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Avatar universal

Cat licking her hair off - allergies or stress?

My female cat has started licking off her hair on her paws and legs and possibly is starting on her belly - they are long hair and it's kinda hard to tell until a definite bald patch appears.  This has been happening since before Christmas.  At first I thought it was due to the loss of her beloved "Cat tree" but I got her a replacement - although I'm not sure she likes it near as much.  The Vet thinks it's an allergy - probably to food - but I can't get her to eat the $35 per 8lb bag of Green Pea and Duck food I bought for her.  She went days without eating and I finally gave in - as I didnt want to deal with those complications too.  So, I have just ordered another type of food - Venison and Green Pea - hopefully she'll like that a little better.....and I've ordered the stop itch wipes and lotion from Dr. Fosters and Smith.  I am hoping one of those will help.  The other issue is that I travel A LOT for my job - often gone at least 3 or 4 days.  I started travelling this heavy in September and her hair loss started after Thanksgiving.

Any ideas or things I can try.  I was thinking of trying the Feliway diffuser - but after just ordering over $50 of food and itch relief - I am going to hold off before spending $30 on an air diffuser.

Any comments are appreciated.
156 Responses
18663 tn?1198175415
She's probably lonely and has developed this nervous habit of licking her fur off.  Have you considered adopting a kitten?  Then at least she'd have a "buddy" while you're away.  We have 3 cats and they are just like human siblings - they fight and then end up sleeping nose-to-nose on the sofa!  They always have each other when we're away.

Jack
Avatar universal
and in her case, it was related to being hyperthyroid. Is she on the skinny side? Jumpy?
162489 tn?1189759431
Just before Christmas my cat started pulling all of his fur out, we couldn't understand why, i tried a few creams but they didn't help, finally after the Christmas holidays we took him to the vets.  They told us that he was allergic to a flea bite and they gave him an anti inflammitary (sp?) injection, which stopped his skin getting irritated, the vet also told us that it's a very common thing. You might want to look into that.  Good luck!!
Avatar universal
I had a cat that lost some hair at the top of her head. I don't know if she was licking it off, or if it was some kind of irritation. The vet didn't notice anything abnormal, and the skin itself didn't look irritated. But I took her home and started treating it myself with neosporin. The hair grew back and we never had another problem.

Is she by chance a siamese? They tend to be more emotional than other cats. So if she is it could definitely be a stress-related thing. My cat is half siamese...
Avatar universal
My cat Dizzy has been overgrooming for the past year, since my now husband moved in. (He licks his front legs, stomach, and the bottom of his back feet, most recently). And Dizzy loves my husband, so I think it was more the change in the environment: the extra furniture, etc. So it might be the change in the cat tree in your cat's case...my vet said that the tiniest change in their environment can trigger such behavior. Or she might just miss you alot when you are out of town. Do you have a good pet sitter or friend to spend time with her while you are gone?

I, too, just put my cat on Venison and Green Pea to rule out any allergy component, although I am pretty sure his is completely behavioral, as he is a pretty sensitive cat anyways. Feliway may or may not work....I couldn't tell any difference with mine, but it certainly might be worth a shot with yours.  

Good luck, and I hope you find something that works!
Karie
Avatar universal
I forgot to mention - she has a litter mate - Samson, and they've never been separated.  So, I don't think she's completely lonely - although my travel may have something to do with it.   She doesn't have fleas as they never go outside and I've checked her several times as did the doctor and no fleas.  I hope she likes the Venison and Green Pea but neither her nor Samson will eat the Duck and Pea and they both have to eat it as I can't feed them separately.  I do have a friend check in on them when I am gone, but she only comes by once or twice a week.  I have her stop by if I'm gone 3 days or more.  I hate to ask her to do it more often.

Hopefully the itch meds and the new food will help.  She is thin - however - not much thinner than Samson.  They are 1/2 Siamese and 1/2 Maine Coon.  Very pretty kitties and VERY CHATTY!
Avatar universal
Ha! I had a feeling she was at least part Siamese! LOL. Yeah, I bet you it's stress. Sias are VERY emotional cats. Wow...Maine Coon and Siamese. They must be gorgeous! Good luck and let us know how she's doing on the meds!
Avatar universal
Thanks.  She can be pretty prissy and has always been very high strung and jittery and nervous.  

They are really pretty.  Too bad I can't post a picture.  They have Siamese markings and Maine Coon coat of hair.  I'm not really trying meds per-se - but these hydrocortisone wipes and a lotion to put on the areas that she has licked the hair off.  I am hoping that she likes the new food too, as I am running out of options! :)
Avatar universal
I dealt with this very problem for about six years with our cat.  The vet gave her steroid injections, which only helped temporarily.  We tried highly regulated diets - nothing worked.

One day I was down staring at the litter box - wondering why my son hadn't changed it lately - that it occurred to me that the perfume (Tidy Cat) was rather strong.  Being highly sensitive to fragrances myself, I began wondering whether the cat could also be sensitive to something in the litter.  After all, it was her lower abdomen and back legs that were affected - the parts most likely to come in contact with the litter.  

