One of last year’s litters of foster kittens brought more than joy and heartbreaking cuteness to my house. Unfortunately, the outdoor kittens and their mother came with a pack of fleas, and the pests settled in the fur of my house cat GG, which was itchy. The itching soon turned to thinning hair on her stomach, at the base of her tail, and on her hind legs. Is your cat losing hair? What causes cat hair loss? At GG it turned out that the hair loss was caused by a flea allergy. Learn more about cat hair loss, also known as cat alopecia.
First, let’s define hair loss in cats
A cat that loses hair – also called alopecia in cats – can be total or partial and occurs in cats for a variety of reasons, the most common of which are skin allergies, experts say. Dr. Fiona Bateman, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital, sees cat hair loss on a regular basis at her clinic.
Is alopecia ever “normal” in cats?
Some cats have hereditary alopecia. For example, Sphynx cats are born without hair and never grow.
Another type of normal hair loss is alopecia of the auricle – hair loss on the outside of the auricle – which is common in Siamese cats but usually resolves on its own. Many adult cats also suffer from pre-auricular alopecia – thinning of the fur on the strip of skin between the ears and eyes, which is considered normal in cats, says Dr. Hayworth.
What about acquired alopecia in cats?
The rest of the cat population born with normal fur develop alopecia – a symptom of a disease or condition, and not a disease itself. The veterinarian will diagnose the underlying disease, says Dr. Bateman.
If a cat loses hair, does that hair grow back?
The good news for cat parents is that this hair loss in cats usually doesn’t indicate a serious illness and hair can usually grow back, says Dr. Bateman. Dr. Hayworth of VCA Northview Animal Hospital in the suburbs of Pittsburgh explains that how well a cat that loses hair can be treated and reversed depends on the underlying cause.
“If we can reverse the cause, we can generally grow the hair back,” says Dr. Hayworth. “This is especially true of overcare related to allergies. So if you notice hair loss in your cat, it is definitely worth a trip to the doctor. “
These are six of the most common conditions that cause a cat to lose hair. Note that this is not an exhaustive list as alopecia in cats is a broad disease with many potential factors.
1. Allergies – especially to fleas – as well as itching and overcare
Fleas can bite and irritate any cat, but some cats are hypersensitive to antigens in flea saliva. These allergic cats itch miserably when they encounter fleas – and many of them over-groom themselves to scratch the itch. The hair doesn’t just fall out; The cats actually lick it so much that they pull their hair out.
“It’s not that the hair can’t grow,” says Dr. Bateman. “These cats are licking it faster than it can be replaced.
“About 90 percent of the cats we see in our clinic are over-grooming,” she says. “Your hair is much less likely to fall out and not grow back.”
Sometimes a cat may become compulsive to groom itself due to neuropathic pain due to nerve damage in the skin. On rare occasions, for psychogenic reasons, such as: B. Anxiety after a stressful event, over-grooming and hair loss. But cats that lick their hair are more likely to itch from a flea allergy, says Dr. Bateman.
Mange, scabies, and lice can also make a cat’s skin itchy – causing the same overcare and causing a cat to lose hair. Mites, food allergies, and environmental allergies can also cause itching and over-care.
Sometimes a cat will lick an area of its body too much, not because it is itchy, but because the tissue under the skin is painful, says Dr. Bateman. For example, a cat with arthritis may lick the sore joint constantly because it is painful, and the licking will help alleviate the discomfort. The problem is that the cat is licking its hair away too.
Dr. Bateman once saw a cat with a broken rib. The kitten was licking the painful friction so much that it was bald around that bone.
This is not as common a cause of hair loss in cats as allergies, but it does happen. Cats with infectious diseases like staph infections and fungal infections like ringworm can lose hair in the affected areas, say Dr. Hayworth and Dr. Bateman.
4. Endocrine disorders
A cat who is losing hair can have hyperthyroidism – an overactive thyroid gland that causes weight loss and other symptoms. Outside the thyroid gland, hair follicles can die when cats have hormonal imbalances and increased levels of steroids in the body. and if hormone levels are abnormal, new hair may not grow back. For example, Cushing’s disease, a metabolic disorder that produces too much cortisol, can cause alopecia in cats.
5. Side effects of medication
Transdermal prednisone causes alopecia and pimple pimples. Usually, says Dr. Hayworth, stopping the drug will reverse this condition.
Fortunately, cancer is rarely the reason cats lose hair. It’s far more likely that your kitten’s hair loss is not something serious. But neoplasia – a term for abnormal growth caused by uncontrolled cell division – can cause hair loss in cats. Another serious condition that occurs as a result of cancer is paraneoplastic alopecia, which is hair loss associated with itching and clammy skin, says Dr. Hayworth. However, these serious causes are rare.
The bottom line on hair loss in cats and alopecia in cats
Don’t panic about a cat losing hair – just take your cat to the vet for a check-up. “Chances are, it’s not serious,” says Dr. Bateman. “But you don’t know that if you just look at the cat. That’s why it’s important that you look at it.”
Tell us: Have you had your own experience with a cat losing hair? What problem was at hand?
Worried about hair loss yourself? Read this!
Thumbnail: Photography © foaloce | Thinkstock.
This piece was originally released in 2018.