Has your cat suddenly started to lose their fur and develop bald patches? There can be many causes of hair loss in your feline friend and this is actually quite a common problem. This article will discuss the more common causes and how to recognise them.
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What is a bald spot?
A bald spot is an area of missing fur. Bald spots can sometimes be a singular patch of hair loss or they can be multiple patches over a larger area. Often the distribution of the bald spots can be important in helping your Vet to make a diagnosis. If you notice that your cat has bald spots, contact your Vet for advice.
What are the causes of bald spots?
There can be a broad range of conditions that can lead to your cat losing their fur! However, some of these conditions are more common than others. The following list will discuss some of these conditions and I attempted to list them in order of likeliness (this list is not exhaustive):
The most common cause of bald spots in cats is flea infestation! These pesky critters are extremely common and cats can experience a condition called ‘flea allergic dermatitis’ or FAD for short. FAD is caused by a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to flea saliva. Cats with FAD are usually extremely itchy and typically have bald patches along their back and tail base. Their skin may also appear red and scabby due to the inflammation. To eradicate a flea infestation, regular control with an effective product is essential. Seek advice from your Vet to discuss long term management. Your Vet may also need to administer treatment to your cat to stop their itchiness to allow their skin to heal. Once successfully treated, their fur should grow back.
This is currently very relevant as we are now approaching the higher risk allergy seasons. Like dogs (and humans!), cats can suffer from allergies too! I suppose FAD falls into this category also. Often allergic conditions fall into two categories: food allergens vs environmental allergens. With allergic conditions, often your cat will scratch or itch their fur out (yes, even with food allergies). And the hair loss is mainly associated with self-traumatisation. Your Vet will likely prescribe treatment initially to alleviate your cat’s itchiness. They will then will discuss long-term management options and investigations.
Out of all the potential causes of bald spots in cats, in my personal opinion this one is the most difficult (and occasionally frustrating) to control! Cats are very good and take much pride in their appearance and coat quality. It is a perfectly natural behaviour for cats to groom themselves throughout the day. But occasionally this grooming can become excessive and consequently can lead to skin problems and hair loss. A common sign of over grooming is fur ‘thinning’. Owners may recognise that their cat’s hair is shorter or sparser in areas (more commonly along their tummies).
There are two main reasons that your cat may be over grooming: stress vs pain, with the majority of cases being stress related, particularly in multi-cat households. Contact your Vet if you suspect over grooming, they will check first rule out signs of pain and discomfort. If stress over grooming is suspected, your Vet will discuss with you stress management and potential trigger factors. In some cases that are proving difficult to manage, a feline Veterinary behaviour referral is advised.
Cat bite abscesses
Some cats can be frequent neighbourhood troublemakers and I often see cats with cat bite abscesses (CBA). Cat bite abscesses are as a result of a cat bite wound. Cats harbour lots of bacteria in their mouths and when a cat bites another, this bacteria can be transmitted, leading to the development of an abscess (a pus filled capsule), usually located on their head, limbs or tail. Sometimes cats can also go off their food, have a high temperature and be listless.
Often until the abscess bursts out with blood and pus material, they go undetected by their Owner. If you suspect your cat has a CBA, contact your Vet who will likely prescribe anti-inflammatories and antibiotic treatment. CBA are included in this article as often they experience hair loss over the abscess site, but once treated and resolved their fur usually grows back.
Other rarer causes of bald spots in cats include hormonal or endocrine diseases such as thyroid imbalances, neoplasia and fungal infections.
To conclude, there can be multiple conditions leading to bald spots in your feline friend and sometimes the cause may be multifactorial rather than one individual problem. Contact your Vet if you notice any coat or hair changes in your cat, often the earlier the intervention, the quicker and more successful outcome.