I immediately dumped the litter and went looking for an unscented alternative and switched to Cedarific (although there are other alternatives).

Her hair began growing back almost immediately.  She still has a few sore spots that had gotten particularly bad, but they are healing.  She now has hair on her belly and legs for the first time since we owned her.

So, try changing the litter.

(And by the way - I'd dump the Natural Balance Venison & Pea - it was just recalled for by the FDA for containing the melamine - the same substance that poisoned many cats a couple of months ago.  We used it for awhile and the last time ended up with both cats at the vet with unexplained vomiting - and a $1400 vet bill).

Good Luck!
Avatar universal
Hello-

My kitty was licking his fur off for months and the vet finally told me to try a few different things...one was to get him a kitty friend, but since yours already has one, that might not be the issue (although this did help he is obsessed with his little sister).  The other thing that helped was leaving the tv or radio on all day.  I did this first and it did help a little bit, but then I was set on getting another kitty.

Hope that helps!
Avatar universal
Hi,
My cat (dilute tortuous) is doing the same thing. She is a extremely passive cat who is picked on by my larger, mean, male cat. Over the summer she starting becoming very nervous (even more than usual) She would stay in the same place outside all day and wouldn't come inside, not even to eat. She was a fat cat and wasted away to almost nothing. She also was constantly licking herself. I brought her to a vet and he diagnosed her with depression, OCD, and paranoia (made the diagnosis from lack of fur on her belly). His listed symptoms fit her perfectly. He gave her a shot (human birth control) and it helped with everything but the licking...it has become worse. I'm almost sure it is due to stress because I went on vacation for a week and when I returned she had a huge bald area on her lower back.

Any help with this would be greatly appreciated!!
228686 tn?1211558307
My first thought is a humidifier might help if it's caused by dry skin (has the weather been very dry?). My second thought is a genetic disorder or two I've read about. But....I'd need more information;

What's the quality of the skin both under the remaining fur, on the border where the fur ends, and where the fur is gone?
Is it scaley? Scabby? Speckly? Pealing? Discolored in any way (keep in mind cat skin coloration matches fur coloration.)
Is it itchy? Are you sure she's licking it up? Is she coughing up furballs?

What's the texture of the fur like in those areas? Getting brittle or stiff? breaking? Is it thining out?

Also, what do her claws/NAILS look like? Are they crubly/pitted/split etc...

(One thing I'd do is dump the new cat tree. It's possible the reaction could be related.)
Avatar universal
I have a 3 yearold female cat and she is losing her fur on her lower back, iner legs, and belly. I'm concerned about it. If anyone else has had this problem please e-mail me at ***@****.. Thanks,
Ann
228686 tn?1211558307
You can't leave links on here, as you can see. This could be mange, by the way.
Avatar universal
My cat had an accident with his leg and was treated for this. After the operation he started to lick the fur off. I took him to the vet and he told me that the accident he had could have severed a nerve and may be it was tingling, so the cat will nibble. He gave him an anti-inflammatory injection and it stopped for a while. Then, years later, someone shot my cat through his eye and he is now blind, and he continued to take fur off his leg. Then the problem got worse, he started taking it off his side down to his paw, now hes started taking it off his other back leg. He was shot about 4 years ago now. Im wondering if hes allergic to something. I cant believe its his nerve ending when he has now started on his other side. The vet would like to give him another injection, although i had the same in tablet form, tablets have not made any difference, if anything he is worse. another trip to the vet i think!! Can anybody help!  vikki
228686 tn?1211558307
This kind of behavior can be a stress reaction. But with the eye injury...was there any other head trauma? Cats will lick obsessively as a symptom of a neurological problem.

Since the anti-inflammatory worked it's probable that your cat is suffering some discomfort in the hind quarters.It's possible some sort of arthritis is setting, causing him to lick obsessively.

When your cat walks/jumps does he seem to move normally? Does he favor one side or seem more "careful" than he used to be? If so, it's probably inflammation from the wound site causing the aforementioned arthritis. If not...it is possible that he has suffered some sort of nerve damage (which can spread, or cause sympathetic pain to other regions).

There are holistic approaches to treatment which could help. Perhaps some of the others here are familiar with them?.

Avatar universal
We have been battling this hairloss problem with our 7 year old, part mainecoon for a year or more now.  She is indoors, has had, and does has now, cat companions since birth.  She is not lonely or stressed.  She has no fleas, and all our cats are treated regularly.  Steroids didn't help.  Allergy meds didn't help.  No mites were found in scrapings by the vet.  The best idea I see here is the allergy to the litter.  I think we'll try that next.... thanks bunches...we were out of ideas.
228686 tn?1211558307
Maine coon's are great! One of my favorite kitties. Consider checking out some of the special maine coon supplements. They're one of those breeds that apparently can have "special needs" that cause them to suffer from hair loss and feline acne, among other things.
Avatar universal
I have a Bengal, 5 yrs old, male. His buddy just died (November) and I got a 6 mo old kitten who is fitting in fine, but the Bengal (Snapper) is licking all the hair off hind legs and belly. He has always licked more than most cats, but this is nuts! Changing the litter is a good idea, though he does most of his business outside. I think he is neurotic. I must caution against steroids, as being treated with them caused my other cat to become diabetic. That is not a good thing. Any other ideas are welcome. I was going to try to put some bitter apple spray on the bald spots and see if he would just STOP licking,... good idea or not? Thanks all, Anne
228686 tn?1211558307
Don't use the bitter apple, hat will just make her even more neurotic. It's only been two months. Probably the stress of losing a companion and having a new cat brought in his making kitty stressed out.

