Cat loosing hair

A stressed cat will often pull out their hair secretively.

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Why is my cat losing hair?

By Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Cats losing their hair is pretty common. Yet as there are many different causes, you'll have to head to the vet to get to the bottom of it.

Hair loss in cats is a common condition. It can occur anywhere on the body, but the belly, base of the tail and inner legs are the most frequent sites. Hair loss might be accompanied by other symptoms, such as scratching, biting, licking, or a rash – or hair loss may be the only symptom. There are many causes of hair loss and you'll need to take your cat for a veterinary examination to investigate the root cause.

What exactly is hair loss in cats?

Hair loss, which is also known as alopecia, is when areas of baldness begin to appear on your cat.

What are the causes of hair loss in cats? 

There are many causes of hair loss in cats. In most cases, you cat will be pulling out the hair themselves or damaging it through overgrooming. Cats can be very secretive, so just because you haven’t seen your cat doing this, doesn’t mean they aren't. Causes of overgrooming or self-trauma include stress, internal discomfort (such as cystitis) and primary skin conditions (such as fleas or flea allergy dermatitis).

What are the symptoms of hair loss in cats?

Apart from areas of the body where hair has thinned or fallen out, there are often other symptoms associated with hair loss. You might notice behavioural symptoms, such as scratching, biting or licking, or your cat might act more secretive than usual. You might also notice changes in the skin, such as reddening, scabs or a rash. In the hair coat, fleas or flea dirt (black specks) might also be seen.

Why is my cat getting bald spots?

The most common causes of bald spots are stress, pain or skin conditions, such as a flea infestation or flea allergy dermatitis. Cats pull out their hair and overgroom as a way of managing their stress levels. If the skin is irritated, they also groom the area excessively, causing hair breakage.

How can I treat my cat's hair loss?

The treatment for cat hair loss depends on the underlying cause. If your cat has a flea infestation or flea allergy dermatitis, at an appointment a veterinarian can prescribe medications to eliminate any fleas and decrease the itchiness of the skin. If your cat is stressed, this requires some changes at home. Investigating why your cat is stressed is really important. Consider whether there have been any changes in the house or unknown visitors recently. You can use feline pheromone diffusers to help calm your cat, as well as place multiple water bowls and litter trays around the house, so that they can spend time where they feel most settled.

Finally, if your cat is suffering from pain, such as cystitis, this also needs to be addressed by a veterinarian. Cystitis in cats causes bladder discomfort. It can also be triggered by stress, as well by having a thin lining of the bladder, diet and infections. Changing your cat onto a urinary diet will help dilute their urine, change the acidity of it, and reduce their stress levels.

Why is my cat losing hair on their back legs?

Hair loss down the back legs, on either the inside or outside, can be an indication of stress or a skin condition. If it is accompanied by hair loss on the back at the base of the tail, it is most likely to be due to a flea infestation or flea allergy dermatitis. But if it is accompanied by hair loss on the belly, it is more likely to be stress related.

Can stress cause hair loss in cats?

Yes, stress can cause hair loss in cats. A condition triggered by stress, called ‘telogen effluvium’, can cause hair to fall out of its follicle. But telogen effluvium is rare, and most causes of stress-related hair loss in cats are due to self-trauma and overgrooming. You might not notice your cat doing this because a stressed cat often pulls out their hair or overgrooms secretively.

Why is my cat losing hair around their neck? 

A potential cause of hair loss around your cat’s neck might be because your cat’s collar is rubbing. Friction from the collar can easily result in hair loss. Also, if the collar is dirty, it can cause skin infections, which also result in hair loss when the skin becomes inflamed.

If your cat doesn’t wear a collar or the hair loss is not in this region, a primary skin condition, such as fleas, a bacterial infection or mange, might be the cause. If there is a focal spot where you have applied a spot-on pipette to treat external parasites, this could also be the cause, as some cats can have local reactions to topical products.

What home treatments are there for cats losing hair?

Home treatments for hair loss are only effective if you know why your cat is losing hair. And therefore, if your cat has areas of hair thinning or hair loss, you should always visit a veterinarian. This is because decreasing your cat’s stress levels may help reduce the hair loss. You can use feline pheromone diffusers to help calm your cat, as well as placing multiple water bowls and litter trays around the house, so that they can comfortably spend time where they are most relaxed.

You should never formulate any home remedy topical skin treatments for your cat, as most online recipes contain essential oils. Essential oils are extremely toxic to cats and can lead to fatalities, so it is best to take advice from a veterinarian about the most appropriate treatment.

Are there home remedies for cats losing hair?

Home remedies for hair loss in cats are at best not very effective. Indeed, many online recipes for topical products are, in fact, very dangerous. It is common to see recipes with essential oils in them. But cats lack an enzyme in their liver to help them to remove essential oils from their system once absorbed, which means they reach toxic levels extremely quickly. This can lead to neurological symptoms and fatalities.

Why is my cat losing hair and weight?

If your cat is losing hair and weight, you should contact a veterinarian. It might be stress contributing to your cat’s weight and hair loss, yet other medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, can also lead to changes in the coat and hair loss. If untreated, it may have serious, life-long consequences for your cat.

Why is my cat losing hair on their belly?

Hair loss on the belly is most commonly caused by overgrooming. It is an easy place for cats to groom when they are stressed, and often goes unnoticed until most of the belly is bald. Another reason for hair loss on the belly is abdominal pain, especially cystitis. Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, which can be extremely uncomfortable. In cats, it is not usually caused by an infection, but instead caused by stress or a thin lining to the bladder. Grooming this area helps your cat manage the discomfort.

If your cat is pulling out hair on the belly, you should take them to the vets to rule out cystitis, as if left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening urinary blockages and great discomfort for your cat.

Why is my cat losing hair on their legs?

Baldness or thinning hair on the back legs is a common area to be affected. This is usually from primary skin conditions, such as fleas, or overgrooming due to stress. A check-up by a vet will help determine the inciting cause.

Why does my cat have a bald spot on their neck?

A bald spot on the back of your cat’s neck is very common in the days or weeks after a spot-on pipette is applied. It is not uncommon for a cat to react to spot-on treatments in this way. It may also be accompanied by red skin and discomfort, although not always. If the baldness is a little lower, around the base of the neck, and a vet has recently given your cat an injection, you should contact the veterinarian. In rare cases, cats can develop cancers in reaction to injection sites.

Finally, if the baldness is around your cat’s neck where the collar sits, it might be that your cat’s collar is too tight or causing friction and you should consider trying a different collar on them.

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