How might we stop one of our cats from yanking out great clumps of her hair?
May 9, 2007 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Neurotic cat filter: How might we stop one of our cats from yanking out great clumps of her hair?

It started last summer, after we got rid of our living room furniture, which had slipcovers under which she frequently tented herself. Thinking maybe she missed tenting, we created other tenting places for her: blanket draped across chair arms, bed under a desk, clearing under a nightstand. The yanking continues.

We tried this stuff to de-stress her, which semi-works on & off. She's always been people-shy and skittish - she was feral, and adopted very young. But the hair yanking thing is new. Her much older (by about a decade) companion cat who was already present when Queen Neurotic came to roost died about 2 months ago. We also acquired a new cat last summer, which she was fine with for the first month he was here. They don't fight or hiss, they're just not close.

No food or litter changes, no laundry detergent changes, no carpet cleaners or other deodorant-ish substances have been introduced to our house.

So short of shaving her so she *has* no hair to yank, paying out the yingyang for a behavioral consultant, or putting her on freaking valium, WTF can we do?

Signed, also balding from trying to figure out the feline neurosis.
posted by yoga to Pets & Animals (7 answers total)
Response by poster: Um, ok. After perusing many many threads from googling "how to stop cat from pulling out hair" and similar queries, I found this thread, which pointed me to a product called Grizzly Salmon Oil. It's for both dogs and cats, though it shows a pooch on the product ad in that particular link. The Grizzly site indicates it's for cats and pooches.

Anyway....sorry to bug y'all and take up bandwidth. Hopefully we'll get some positive results with this stuff. If anyone else has used it, do tell how it did or didn't work!
posted by yoga at 6:34 PM on May 9, 2007

It's probably stress from the other cat. However, there's another possibility.

I had a cat who, at 16, started to over-groom like mad, and ended up with bald spots. Vet told me that food allergies can manifest as skin itching in cats: after years of the same food she'd become allergic to chicken protein. This was a pain, because almost all cat food formulations include some chicken, but it's possible to get specialty foods that don't, or make your own.

I eliminated the chicken from her diet, and voila. No more overgrooming, and her fur grew back and she lived another 4 years in comfort.
posted by zadcat at 7:21 PM on May 9, 2007

Aside from addressing a possible food allergy (yet another reason to rotate protein sources with pets), there's nothing wrong with medicating a cat for a serious psychological problem (if that's what this turns out to be). I'm not sure why people are resistant to medicating their pets when it's appropriate (as determined by a veterinary behaviourist, which is unlikely to be as expensive as you fear), especially since it's often the case that once the habit is broken and the issue addressed, medication may no longer be necessary. Even if not, it's far better for the cat's quality of life to be medicated and not harming herself than unmedicated and harming herself.
posted by biscotti at 8:15 PM on May 9, 2007

I would go with food allergy (as the others have said) because we've had a cat develop that at 11 years old, but I'll also say.. flea allergy. Our other male cat developed a horrible flea allergy when Frontline became immune to him.
Good luck
posted by czechmate at 8:20 PM on May 9, 2007

One of my mom's cat is on prozac because she started yanking her hair out and lost a bit of weight when a third cat was introduced. For some reason crazy cat gets on great with the newer cat but now HATES the first cat. (Crazy cat was cat #2.) Crazy cat was a rescue cat who has always been a bit backward and skittish. (She was not feral, though.)

The prozac for the cat (mixed into a cream that gets rubbed on the inside of the ear) costs $35 for 30 days worth BUT my mom only has to give it to the cat every second or third day.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:21 PM on May 9, 2007

Best answer: My cat had the exact same problem. After a $200 trip to the cat psychologist (I shit you not) recommended by his vet, I learned my cat was "barbering" because he was stressed out. She recommended two ten minute play sessions a day where you focus exclusively on the cat the entire time, playing or petting him or whatever he's in the mood for.

So I followed the directions of the cat shrink and it eventually worked. I just had to be really patient. It was about 6 months from the time of diagnosis to the time the bald spots grew back in.

Once you eliminate any physical problems with the vet, try the play therapy.
posted by Jess the Mess at 1:53 PM on May 10, 2007

Sounds like stress. My cat did it when one of our dogs almost ATE her, and then again months later when we introduced two new dogs into the house. She stopped doing it a few weeks later, and the hair on her belly grew back in within a month or so.

Oh, and I can back up the cat psychologist thing. The vet tried to get me to take my cat to one.
posted by damnjezebel at 3:00 PM on May 10, 2007

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