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feline health problems

Why is my cat losing hair?

Noticed new bald spots on your cat? Are they itching or over-grooming? If your cat is losing fur non-stop, follow this guide.

Updated September 14, 2021

Created By

Victoria Lancaster,

The essentials

  • Alopecia is hair loss in cats — Sometimes hair loss in cats is normal, other times it may be a cause for concern.
  • Your cat can lose hair on different parts of their body — Pay attention to where your cat is losing hair (ears, belly, side, or legs).
  • It could be due to underlying illness Anxiety, pain, fleas, and skin infections can all cause a cat’s hair loss.
  • You can help prevent hair loss in your cat — Reduce your pet’s stress levels and feed them a high-quality diet.

What is alopecia? 

Alopecia is fur loss in cats. It can appear as bald spots, patchiness, or as a general thinning of a cat’s coat. Sometimes when a cat loses their fur it’s completely normal, like when they shed their winter coat. Hair loss in cats may also be a sign of an underlying illness — if you notice it, give your cat’s vet a call so they can help.

👉 Alopecia can appear in different ways, you may also notice scabs, lesions, and bumps on the skin.

Where’s your cat losing hair?

Most of the time, cats begin to display pattern baldness when they scratch or lick an area of their body, causing it to shed. Cats can lose hair on just one or multiple parts of their bodies. Usually, cats lose hair around their belly, sides, and legs when they scratch or lick themselves non-stop. If your cat is losing hair on its face or eyelids, it may be caused by a parasite.

👉 Pay attention to the area of hair loss and inform your vet to aid in diagnosis.

The common causes of hair loss in cats

  • Allergies. This is one of the most common reasons for a cat’s hair loss. Cats lick, itch, and scratch themselves when they’re allergic to something like food, medicine, or environmental elements (pollen or bug bites).
  • Overgrooming due to anxiety or stress. You may notice times where your cat scratches or licks themselves in excess — this could be caused by anxiety. Other compulsive disorders, like psychogenic alopecia, can cause a cat to obsessively groom itself.
  • Fleas, mites, or parasites. Your cat could have a flea, parasite, or mite that’s causing discomfort and intense itchiness. Mites burrow deep under a cat’s coat. You can only see them under a microscope. Notoedres cati is a rare parasite that causes hair loss on a cat’s facial area.
  • Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. These conditions cause overproduction or under-production of hormones and gland issues — this can cause shedding or balding.
  • Skin infections. Bacterial infections, like pyoderma, usually arise when a cat scratches or excessively licks its skin. Infections cause hair loss in localized areas and can also produce discharge. Other infections, like ringworm, are fungal infections and will infest the hair and skin of a cat.
  • Pain. Cats with general pain in their joints, especially those with arthritis may lick their bodies to relieve their pain.
  • Skin condition. Your cat could have a harmless skin condition, like feline acne. Skin conditions can cause dryness, shedding, and irritation. With acne, your cat may rub their face against the carpet which leads to hair loss. You may notice blackheads on your cat’s skin in addition to hair loss.

👉 Your cat will likely want to scratch and lick any irritated area which will cause bald spots to form over time.

Rare causes of hair loss in cats 

There are a few other and possibly more serious health conditions that can cause hair loss in unlikely circumstances, including:

  • Diabetes
  • A hormonal imbalance
  • Thyroid problems
  • Cancer

🚨 If you notice your cat is displaying other symptoms like lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, or diarrhea get them to the vet right away for a diagnosis.

Some cat breeds are more likely to have alopecia

Purebred cats are more likely to have alopecia. These cats include Himalayans and Bengals. Other cats, like the Sphynx, are naturally hairless.

How to treat your cat’s hair loss

The first step you can take to help your cat is scheduling a visit to the vet. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose your cat’s hair loss and identify the underlying cause. They’ll look into your cat’s health history to see if their hair loss could be due to another illness.  Your vet may suggest or prescribe one of the following methods to treat your cat’s hair loss:

  • For mites. Your vet may prescribe a medication like a pyrethrin product or administer an injection/medicated dip.
  • For fleas. Your vet may recommend you to use a specific shampoo or topical flea/tick prevention on your cat.
  • For skin infections. Your vet may suggest over the counter medicated shampoos or topical treatments.

Our favorite balm for cats

If your cat’s hair loss is due to something like an allergy, skin irritation, or flea, your vet may recommend you apply a balm to their skin. Our favorite balm to treat a cat with hair loss, irritation, or other skin conditions is Musher’s Secret. The balm uses natural ingredients to help soothe your cat’s irritation and repair damaged skin.

👉 Many balms that are safe for dogs can also be safe for cats. Always check with your vet first.

4 ways to prevent hair loss in your cat

There are a few preventative measures you can take to ensure that your cat’s skin and fur remains healthy and intact.

1. Give your cat a safe environment — You should make sure you’re promoting a safe environment for your cat at all times. If their hair loss is due to allergies, it’s important to identify what the allergen may be so you can eliminate it from your cat’s environment. If your cat spends time outdoors, you should use a preventative treatment (recommended by the vet) to protect from mites, heartworm, fleas, and ticks.

2. Reduce stress — If your cat’s hair loss is due to stress,  you can do things to help lower their anxiety levels. Always ensure your cat has access to clean food and water. If you’re undergoing a move or change, make sure to keep your cat on their normal schedule, so they experience a seamless transition. Try buying your cat something like a scratching post to help reduce their stress levels. Help keep your kitty engaged by enriching their environment with perches and interactive toys.

3. Feed your cat a high-quality diet — Feeding your cat a high-quality diet can help keep their coat healthy. Cats need protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to help keep their coats shiny and intact. Omega-rich diets help prevent a cat’s shedding.

👉 Royal Canin and Science Diet feline cat formulas are examples of high-quality diets for cats.

You should find out if your cat has food allergies to avoid hair loss. The only way to know if a cat has a food allergy is to do a 6-8 week food trial with a prescription diet. Food allergies are rare so a food trial is not recommended unless your vet is concerned that your cat may have a food allergy.

4. Use treatment — It’s extremely important that you treat your cat’s hair loss. You should first and foremost treat their hair loss with whatever the vet prescribes or recommends. Your cat’s fur is the protective barrier for their skin. If it’s left untreated, it can cause other serious health issues in the future.

Frequently asked questions

What causes sudden hair loss in cats?

Sudden hair loss in cats is probably due to something that arises suddenly, like an allergic reaction or fleas.

What’s the difference between hair loss and hair thinning in cats?

You may notice that your cat’s skin feels particularly thin. Cushing disease is a less common cause of hair loss, but it does make a cat’s fur thinner, so that it tears and bruises easily. You may also notice your cat is agitated when touched. When your cat has Cushing disease, their hair loss will be the same on either side of their body. Look out for other symptoms like increased appetite, thirst, and a pot belly appearance.

Is a cat’s hair loss cause for concern?

While it’s typically not something to panic about, you should still get your cat to the vet when you notice they are losing hair. They’ll help you determine what’s causing your feline’s fur loss.

Is it normal for cats to lose hair?

It can sometimes be normal and harmless for a cat to lose hair. Shedding is normal twice a year, around spring and fall, but excessive shedding is cause for concern. Most cases of hair loss still require some kind of treatment or action.  Your cat’s hair loss isn’t something you should ignore.