what is going on with my cat?
April 11, 2019 1:19 PM   Subscribe

My cat suddenly has bald patches above his eyes. Photos inside. Please help me figure out what's wrong.

The Stig is about 9 years old. He suddenly has bald patches above his eyes.

Photos here: https://imgur.com/a/N4Uqgye

Apologies for not linking properly I'm on my phone.

He did not have these patches last week. He's never had these patches before. In fact I didn't notice them until yesterday. They seem to have sprung up overnight.

What is this? Do I need to worry? Should I take him to the vet? He is in good health generally and is acting like his normal self. Playful and cuddly. He doesn't seem to be in any discomfort and he's not scratching himself in these spots.

We changed his food earlier this week as his old food was making him fart a lot. Could he be allergic to the new food?

I had a bouquet of flowers on my dining room table last week. He loved the flowers. He kept sniffing them and licking them. Could it be from the flowers?

My boyfriend brought me a potted plant recently and he likes chewing the leaves. Could it be from the plant?

I'm very scared. He's my little buddy and I want him to be ok. I know you are not my vet. Do I need to bring him to the vet now? Is this an emergency? Is there a way to treat this? Should I put him back on his old food, farts be damned?

posted by thereemix to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He is an indoor-only cat, if that matters.

My boyfriend brought the plant over from his house, where there is a cat that is indoor/outdoor. Could there have been fleas or mites from the other cat that now are affecting my cat?

He isn't itchy as far as I can tell, no scratching himself.
posted by thereemix at 1:22 PM on April 11, 2019

I don't know what's going on with your cat, but FWIW my 12yo cat's fur has always been thin there and it's gotten more noticeable with age. My cat's nearly-bald area goes all the way back to her ears, and doesn't seem to bother her at all.
posted by jon1270 at 1:24 PM on April 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

Hormone issues or allergies may be worth checking out, if you notice other changes, but cats have pattern baldness like we do, and above the eyes is one of the places it appears. My dear old cat had thinning here, and on his back, despite having a splendid coat for most of his long life otherwise. Mr. Stig may just be officially middle aged.
posted by notquitemaryann at 1:30 PM on April 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

when my cat was doing this/getting these bald head patches, it was allergies and she was trying to relieve the itch by rubbing her head on things, so not actually scratching her head. so that may be a possibility.
posted by koroshiya at 1:31 PM on April 11, 2019

Although, looking at the pictures on a better device- the patches above the eyes look more like aging, but are there also small bald areas near the outer corners which are new? If so, that could be ringworm, and worth testing sooner than not (can be transmitted to humans).
posted by notquitemaryann at 1:40 PM on April 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ok, but if it's normal pattern baldness, why did it happen so suddenly? I'm looking at photos I took of him ten days ago and the bald patches are not there, his head was completely black and furry. Does cat baldness really happen overnight like this?
posted by thereemix at 1:41 PM on April 11, 2019

There's a type of mange that cats can develop from a sudden excess of a certain type of skin mite. One of the most common places for it to show up is above the eyes. It's not super itchy but it does cause hair loss.

This type of mange must be diagnosed and treated by a vet. My understanding is that they take a teeny skin scraping and see if the mites are present in the sample. It's not crazy dangerous but the hair loss can spread so you definitely do want to get it treated. The treatment is a prescription cream or dip.

To my eye, this does look a lot like the beginning of mange patches. I'd say that if your cat is not super bothered by the area then it's not at all an emergency to take him in RIGHT NOW or anything, but it IS important to make an appointment and have him seen.

I personally would not change his food or anything until he's been to the vet, just so that the diagnosis is not complicated by other x-factors.
posted by DSime at 1:45 PM on April 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not sure it’s related to the bald spots, but NEVER leave flowers anywhere a cat can get to them. Lilies are a big culprit but not the only one. A friend of mine came home to a dead cat because of this.
posted by cakelite at 1:46 PM on April 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

Oh, also! Identify your houseplant and check it against this list. The bald patches might not be anything to do with the plant but since your cat is definitely interested in eating it, it's better to be on the safe side.
posted by DSime at 1:56 PM on April 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

In our cat’s case it was allergy flare-ups. A steroid shot later, she is right as rain.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:06 PM on April 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what region you are in, but a lot of the continental US is absolutely miserable with pollen after a very wet winter and we've had to very abruptly start treating both dogs (one of whom does this every year, one who never has before) for allergies, and they're both messing their faces up trying to scratch their eyes.

For the most part, minor hair loss with no skin damage is not an emergency situation. Stop letting your cat eat plants that are not cat-safe vegetables or cat grass, but that's very unlikely to be related to the hair loss, and the food probably isn't the issue either. Take a photo morning and evening to see if it gets worse or doesn't improve over the next couple of days, make a vet appointment if it doesn't.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:21 PM on April 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is absolutely not an emergency. Personally I would make an appointment for next Friday and see what happens between now and then.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:34 PM on April 11, 2019

My cat lost hair over her eyes a while ago much like this and it turned out to be absolutely typical for a food allergy. Now I don't let her have much chicken and she feels better. So - probably this is about switching his food around. Get him checked out, but probably it's not an emergency.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:55 PM on April 11, 2019

Could be allergies. My cat had the same thing, although she had red marks visible in the bare parts. For a long time she would overgroom her belly, so that she was basically bald there, and the vet felt pretty confident that it was anxiety. But then suddenly we got the ear/eye area and the red marks, so she posited that it's allergies. There isn't really a good blood test to check, so the vet recommended doing an elimination diet, starting with chicken as that's a very common allergy for cats. It's harder to avoid than you'd think! From some experimenting in the last few months, I believe my cat has a definite allergy to fish and maybe one to chicken. Right now she only eats limited ingredient Merrick turkey wet food, and limited ingredient Natural Balance turkey & chickpea dry food. She's so annoyed by it, but she eats it. And her fur is finally a little thicker, and the red marks are gone.

Oh! And please don't bring unknown types of plants in. Most of the pretty ones are toxic to pets. There are great resources on the web to check for toxicity. Not sure why florists and nurseries can't have them labeled "safe for pets" to make our lives easier, but they don't. Probably wouldn't be enough good stuff to populate a section.
posted by clone boulevard at 3:24 PM on April 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

For our cat it was basically allergies, probably to food. Steroids would be normal treatment but he couldn't have them for reasons, so instead he went on ciclosporine, brand name Atopica, which was a liquid we'd squirt on his wet food. He was on it for a long time and did well with it.

I'd take him to the vet non-urgently and change his food.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:25 PM on April 11, 2019

Get a hartz six month flea tick and mites collar, lose the new plant.
posted by Oyéah at 4:23 PM on April 11, 2019

I would get rid of any plants in your house that are not specifically cat plants (e.g. cat grass, cat nip, cat mint). Even if they are "safe" for cats. Cats get allergies same as anything else.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:29 PM on April 11, 2019

Please do not use or recommend Hartz collars. They can be dangerous. There are much safer treatments if that is the issue.

But yes, do make sure that your flowers are not toxic to cats. Many are, and cats can eat them and get sick or die. They don't have a sense of "this plant is toxic, I shouldn't eat it." You don't say what kind of flowers they are; I would throw them out or put them in an inaccessible spot if you haven't confirmed they are safe for cats. Poisoning probably isn't the cause of the bald patches, allergies might be, but better safe.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:10 AM on April 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

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