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Top 5 Reasons for Hair Loss in Cats

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Lindsay Butzer, DVM
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Hair loss in cats

Are you noticing thin or even bald patches on your cat? While it’s normal for hairs to fall out as they reach the end of their growth cycle, the thickness and appearance of your cat’s coat should be generally consistent, voluminous, and healthy-looking. Alopecia, or unexplained hair loss in cats can be a sign that something’s amiss.

Is It Normal Shedding or Alopecia?

All cats shed, with the exception of the hairless breeds. Cats tend to shed the most as the seasons change, so you might notice more fur on your clothes and furniture in the spring and fall. Shedding also happens year-round as the hair completes its growth cycle.
Shedding affects the entire coat. It should not be accompanied by large chunks of fur or bald patches. Siamese cats tend to show thinning on their ears, and this is not considered unusual. Some cats have thin fur above their eyes at the base of their ears, and this too is considered normal.

Top 5 Reasons for Hair Loss in Cats

1. Stress
Stress can cause your cat to self-soothe with excessive grooming. You’ll likely notice missing fur on areas that they groom often. It tends to occur on the belly, along their sides, and on their legs.

2. Fleas
Fleas and other external parasites cause itching and grooming, which can result in bald patches. Some cats have an allergy to flea saliva, which can cause severe itching even from a mild infestation. Fleas can be hard to see, especially if your cat has a thick or dark-colored coat. Some pet parents do not use a flea preventative because they do not realize that these pests can affect indoor cats.

3. Ringworm
Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus. It’s highly contagious and can be passed between cats and humans. Ringworm causes round bald patches just about anywhere on the body. There will also be scaly, itchy, ring-shaped lesions that can ooze pus or become crusty.

4. Pain
Pain can cause your cat to groom a specific area of their body, similar to how one might massage a sore muscle. Acute injuries like sprains and chronic pain from arthritis can cause overgrooming and patchy hair loss.

5. Allergies
Allergies and food intolerances can cause itching and hair loss. Your cat may have a sensitivity to one or more ingredients in their food, or they may have an allergy to an environmental substance, like pollen, dust, mold, or even household cleaning agents. You can use an at-home intolerance test to detect your cat’s allergens so you can limit their exposure to them.

Other Reasons for Hair Loss in Cats

The appearance of your cat’s coat is directly related to their health and nutrition. Hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, and chronic illness can all affect your cat’s coat health. With a professional diagnosis and treatment from your vet, many of these underlying causes can be managed or even resolved, restoring your cat’s coat back to its healthy thickness and luster in no time.

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