My cat is licking his fur off. What is the cause and treatment?
Original Question: My cat is licking all the hair off her belly but I don't see anything on the skin. - Anonymous
We’ve got to remember cats are meant to be outside hunting things, they have natural instincts and when we bring them into the home their life is a little slower and not as stimulating and because of this, they can develop behavioral problems. There is a condition known as psychogenic alopecia, alopecia means hair loss and psychogenic means it comes from the mind and so it’s a psychological issue. When they’re lethargic or depressed or not getting the stimulus that they otherwise would outside, what will happen is they’ll often lick their off their belly leaving bald patches. Some cats will do it so badly that the skin opens up forming lesions. One of the ways that you can tell this is that the hair will look barbered meaning that not all of the hair is gone but in instead looks broken, so you’ll see some hairs that are longer and some that are shorter. This is how you know that your cat is traumatizing the hair and the other clue is that there are really no other reactions on the skin. In your question, you say there is no inflammation, redness, pimple or things that are consistent with a bacterial infection and this is the only area that this is happening which is classic for cats when they have this condition.
What you do about it is you address that stress. Now, whenever I talk about stress to a cat owner they often say their cat doesn’t have any, however, just being a cat in a house can be stressful for some cats. Even being overweight can be stressful for some cats even though we’re not chasing it around or terrorizing it. Environmental stimulation is important such as engaging your cat with toys and then there’s also the anti-anxiety component. There are devices that you can plug into the wall that will emit a calming pheromone into the air and those things work extremely well for cats to calm them down. There are also natural supplements such as a milk protein that comes during lactation periods and what they’ve done is they’ve taken this protein and put it in a supplement and it really has a calming effect. If this condition is really bad then you can go to something stronger such as anti-anxiety medications and you will definitely want to talk to your veterinarian about that. It is important to do some blood work before you start them on a stronger medication to make sure it’s safe to give. Start off with the simple things so that we’re not having to put them on a medication first thing. You’re going to want to run this diagnosis by your veterinarian and have them take a look at the area and make sure they don’t see anything that’s more concerning where they think it might be caused by something different.
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