If you notice that your cat is pulling out hair, the reasons could be allergies, pain, bacterial infection, urethral obstruction, stress, and environmental issues. In some cases, it can even boil down to the cat breed.
Here are the issues we will look at in detail:
Causes of Cats Pulling Hair Out
- Bacterial Infection and Ringworms
- Bladder diseases
- Feline Urethral Obstruction
- Stress in Cats
- Breed of Cat
- Environmental Issues
What You Can Do If Your Cat Is Pulling Their Hair Out
- Check where hair pulling is taking place
- Check them for fleas
- Assess your cat’s diet
Cause of Cats Pulling Out Hair
The first step is to make sure your cat’s hair loss isn’t natural. To make sure, you can check out our guide to hair loss in cats 🙂
Here are some reasons why cats pull out their hair:
Your cat’s skin is one huge sensory organ. When it becomes itchy, your cat will want to bite, scratch or just pull the hair out.
The most common case of hair pulling occurs when a cat is allergic to saliva from fleabites. Vets call this condition allergic dermatitis.
When fleas bite your cat’s skin, they become irritated causing intense itching. In response, you cat will groom aggressively, which leads to a scratch/itch cycle. This kind of allergy is common in young and middle aged cats.
Bacterial Infection and Ringworms
A less common cause of itchy skin and cats pulling hair out is bacterial infection and ringworms.
Ringworms are caused by a fungal infection that develops on your cat’s skin. The infection eats away at their nails and skin hair. However, ringworms have nothing to do with worms, so don’t give your cat deworming medication.
Feline skin cancer can also cause the skin to become irritated causing your cat to chew when grooming. Usually, cats groom very aggressively, which worsens the situation. Itchy skin could also be due to medication.
The other common reason why you cat might pull out hair is if they’re in pain.
Pain, like the one caused by injuries, often motivates cats to pull hair out around or on the affected area.
Cat diseases like osteoarthritis also cause a lot of pain. This is common in senior cats and it manifests as joint pains.
Infection of the bladder is painful for cats in some cases, which is another reason why you might find you cat pulling out hair. In such a case, you cat will groom the region around the abdomen excessively.
Some of the bladder diseases that can cause cats to pull out hair include:
Feline Urethral Obstruction
This condition arises when there is an obstruction in the urethra of male cats, which prevents normal urination. Where it is not spotted early enough, the condition can be life threatening.
It’s also referred to as Feline Lower Urinary Tract disease. This condition is painful and research has shown that it is linked to stress in cats.
Stress in Cats
As stated before, some infections and diseases like Feline Lower Urinary Tract disease have a strong connection to stress. At this point, things tend to get somewhat confusing.
The conditions we have listed above are known to be triggered or even exacerbated by a lengthy period of stress. This is quite common in cats that have very little stress tolerance.
How exactly does stress cause your cat to pluck out hair? Well, when a cat is chronically under stress, stress hormone is released relative to the stress level, which will affect your cat’s immunity. This causes the cat’s skin to become very sensitive.
Thus, not only does your cat’s skin become itchy, increasing the likelihood of hair pulling, but stress also worsens any underlying condition.
Below you will find other factors that might cause your cat to pull out hair.
Breed of Cat
Some breeds of cat are more susceptible to pulling out hair than others. The most affected are purebred oriental cats, particularly, the Siamese and Burmese. Recent breeds like the Bengal Cat are also at risk.
Nevertheless, these breeds are incredibly energetic. So, if they’re not getting enough stimulation, they’ll start pulling their hair out due to boredom.
Cats are control freaks. They love predictability and consistency. Any deviation from the norm might cause them immense stress.
Disruptions such as being left alone for a long time, any sort of construction work at home, the arrival of a new child, and conflict with other pets are all upsetting events for a cat. Death of another pet with whom they shared a close connection is bound to trigger episodes of stress and mourning.
Therefore, when such things happen, you cat will shift focus to satisfying activities that they are able to control, such as hair pulling.
In some cases, when a cat is going through a stressful period, you’re likely to see other symptoms, like hiding, hypervigilance, feigning sleep, increased or reduced feeding and very little contact with others.
What You Can Do if Your Cat is Pulling Hair Out
Regardless of the cause, in almost all cases of hair pulling, it’s important that you have your cat checked by a vet.
Your vet will inquire about the cat’s background, behavior, what the hair pulling looks like and the time you cat tends to pull hair. So, it is best that you document everything you observe in order to be able to offer you vet all the details. Here are the things to look out for:
Check Where Hair Pulling is Taking Place
An important consideration is noting where the hair pulling is occurring. This will help the vet to find the underlying cause.
In most cases of hair pulling due to itchy skin, you will see symmetry in the resulting damaged areas where the hair pulling occurs the most. This particularly applies to those places where your cat can access easily.
For instance, you are likely to see your cat pulling hair off the sides or hind legs. Other instances that show that your pet is itchy include ticking skin and rippling fur, increased rubbing, scratching, licking and rolling. You might also find that the fur feels somewhat sharp in areas where it’s broken.
Pulling resulting from pain, whether because of disease or injury, if often unilateral. It is focused on the part where you cat is experiencing pain.
Pain resulting from bladder diseases mentioned previously can also cause your cat to resort to hair pulling around the lower abdomen and sometimes on the under or inside of the thighs. Where a male cat compulsively cleans down there as a recent habit, it’s important that you have a look.
Male cats are never in the habit of showing their privates, so if your cat’s penis seems to be sticking out a lot, then you may want to have him checked by a vet for Feline Urethral Obstruction.
This behavior may be accompanied by others, such as lethargy, wailing when you pick your cat up, inability to urinate, blood in urine and retching.
If you notice a pattern to your cat’s behavior, then this is a clue that there could be a problem. Think about it. Is it something that happens seasonally?
If you tend to notice this behavior during summer and spring, and then it clears during winter, it might be due to harvest mites, trees, plants or pollen.
On the other hand, if this happens only during the cold season, it’s a likely indication of frustration or boredom.
Review the contents of your flea control package to find out how much you need to use on your cat. Most off-the-shelf flea control treatments are less effective when compared to what your vet would recommend.
In addition, even the most expensive flea control medication may not keep them off completely if you don’t follow through consistently. Even cats that do not go outside that often need treatment to ward off fleas.
Although your cat might not pick fleas directly, any visitors you entertain at home can carry some to your house. Thus, ensure you treat your home as well using an effective flea control remedy. Ensure you focus around the edge of your carpet. Occasionally, check for flea droppings on your cat’s fur and bedding.
Your Cat’s Diet
Like you, your cat might be allergic to some brands of food. So, if your cat starts pulling hair after a recent diet change, it could be that your cat is not a fan of the new chow.
Cat pulling hair is one of those pet behavioral traits that is not as straightforward as we would wish. Hair pulling could be due to pain, stress, feline urethral diseases or allergic reaction to certain foods.
We hope that the tips we have listed will go a long way to help you understand your cat’s behavior, things to consider before you visit a vet and what you can do to stop the hair pulling.