Is Cat Hair loss normal. What causes Hair loss in cats?
The medical term for cat hair loss is called Alopecia. This condition causes partial or complete hair loss in areas where there was no shortage of fur. Your cat may be losing hair due to many reasons but skin allergies are one of the top most reasons for hair loss in cats.
Having said that, let’s understand what causes Alopecia in cats, its symptoms and its different types in order to further explore the remedies.
Alopecia can either be congenital or acquired.
Congenital Alopecia is when a cat was born with no hair. Some cats may lose fur gradually as they grow up due to the lack of development of hair follicles. Congenital hair loss in cats may not be hereditary.
Acquired alopecia is the hair loss that happens in cats that are not pre-disposed to hair loss at birth. It results due to a wide number of reasons which include Parasitic or Fungal infections, nutritional deficiencies, Nervous disorders, Cancer and hormonal imbalances. It is the most common cause of hair loss in cats.
This type of hair loss may be inflammatory or non-inflammatory. It causes damage to the hair follicles. Symptoms include skin color change, excessive shedding, itching, etc.
Alopecia can also be classified into psychogenic and physical alopecia
Psychogenic Alopecia is a type of hair loss in cats which is caused due to psychological or emotional reasons. Cats engage in compulsive grooming due to stress, uncertainty or anxiety. Change in eating habits may also contributed to the cause. Experts believe that the excessive grooming releases endorphins which further stimulate the activity. This obsessive behavior results in the cat pulling out tufts of hair in the process. The most affected areas are the sides, bald spots on the underbelly, tail and legs. This kind of hair loss can be genetic, most common in purebred cats and more prevalent in females than in males.
The symptoms of psychogenic alopecia are similar to the other forms of alopecia which includes hair loss in patches. However, it can be differentiated from licking caused due to itch or pain as an itch is widespread while a pain is usually focused and can be recognized. Psychogenic alopecia is only observed in spots where a cat can lick and therefore appearance of bald spots on the head or near the ear (a sign of mange) is not a sign of psychogenic alopecia. Sometimes a cat may bite tufts of hair worsening the problem.
This is the most common form of alopecia and is a bit difficult to diagnose albeit easy to treat when a cause is diagnosed. Some of the causes include
Parasitic infestation which includes fleas and lice cause irritation due to which cats lick, scratch and groom themselves intensely, which indirectly results in hair loss. Some cats could also be allergic to flea saliva which makes the condition worse. Flea allergy dermatitis manifests into a characteristic rash or lump.
In case these symptoms appear consult a vet. Flea shampoos usually get rid of mild cases of fleas. In severe cases of flea infestation, vets recommend spot on for fleas. This topical medication when applied at the back of the cat’s neck, will absorb into the skin and spread evenly throughout. It’s the most effective remedy for fleas. Ensure you apply the medicine at the back of your cat’s neck where they cannot reach & lick the medicine.
Ringworm infections are different from parasitic infestations as it is caused by fungal deposits on the skin. It is characterized by the appearance of circular, flaky or crusty lesions on the skin and diagnosed by the skin scrapping test. The infection can last for several months. Vets generally recommend a treatment that consists of medicated shampoos and specific medication to inhibit fungal growth. As in the case of parasitic infestation, it is contagious amongst cats and even humans through a number of ways.
Cats may develop an allergic reaction to a particular food or household articles, including their collars. The symptoms can appear as blisters, bumps, crusting or scratching resulting in hair-loss. It is therefore important to identify and get rid of the allergen.
A method to help detect food allergy is a diet change or diet trial. This includes introducing a novel protein and carbohydrate source to the cat’s diet and continuing it for 6-8 weeks to confirm that the cat is not allergic to the newly introduced diet, however this should be done under complete supervision.
Other types of Alopecia
Feline Symmetrical Alopecia
Feline Symmetrical Alopecia (FSA) also known as Feline Endocrine Alopecia is when cats lose hair on both sides of their body. This condition is extremely rare and happens due to a hormone imbalance. Due to the underlying skin condition, there can be an extensive loss of fur in the hind legs and other areas in patches or a symmetrical pattern. Feline Symmetrical Alopecia in cats can be either congenital or acquired and may be diagnosed by doing a bunch of tests as recommended by your vet.
Pinnal Alopecia in cats develops on the convex surface (pinnae region) of the ear. This kind of hair loss is seen around the ears and may lead to a partial hair loss or bald spot around the ears. This kind of alopecia is mostly observed in Siamese breed of cats than others.
This type of alopecia is when cats lose hair in the area between the eyes and ears. Preauricular Alopecia is common in aging cats but it can happen in cats of any age group.
What causes hair loss in cats around the neck?
If you have ruled out causes such as fleas, ring worms or food allergies, Cat collars can be one of the culprits due to which cats lose hair in the neck region. Collars can create a friction on the skin by rubbing on the neck all the time, leaving your cat with a bald spot on the neck.
Home Remedy for Alopecia in Cats
- Ensure your cat is not insecure, anxious or emotionally disturbed.
- Adhere to scheduled feeding (if recommended by a vet)
- Brush your cat regularly to avoid dead hair accumulation.
- Provide a healthy diet consisting of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids found in several types of fish and healthy cat foods.
- Engaging in regular play time every day.
Hair loss in cats can be attributed to a number of factors. Your vet will be able to help you diagnose the problem and the most effective treatment. Good nutrition, monitoring their eating habits, regular grooming and care are some of the things you can control, which might help keep your cat’s fur coat healthy.