Like crop circles in fields, thinly-furred patches on your cat may seem to appear without an obvious cause! But never fear – our knowledgeable vets are here to explain the phenomenon of fur loss in cats. Here are a few things we can tell you upfront about mysteriously-missing feline fur.
1. In most cases, the fur has been broken off or pulled out (rather than falling out)
When cats present to us with symptoms of unexpected fur thinning or fur loss, it often appears as either a bald belly or “mown” (shortened) fur patches down their lower back. The associated skin may be red, oozing or scabby, or may appear fairly normal.
The most common reason for fur loss in cats is overgrooming, i.e. licking or chewing at their fur until it breaks off. Sometimes, owners will notice their pet grooming excessively, but in some cases, the cat will do this secretly when no one is watching.
2. Fleas are one of the most common causes of overgrooming, even if you haven’t seen any!
Cats most commonly over-groom due to skin irritation, and one of the most common causes of skin irritation in cats is fleas. Cats will often groom away any visible fleas before you can spot them, but cats who are allergic to flea bites can remain itchy and irritated long after the flea is removed.
Other potential causes of skin irritation in cats include food allergies, environmental allergies, fungal infections and mites.
3. Less commonly, overgrooming can be due to behavioural issues
If we have ruled out any obvious causes of skin irritation in your cat, we may consider a behavioural cause of overgrooming, such as anxiety.
So, if you notice any unexplained fur thinning on your cat, it’s best to consult our vets, a.k.a. Dermatological Detectives, for some savvy diagnosis and treatment!