Medically Reviewed by Taylor Froiland, PharmD, RPh
Written by Adam McCown, PharmD
Most cat owners expect their furry friends to be…well…furry. However, if your feline is a bit less furry than usual, then there may be an underlying health issue to blame. Some shedding or hair loss is normal for cats, dogs, humans, and all other animals that have fur or hair. This is especially true during the change of seasons, when your pet may be shedding their winter or summer coat.
However, excessive hair loss may be a problem.
What to Do If Your Cat Is Losing Hair?
There is a wide range of possible causes of feline hair loss, from excessive grooming and scratching, to hyperthyroidism, urinary tract issues, fungal and parasitic infestations, or food allergies. If you notice your cat is losing more hair than seems normal, then you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your cat groom themselves more than normal?
- Is your cat itching themselves excessively?
- Has anything changed in their life to cause them stress?
- Have they been in an environment where they could have been exposed to parasites?
- Do you have other animals? How is their relationship with one another?
You should try to answer these questions and make a note of any other behavior that is out of the ordinary for your pet. Have these answers ready if and when you contact your veterinarian or bring your cat in for a visit.
Common Causes of Cat Hair Loss
If you notice an abrupt change in your cat’s behavior or health, your first thought should be to contact your vet to ensure there isn’t something more serious going on. When it comes to hair loss, the majority of causes are not life threatening, but may require medical treatment. Here are the most common culprits for cat fur loss:
- Stress and anxiety – If there is no obvious or visible underlying cause of cat hair loss, then it is likely the result of stress. Most cats will lick and scratch excessively, causing them to shed more than normal and even develop bald spots. More common in cats with nervous personalities, this condition is known as “psychogenic alopecia”.
- Allergies – A very common cause of hair loss in cats is allergy. Just like ourselves, cats can be allergic to food, insect bites, medications, pollen, or dust. These can result directly in your pet losing hair, or cause them to lose hair as a result of excessive scratching.
- Parasites – Fleas, mites, lice, and ticks can make her scratch and lick, too, causing bald spots and even sores. Treatment is usually quick and easy. Ask your vet which medicine you should use.
- Ringworm – Ringworm in cats is another common cause of alopecia. I’ll save you the suspense, ringworm does not mean that your cat has worm living under their skin. It’s actually a fungal infection that results in a scaly ring on the skin and missing fur around the ring (this appearance is why it is called a “ring” worm). Your vet will most likely prescribe antifungal creams or ointments, medicated baths, or oral meds.
Other, less common, causes of fur loss can include immune system problems, diabetes, an overactive thyroid, or cancer.
Treatment of Cat Hair Loss
The treatment of hair loss in cats depends on the underlying cause. Most options involve topical ointments or creams, or anti-parasitic medication. If the cause is stress or anxiety, then your vet will probably recommend specific steps you can take to create a more stress-free environment. These can involve adding more perches or climbing posts, giving them place to hide or rest like a box or other structure, and playing with your cat to help them expend more energy.
The bottom line when it comes to hair loss is not to panic. As we mentioned, the primary causes are not life threatening and usually can be cleared up with some simple medication. It’s always important to get it checked out by a vet, but it is not the end of the world.
If your vet prescribes your cat any type of medication to help their alopecia, remember that you can fulfill all your pet prescription needs conveniently online at Express Vet Pharmacy.