Loss of hair in cats is a common problem and is given the same name as the condition in humans – alopecia. This covers complete or partial loss of hair as well as varied or symmetrical patterns of hair loss. While there are treatment options for these conditions, they can be limited and depend on the overall cause.
While the main symptom of the condition is a complete or partial loss of hair on the cat’s body, there can also be problems with the skin around the area that the hair is missing from. These can include redness, bumps, scabs or even a loss of skin. It can have the same random patterning to the skin as the loss of hair or may be random.
Causes and Diagnosis
Alopecia is often connected with different types of cancer in older cats while nervous disorders such as over-grooming can be a cause. Hormonal imbalances such as too much thyroid or a high level of steroids in the body can lead to loss of hair while other cats may lose their hair as a side effect of an allergy to something. Finally, parasites that cause conditions such as mange and ringworm can also create a type of alopecia.
One of the best tests to diagnose the underlying cause of the alopecia is a complete blood count (CBC) test. This shows if there are any hormonal or thyroid imbalances causing the problems. Following this, X-rays may be used to rule out cancer of adrenal gland problems then a skin biopsy may be used.
The results of these tests will help to determine what the course of treatment may be suitable for the condition. For example, if a hormonal imbalance is detected, treating this will often sort the alopecia condition at the same time. If the problem is behavioral then the treatment will focus on this.
Over grooming is the top behavioral problem in cats that results in a loss of hair. There can be a wide variety of reasons why a cat begins to over groom but in order to stop the condition, understanding what the cause is becomes very important. Some cats begin to over groom because they are stressed by something in their environment – this could be a new cat, other pet or a child, a new home, new furniture or even a new cat litter box. If the over grooming is connected with a specific event, this should be relatively easy to spot and slowly remedy.
Cats over groom because the grooming process is relaxing for them. Licking released endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, so the process feels good and when the cat is unhappy or stressed, it will groom to induce this reaction. They can get into the habit of grooming too much when very unhappy or stressed and leads to over grooming.
Skin diseases are another reason for over grooming including reactions to flea bites, inhaled allergies and even ringworm can cause the cat to begin overgrooming, as can pain in a specific area.