Stray cat - why missing fur?
May 9, 2017 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Stray Kitty is a long hair, possibly with a Maine Coon element. The fur is matted and knotted, sticking way out in places. We've started calling him/her "Kramer." Here's what's strange: the fur appears be missing from the mid section on both sides and underneath. Broad patches of pink are visible when the voluminous fur falls to the side. Kitty doesn't scratch or pick at the pink area, has a good appetite, and is perfectly nimble.

About 10 days ago Kitty appeared in our garage, which is an open ended once-upon-a-time horse shed. Kitty has a human inaccessible hidy-hole in the back behind some debris leading us to think she might have a litter back there. Now we think it's just very, very frightened and could be either a she or he. Kitty is very skittish and hard to get close to (hence no kitty picts).

We've contacted the usual organizations and authorities in attempt to find the owner, but to no avail. A nice lady from the local rescue org stopped by with a trap and instructions. So we are now in a multi-day process of slowly moving it's dinner toward and then into the trap. If successful, it's off to a vet and then - question mark.

So why the missing fur? Skin disease? Someone tried to shear off the matted/knotted stuff? Does it have something to do with her running away? Ideas?
posted by Kevin S to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
Demodectic mange? If so, it's usually easily treatable.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:26 PM on May 9, 2017

Does it look shaved? Cats like people often get shaven at surgery sites.

Thanks for investigating for kitty!
posted by kapers at 3:38 PM on May 9, 2017

You probably won't know until she gets into a vet. Could be a lot of things, including anxiety. I mean, she doesn't pull at it when you see her, but you don't know what she's doing when you're not observing her. Thanks for taking care of her! They might find a microchip at the vet and you can reunite her with her prior owners, or maybe she'll be your new kitty!
posted by clone boulevard at 3:54 PM on May 9, 2017

My girl kitty got her belly shaved when she was spayed at six months old. She's seven years old now and still has a partially bare pink belly. She's a little bit neurotic but I don't think she's pulling off fur.
posted by mneekadon at 4:04 PM on May 9, 2017

You may have to file this away under "you just never know." We had one cat who studiosly overgroomed, but it didn't seem to stem from anxiety. She just seemed to sort of...forget...what she was doing? Or lull herself into self-hypnosis? And give herself bald spots. It finally stopped when we she got a lot older.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:22 PM on May 9, 2017

It could be mange, or it could be a gland irregularity which can cause hair to fall out, or just plain old stress. I have seen all of these conditions in street cats I ended up taking to get treatment and/or adopting.
posted by Crystal Fox at 4:59 PM on May 9, 2017

Mama cats have big furless patches around nipples for nursing. Look for that. It doesn't sound like that from your description, but you didn't say it's _not_ that, so I figured I'd mention it just in case.
posted by amtho at 6:48 PM on May 9, 2017

I was going to suggest she's nursing. If you do catch her I'd check. If the mats are that bad though it's probably a skin infection of some sort. I'd be really careful handling her till you figure out what's going on, that does not sound like a well cat and you don't want to spread it.
posted by fshgrl at 9:07 PM on May 9, 2017

Best answer: One of my recent street adoptees is very fluffy, with fur that rolls itself into huge mats in no time all. If I fall behind in combing them out, she yanks the ones she can reach right off herself, leaving large patches of pink skin. The last patch was about the size of an index card. She's not an over-groomer or a plucker, she's just got no time for mats and apparently a ridiculously high tolerance for snatching the fur off herself.
posted by jamaro at 9:08 PM on May 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding Jamaro's suggestion. When the mats get torn off by being pulled out, the delicate undercoat tears leaving little or large bald patches depending on the size of the mats. The undersides and the sides are the places where mats are both most likely to form from being dragged through stickies, and most likely to get pulled out from being dragged past pricklies, as well as annoying the cat when a half dislodge mat starts trailing.

Your cat may not be grooming much due to a sinus infection. If a cat has a head cold it stops grooming because mucus-y saliva doesn't do a good job. There are certain things that cats can catch that result in chronic minor runny nose that seem to have no effect on short hair cats but can lead to poor groom in long haired cats and as a side bonus, no more sicking up hair balls. So be prepared to do a lot of grooming (or to advise the new owners to do a lot of grooming) once your desperado is safely settled. The best time for grooming is after feeding, btw, as that is the natural time for the cat to groom itself, or for a mother cat to groom her kittens.
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:15 AM on May 10, 2017

Response by poster: As the daily feeder Ms. Kevin has been able to get within a few feet of Kitty, who today offered a friendly meow upon approach. The bare skin doesn't look inflamed and the patches (more like swaths) don't look like mange picts on the internet. Nursing unlikely and we still don't know if boy or girl.

Jamaro's and Jane the Brown's explanations seem most likely, but as others have pointed out we won't know till a professional takes a look. We've pretty much convinced ourselves that this is a wayward house cat who has been on the street for many weeks.

We are feeling a bit guilty that with the trap we are going to betray gradually established trust. But we will do whatever we can for lost and lonely Kitty.

Thanks everyone for your responses.

A final report will be provided.
posted by Kevin S at 10:53 AM on May 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

The cat could be a FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease) kitty. They have a tendency to 'overgroom' their abdomen, most likely because of discomfort. Just a thought.
posted by bolognius maximus at 11:26 PM on May 10, 2017

Response by poster: Final report:

We trapped kitty and took her to a vet who determined no chip and that it's a girl but not recently a mom. Blood tests were negative for cat leukemia etc and applied standard vaccines and parasite meds.

The chip was a disappointment because based on pictures we thought we had a match with a missing chipped cat 25 miles away, one year gone.

Vet thinks it's feral based on extreme fear of getting too close to anyone. At vets office she launched out of the open trap and charged against the office window - took a few minutes to subdue. But based on feral vs stray checklists she is between the two with check marks in both columns.

Brought her home and released her; behavior unchanged by the traumatic trip to the vet. Over the past weeks she has become more relaxed, especially around Ms. Kevin who does the feeding, exchanges meows, and can approach to within a few feet. Excess gobs of fur have fallen off.

Plan is to take care of her for now and work on socialization. Winter and potential for kittens are a concern.
posted by Kevin S at 7:12 AM on June 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Glad to hear Kitty is healthy. It might be worth looking for a TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) organization in your area to take care of the kitten concern. Or pay to have her spayed yourself, if that's something doable for you.

Also, it's not unheard of that chips move around in a pet's body, or the chip reader just doesn't pick it up for whatever reason. If you do catch her again, you could also try taking her to a different vet or rescue group that has a different chip reader, and try one more time to locate one.

Kudos to you for caring!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:36 PM on June 10, 2017

Response by poster: SuperSquirrel - Alas, she's already been scanned at two different veterinarians. We were an unscheduled "walk-in" and the first one did a scan but couldn't immediately attend to the medical side, so on to the second. The second vet passed the scanner all over Kitty's body, not just the neck area.

Our animal rescue lady mentioned TNR, so that's a possibility if we could ever capture her again. Since once betrayed, not clear that we will ever again be able to spirit her into the trap.

I think we have an equation with no solutions.

Thanks for checking back.
posted by Kevin S at 5:42 AM on June 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

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