There’s nothing more rewarding than petting your favorite kitty. This show of affection is pleasing to both owner and pet. But what happens when you come home, only to find that your feline friend is developing a bald spot on his fur – revealing irritated skin underneath? Not only is this unfortunate condition an eyesore, it can also indicate serious underlying health problems. Read on to discover why your cat may be suffering from hair loss and what to do if this occurs.
Allergies are the most common cause of hair loss in felines. Just like humans, your kitty can develop an allergy to almost any substance with which it comes into contact. This includes environmental irritants such as pollen and dust, food allergies to any ingested ingredient, or even allergic reactions to various insect bites and stings. One of the most common symptoms of allergic reaction in cats is itchy skin. If your cat scratches too much, it’s possible that his fur will start to fall away in the most severely affected areas. Allergy treatment is the same in cats as it is in humans, and involves a simple avoidance of the allergen. When you take your cat to the vet with itchy skin and resulting hair loss, they will run a number of tests to determine if an allergy is the cause and then work to discover the allergen.
Parasites can also be an indirect cause of hair loss in your cat. As with allergies, parasites such as fleas, mites, lice, and ticks don’t directly cause hair loss – but the itch they induce and the resulting scratching often will. If the itching is particularly severe, sores can even develop on the exposed skin, sometimes leading to infection. For these reasons, it is best to act quickly when you identify a parasitic infestation. While these parasites are common in all cats, outdoor cats are at higher risk. Treatment is generally quick and easy. Just ask your vet which medicine to use, and take the time to remove the pests from your cat’s environment as well. As long as the condition wasn’t too overly severe, his hair should return in just a few weeks once she stops scratching.
Somewhat misleading in name, ringworm is, in fact, a fungal infection and not a parasitic worm. It’s primary symptom – hair loss in a circular pattern – is where ringworm gets its name. Underneath the ring of missing hair, scaly, dry skin may be visible. Untreated, ringworm can spread to other parts of the body and to other animals in the household. Treatment involves prescription shampoo or ointment which contains a medication specially designed to kill the fungus. The real battle with ringworm comes when working to eradicate spores from the rest of your cat’s environment. Ringworm spores are notoriously hardy and can survive in your home for up to a year. Talk to your vet about options for treating the environment.
Psychogenic alopecia is a term coined by veterinarians to refer to stress-induced hair loss in cats. When your kitty becomes overly anxious, he may take his usual licking and scratching to an extreme and begin to lose hair. Interestingly, this condition is most commonly found in female purebred felines, as these are the cats most prone to developing highly nervous personalities. Talk to your vet about treatment options, and be sure to try making environmental changes before putting your female cat on any anti-anxiety medications, as these often have adverse side effects and should be used only as a last resort. Oftentimes all that is needed is a simple change in the house such as giving your kitty high perches or allowing her a space of her own.
Less Common, More Serious Causes
While hair loss in cats generally points to one of the relatively common and easily treated conditions outlined above, there are a few potential causes that are rarer and are more sinister health concerns. Among these are immune disorders, diabetes, overactive thyroid conditions, and even cancer. The only way to be sure what is causing your cat’s hair loss is to take her to the vet, so if you do notice alopecia be sure to make an appointment so you can rule out any of these serious conditions and get your cat back on track to looking and feeling great!