Although cats are sometimes described as “inquisitive,” the vast majority of them cannot withstand stress or change in any form. Stress can cause cats to hide, poop, or pee outside of the litter box, become aggressive, or even over-groom themselves. Over-grooming, also known as “psychogenic alopecia,” is not uncommon in our feline friends, but what does it look like and how can it be prevented or treated? Continue reading to learn more about cat fur mowing and overgrooming.
Why is my cat pulling her hair out?
A problem is said to be “psychogenic” if it begins with a mental or emotional conflict. Hair loss is referred to as “alopecia.” Psychogenic alopecia is a type of hair loss caused by excessive grooming. Cats may lick or groom themselves incessantly to the point of hair loss or skin ulcers. They can’t stop licking as a stress or conflict response, which is a sort of self-trauma.
There are numerous potential sources of stress in cats’ lives; some are evident to us, while others are not. Here are a few examples:
Relocating to a new location
Purchasing a new pet
Taking a newborn child home from the hospital
Changing the type of pan or litter or moving the litter pan
Changing the type of diet or moving the food/water bowls
Boredom or a lack of stimulation from the environment
Any deviation from the usual routine in the home
Psychogenic Alopecia in Cats Symptoms
When a cat rips out so much hair that the coat becomes uneven, thin, or bald, this is known as psychogenic alopecia. The cat can’t seem to quit licking and grooming itself, yanking away hair that isn’t ready to shed.
It commonly affects the side (flank), abdomen, or inner thighs, but it can affect any part of the body. Some owners may not even notice the excessive licking or grooming because cats often do it as a means of self-soothing at night or when alone.
In cats, how is psychogenic alopecia diagnosed?
It’s critical to rule out any medical causes of skin problems, such as infection (bacterial vs. fungal), trauma, or parasites, first. Thyroid testing, urinalysis, skin cultures, parasite treatment (e.g fleas), skin scrapings to check for mites, and a feeding trial with a new or novel protein source are all beneficial. It’s referred to as a “diagnosis of exclusion,” which means it’s used to rule out specific medical disorders.
If your vet can’t find a medical explanation for your cat’s hair loss, a closer look at his or her environment for any sources of stress could reveal some reasons why your cat is overgrooming.
Other Reasons Why is Your Cat Pulling Her Hair Out
1. Locating Clues in the Environment
Cats may rip their hair out around their lower abdomen or on the inside or underneath of their thighs as a result of the pain from any of the bladder disorders listed above.
When male cats develop a new habit of licking ‘down there,’ it’s crucial to investigate further.
Male cats rarely exhibit their private parts, therefore if their penis is protruding, Feline Urethral Obstruction could be the cause.
Other symptoms may include lethargy, crying when picked up, blood in the urine, inability to urinate (resulting in repeated unproductive trips to the litter tray), and vomiting.
Is There a Pattern to Your Actions?
The pattern of the behavior can also reveal crucial information about what’s causing it.
It could be an allergy to harvest mites, pollens, trees, or plants if the behavior is worse in the spring and summer and improves in the winter.
If, on the other hand, the behavior only occurs during the winter, it could be a sign of boredom or irritation.
Billy, my Siamese cat, sucks the tip of his tail throughout winter, a behavior he developed as a result of not wanting to take advantage of the magnificent outdoors and all the stimulation it has to offer, despite the fact that it’s cold and wet.
So I have to put up with being smeared by a wet and slimy tail for at least three months of the year!
It’s also crucial to assess the type of flea control used on cats, as well as the frequency with which it’s applied.
Many over-the-counter flea medications are ineffective compared to those prescribed by veterinarians.
Even the most effective flea treatments won’t keep those pesky fleas away if they aren’t used consistently and at the times specified on the package.
Fleas should also be treated on a regular basis in cats who have never been outside.
Anyone walking into the house can bring fleas in with them on their shoes, even if they don’t pick them up directly.
Simultaneously, spray the entire house with an efficient household flea product, making sure to get right up to the carpet’s edges.
It’s also a good idea to check for symptoms of flea excreta on the cats and their bedding on a frequent basis.
3. Diet’s Role
Cats, like humans, might be sensitive to certain foods or brands.
If they begin to pull their hair out after a recent diet change, they may be allergic to the new food.
Overgrooming: Veterinary Treatment/Home Remedies
The first and most obvious at-home remedy is to eliminate, or at the very least reduce, the source of stress. However, because this isn’t always possible, the next best thing is to boost your cat’s daily exercise or playtime, as well as provide environmental enrichment like food puzzles, high perches, interactive toys, and so on.
The next step is to employ Feliway, a pheromone therapy that comes in a spray or a diffuser. Feliway is a synthetic version of the feline face pheromone that cats use to indicate their “safe” territory. When a cat is at ease in their surroundings, they rub their faces on items, leaving a facial pheromone behind.
Feliway soothes and reassures cats in stressful situations like relocating or traveling by assisting in the creation of a sense of familiarity and security. It aids in the reduction or prevention of stress-related undesirable behaviors. It’s available in a small spray container or as an atomizer/diffuser (like a Glade Plug-in). But don’t worry, we can’t smell it because only cats can! On feliway.com, you can learn more about it.
When other treatments fail, behavioral medicines can be quite effective. Prozac (fluoxetine), Elavil (amitriptyline), and Clomicalm (clomipramine) are all effective antidepressants. However, advantages may take up to 4-6 weeks to appear.
Finally, How to Keep Your Cat from Grooming Too Much
The best method to avoid psychogenic alopecia is to get to know your cat and figure out what makes them happy and what can stress them out. Many of the remedies listed above can be utilized before a problem arises.
You can gradually try to stop taking the drugs once the overgrooming has ceased and the hair has grown back, but constant monitoring will be required to see if it returns. While some cats will adjust, some may require medication for an extended length of time, possibly for the rest of their lives. A recommendation to a veterinary behaviorist may be your best bet if all else fails.