Have you checked the obvious things, like mange and fleas (A flea allergy can cause this behavior, just one or two can set a cat off. Also, have you considered your household cleaning products? It could be a reaction to a deodorant/cleaner. Remember, if it's in kitty's environment, it's on kitty's skin and thus gets into his mouth.).

It's best to rule out the physical, as if the behavior still continues, the only option is kitty psyche med's which isn't a great way to go.
Avatar universal
I have a 5 year old Bengal that started licking and biting off all the fur on his legs and belly to the point of opening wounds about 3 years ago.  Our vet treated it as behavioral issue.  After 6 months and no success he sent us to a pet psychologist.  This was something I was really against and thought was completely ridiculous.  As it turned out it was almost a complete waste, but the kitty shrink did say she thought it was allergies, but added that the cat should continue seeing her as well.  I took the cat off of his psyche meds and returned to our original vet, he decided to biopsy the 5 areas where the fur was gone.  That was useless as well.   The vet decided to then test him for allergies and it came back that he was allergic to 32 different things.  We ended up getting a serum I injected into his neck 1 every 2 weeks.  They also put him on prednisone which stopped the licking and biting but does prevent the fur gowing back while on it.  This would have been fine except that extended periods of prednisone becomes harmful to cats.  After 8 months of this my wife and I decided to look for veterinary allergy specialists.  We found a  great one and he took one look at the cat and said "here's what I believe the problem is, and here's how I'd like to treat it".  They re-did his allergy tests and found he was not allergic to everything we were told.  They had their lab make a new serum for us.  And most importantly put him on Neoral.  It's a medication that's used for humans who have had organ transplants and has recently become a key drug for pet allergies.  One thing my wife and I had to accept is that the goal is now to manage his allergies, and not worry about his appearance.  He still licks his fur off especially in the dry seasons, but he hasn't made himself bleed in over 2 years and will occasionally go through periods where his coat is fully grown in.
As a side note, Asian cats like the Bengal or Siamese are not only prone to stress, but vets are also seeing a large increase in allergies.
Avatar universal
I have a 5 year old Bengal that started licking and biting off all the fur on his legs and belly to the point of opening wounds about 3 years ago.  Our vet treated it as a behavioral issue.  After 6 months and no success he sent us to a pet psychologist.  This was something I was really against and thought was completely ridiculous.  As it turned out it was almost a complete waste, but the kitty shrink did say she thought it was allergies, but added that the cat should continue seeing her as well.  I took the cat off of his psyche meds and returned to our original vet, he decided to biopsy the 5 areas where the fur was gone.  That was useless as well.   The vet decided to then test him for allergies and it came back that he was allergic to 32 different things.  We ended up getting a serum I injected into his neck 1 every 2 weeks.  They also put him on prednisone which stopped the licking and biting but does prevent the fur gowing back while on it.  This would have been fine except that extended periods of prednisone becomes harmful to cats.  After 8 months of this my wife and I decided to look for veterinary allergy specialists.  We found a  great one and he took one look at the cat and said "here's what I believe the problem is, and here's how I'd like to treat it".  They re-did his allergy tests and found he was not allergic to everything we were told.  They had their lab make a new serum for us.  And most importantly put him on Neoral.  It's a medication that's used for humans who have had organ transplants and has recently become a key drug for pet allergies.  One thing my wife and I had to accept is that the goal is now to manage his allergies, and not worry about his appearance.  He still licks his fur off especially in the dry seasons, but he hasn't made himself bleed in over 2 years and will occasionally go through periods where his coat is fully grown in.
As a side note, Asian cats like the Bengal or Siamese are not only prone to stress, but vets are also seeing a large increase in allergies.
Avatar universal
sorry about the double post.  I am an idiot.
Avatar universal
I don't know if the concern was ever sorted out, but I've been treating my cat for hypertension for three months.  Her heart condition was affecting her sinuses to the point that she couldn't breathe properly.  The vet said we need to stop the meds or she will be on them for life.  So we've had a few rough days, but what I noticed was that she would constantly lick herself.  This in turn flared up her breathing problems (I live in Taiwan and there is a lot of air dust).  To control the constant licking, I just put a plastic cone on her neck.  She couldn't lick and wasn't happy about the cone.  So she sat and relaxed (albeit a bit depressed).  I left her for a day with the cone.  The next morning I took it off and she's been calm, not licking like crazy, breathing clearly and playing naturally for two days.  Maybe this can help your cat if she is indeed stressed or nervous.
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