry skin;
- Losing their whiskers;
- Excessive thirst;
- Eating too much / too little.
As a pet parent, you are the one who knows your cat best and so if you are worried, make sure to contact your vet. Also, to be able to watch over your cat even when you are away, interactive pet cameras such as the Petcube Cam would be great to have.
Since day one, our mission has been to connect pets with their owners. With it, you can see, talk, and keep tabs on your pet. It is also very helpful in finding out when something’s amiss with your pet, so you may be able to address the issues early on.
When it comes to our pet’s health and wellness, we want what’s best for them. At the same time, we want to be ready when problems and emergencies arise. With Petcube’s Pet Emergency Fund, you get the security and peace of mind that pet owners need. Not only that, but you also get to talk to a vet online 24/7, anywhere you may be.
What are examples of home treatment for cat hair loss?
Treatments for cat hair loss would depend on what is causing it. Before trying home remedies, do consult with your vet first. If your cat is losing hair due to fleas, for example, a citrus solution may help repel these parasites.
To make one, slice a lemon into quarters and put it in boiling water. Allow this to steep overnight. Spray this solution all over your cat, especially in places that fleas like to hide such as behind the ears, at the base of the tail, head, and arms. Other home remedies include brewer’s yeast tablets and apple cider vinegar.
Note from Dr. Vanderhoof: Even home treatments sprayed on a kitty may cause skin irritation or digestive upset if they excessively lick it all off.
What to do with hair loss and scabs on a cat?
First things first, it is important to identify the cause of the hair loss and scabs on your cat and remove it from the environment if applicable. Another thing that should be done is to prevent your cat from self-injury due to scratching or biting the affected area as this can make the scabs worse.
Do consult with your vet when your cat has scabs and hair loss at the same time. That way, you will be able to know the cause and provide the right treatment for them.