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Health & Wellness

9 reasons why your cat might be losing their hair

Where they’re losing fur might indicate what’s going on.

If you notice that your cat’s missing patches of fur, try not to stress. Hair loss is usually due to a treatable underlying condition. 

Here are the most common reasons cats lose their fur and how where they lose it can indicate what they’re struggling with. 

Why’s my cat losing hair?

There are several reasons cats might lose their hair, from skin conditions to internal diseases and even excessive grooming, Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch's on-staff veterinarian, explains.

Some common reasons behind cats’ fur loss are:

  • External parasites (think: fleas)
  • Mange
  • Ringworm
  • Skin allergies
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Hereditary diseases
  • Reactions to injections or other drugs
  • Excessive grooming due to anxiety or itchiness
  • Internal diseases like Cushing’s disease, diabetes, cancer, leukemia, kidney disease or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)

Causes for cat hair loss on certain body parts

Hair loss in certain areas can indicate what underlying condition your cat has. For example, flea allergy dermatitis usually causes patchy fur around the hip area and tail base. (However, felines can have fleas and not experience hair loss, too, Dr. Singler adds). 

Patchy hair in the same spot on both of your cat’s legs is called symmetrical alopecia. It happens because of underlying conditions like flea allergy dermatitis, food or environmental allergies, parasites, fungal infections or anxiety.

External ear infections and Cushing’s disease can lead to fur loss around the ears. Scabies causes cats to lose hair around the face and ears, and the fur becomes crusty and itchy in those places. 

Although losing fur in certain areas commonly indicate underlying conditions, it’s not a final diagnosis and doesn’t rule out other diseases or infections. It’s best to take your cat to the vet’s office to be checked, run tests and find out exactly what’s causing their hair loss. 

RELATED: Why do cats have whiskers?

When should I take my cat to the vet? 

"Any time you notice new hair loss or a fur patch missing, it's worth seeing the vet," Dr. Singler says.

Feline friends that are licking themselves a lot should visit the vet’s office, too, and they might benefit from an e-collar during this time. 

A vet can sometimes tell what's causing the hair loss by examining them. Other times a test may be needed to differentiate between possible causes. The vet may recommend visiting a veterinary dermatologist to determine the best solution, too.

Some cats may need ongoing treatment to allow their hair to grow back. It's impossible to know when their fur can grow back or if it ever will. If your cat's underlying reasons for hair loss have been treated and they're healthy, they likely won't care if the hair grows back.

Treatment options for cat hair loss

Knowing the exact cause of a cat’s hair loss is the best way to remedy the situation. Treating the underlying conditions may involve stopping a medication, a diet change, anti-anxiety medication or supplements, a topical product or treatment for an infection, itchiness or internal disease.

“Cats generally don't appreciate baths, so it's not something I typically recommend attempting unless your vet recommends it,” Dr. Singler shares. 

If your cat had flea exposure, ask your veterinarian about the appropriate medication and treat all pets in your home.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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Photo by Erica Marsland Huynh on Unsplash

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