What causes hair loss in cats?
A lush, shiny coat is generally a sign of a healthy cat. Cats spend a lot of their time grooming and because they do, their coats usually don’t require too much attention other than a good brush. If you find yourself stroking your cat and see sparse sections of fur, or patches hair loss, then there could very well be an underlying health issue or allergy affecting them, and this is reason enough to have them checked over by your local vet. Even though there are many reasons for excessive grooming, scratching and hair loss in cats, most causes are fairly easy to treat and manage.
Just like people, cats can sometimes fall victim to allergies that could be caused by their diet or environment. Cats suffering from allergies will usually develop itchy, irritated skin, and the eventual scratching and licking in these areas can lead to patchy hair loss. Trying identify the exact trigger that is causing your cat’s hair loss can be a little tricky to detect, however with the help of your vet, a series of tests can help to pinpoint the issue. If your vet suspects your cat could have an adverse food reaction, they will typically recommend that your cat has a complete a food elimination trial. This trial generally takes 2 -3 months, and your vet will likely recommend utilising a specialised diet with very low chance of causing allergy, for this trial. ROYAL CANIN®’s Anallergenic and Hypoallergenic diets are specifically designed for cats that suffer from food allergies and are ideal for food elimination trials, as well as the long term management of these issues in cats. To find out more about how to run a food elimination trial in your cat, please see our “Dealing with food allergies in cats” blog that explains the process.
Fleas and Mites
Some cats are particularly sensitive to fleas and other parasites, and parasites are generally the most common cause of scratching, excessive grooming and hair loss in cats. These bald spots, or flea-based alopecia, happen when your cat has a reaction to the saliva of the flea. These patches will generally appear on your cat’s back and hindquarters and can be easily treated. Medicated topical drops are the easiest way to rid your cat of a flea infestation, and once their fur is free of fleas, their hair should begin to grow back. It is also important to wash their bedding at the same time, and treat other household pets for fleas, using an appropriate product, at the same time.
Cats groom for all kinds of reasons, but primarily to keep their fur looking shiny and smooth, as well as to prevent their coat from matting. Sometimes however, over-grooming can be an issue that leads to them licking and biting at their fur, causing even more irritation to a particular area. Excessive licking won’t only stain their fur, but can also result in bald patches, commonly seen on their paws face, face and along their sides. Often, over-grooming is in part related to stress that is due to a recent move, a change in routine, or even boredom. The first step to ruling this out as a cause for your cat’s over-grooming, is to try and pinpoint what (if anything) may be causing your cat stress, and to do your best to limit their exposure to this situation.