Last updated: January 29, 2017
We all know what dandies cats are – they’ll spend a third of their waking hours just washing themselves! They are obviously preening themselves so that the whole world can see what a well-turned out kitty cat looks like. So you can imagine this suave lady or gentleman’s distress if, after all that licking, nibbling and evacuation of the smallest particle of dirt, he ends up looking like something the cat dragged in! (Ha ha ha!) So if whole patches of that perfectly preened pelt are falling out, (and before you begin tearing your own hair out in frustration!) what do you do about it? Why does my cat have bald patches? Read on!
The causes for hair loss (Alopecia) in cats are many and varied, and we can’t go into them all here, but since this is such an undignified state for our little friends to be in, we’ll begin at the beginning.
Some cats are just made that way, just like humans. Mommy or Daddy may have passed on a gene for baldness, and there is nothing that can be done. If it doesn’t bother him in any way it needn’t bother you. After all, not every cat is a lion!
Ringworm (dermatophytosis) isn’t actually a worm, but a fungus that infects the skin, fur, and claws of the poor kitty. It spreads like wildfire and can cause patches of hair loss with little rings in the middle. There can be sores on the head, ears, and front legs, but in more serious cases it can infect the cat’s whole body – aaaawww…ringworm can be acquired through touching an infected cat, or its bedding and dishes. The spores can survive for up to a year so the sooner it’s treated the better!
Mange is a really, really nasty disease. It’s caused by a parasite, the Demodex mite, which lives in your cat’s hair follicles, oil glands, and skin. Although most well-fed cats in good condition with healthy immune systems can keep it at bay. In not-so-serious cases, it may only cause a bit of dandruff, but at its worst, it causes patches of itchy, irritable baldness which are very distressing to poor kitty. As well as this particular species of pest, there’s another mite called Notodres or scabies, which also causes itching and lesions. Most infections are on the head area, although they can spread. Is there no end to the number of noxious creatures lining up to slum it on our poor cats? These foul things can also live on humans, but our relative lack of furry bits makes us very poor hosts.
As its name suggests, this condition is most often found on unneutered tomcats (or studs!) and although it can be found on neutered toms and females, it is far less common. The truth is, among other things, that these testosterone-laden beasts think more about female cats than they do about grooming themselves! As well as baldness at the base of the tail, the remaining hair can develop an unpleasant odor and become greasy and matted. Other symptoms are blackheads, waxy deposits, infection, and inflammation. The vet can prescribe an antibacterial shampoo for this condition, but the baldness, infection, inflammation and stench can usually be cured by neutering – just another good reason to have it done!
In my humble opinion, there are not enough foul words in the English language to describe fleas. They are nasty, irritating bloodsucking pests, and once you’ve got them they stick like glue! Their biting can become incessant, and tiny kittens can actually die of blood loss because of them. It’s not the fleas themselves who cause the bald patches, but the cat’s reaction to them. Cats can scratch and bite themselves raw and create bare patches just because of the constant irritation. If the cat also becomes allergic to flea saliva this is even worse, with inflammation, lumps, and rashes causing even more damage to the cat’s skin. To avoid this, a flea powder or ointment should be applied monthly. If at all unsure – get the vet!
Your precious may not be allergic to fleas, but there are literally thousands of other potential baddies out there just waiting to pounce! Cats – and humans – can be allergic to just about anything! Your moggy can get hay fever just like you do, or there can be a bad reaction to anything else they inhale, like dust or mold. Certain types of food can also disagree with your cat. Cats can even be allergic to fish. Imagine a kitty with a tuna allergy! It really doesn’t bear thinking about. The allergens may be different, but the reaction is just the same. As well as incessant scratching cats can often lick themselves bald by excessive grooming.
NEVER underestimate the “S” word! Stress can affect your little moggy just as badly as it affects you, if not more!Stress is caused by many things, such as moving house, a new baby, or the introduction of a new pet into the house. Cats are creatures of habit who like their routines, and any change in their environment is difficult for them to adapt to. The first resort is, of course, your vet, but if you have exhausted every medical possibility, it could be a psychological disorder, in which case it’s called “Psychogenic Alopecia,” and is the feline version of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The cat will practically groom himself to death, licking holes and pulling out hair. Grooming releases endorphins (feel-good hormones) and these make moggy feel better, so it’s his way of self-medicating!
And remember that if you’re stressed, kitty is stressed too! Cats are very attuned to our moods, especially if there’s a close bond.
The vet may prescribe Valium or Prozac – yes, really! But there are some things you can try at home. Play with your cat for a longer time and either ignore him when he’s exhibiting the undesirable behavior or stop him in a gentle way, such as squirting a water pistol at him while he’s doing it. Never let him see you doing this, though, otherwise he’ll be scared of you, then give him lots of treats when he’s being a good kitty!
The Last Word
The person who knows all about these problems is, of course, your vet, so he should be your first port of call in any situation like this. But if your cat is going through the wars and looks a bit moth-eaten, don’t worry, because as always, the best medicine is love!