How sick is my kitten?
March 7, 2008 12:52 PM   Subscribe

My kitten has a lump and hair loss. Do I need a vet visit?

We adopted a kitten from a shelter about a month and half ago. He's probably not even six months old, and he was vaccinated and neutered while at the shelter. When we first brought him home, we noticed that he sheds a lot more than our other cat. He sheds a lot. Enough to cover furniture. We just assumed he was a shed-dy breed and thought nothing of it. About a week and a half ago I noticed a lump where his neck turns into his shoulder. It's about the size of a pea, and it moves and is somewhat squishy. I read around online, and it seemed to be a fatty cyst. I decided to watch it for changes in size or texture before a vet visit. Today, however, I noticed that my kitten's shedding has turned into hair loss. His hair is so thin on one side of his shoulders that I can see through to the skin.

The reason I have waited this long [other than being broke] is that I assumed they would have checked his health when they were vaccinating him. Is this an incorrect assumption? Does it vary by shelter? I would have thought they would just put down unhealthy animals instead of trying to adopt them out.

Do I need a vet visit or is there a reasonable explanation for this? I'm kind of freaking out, as it's a Friday afternoon and we're snowed in where I live.

Thanks in advance.

(I've checked around AskMe for similar questions, but none of the questions about kitty lumps mentioned hair loss. Sorry if this is a repeat.)
posted by starbaby to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
If the animal's symptoms are 1. worsening and 2. enough to freak you out, it's time to take him to the vet. Don't assume the shelter did exhaustive testing other than the basic sorts of things a busy (and perhaps underfunded) shelter would have time for. Also don't discount that something could have happened since you adopted him to cause the hair loss and growth.

Please take him in.
posted by hollisimo at 12:57 PM on March 7, 2008

Yes, go to the vet. You're afraid of going "for nothing" but waiting until it's 100% certain that there's something very wrong is waiting way way too long.
posted by winston at 12:58 PM on March 7, 2008

Response by poster: Is this a "find an emergency clinic right now" type deal or an "it can wait until Monday" thing?

More information:
I just noticed more patches, he seems to be over-grooming. He's otherwise happy and healthy. Eating, drinking, and waste are all normal, and he seems to be in a good mood.
posted by starbaby at 1:01 PM on March 7, 2008

The hair loss might be due to fleas, if he has them - flea saliva can trigger allergies resulting in fur loss. Nothing life-threatening.

One of my kitties had a cyst-like or boil-like thing and it burst on its own, like a pimple, and it wasn't really anything major but OMG SO GROSS. That doesn't sound like what your kitty has, but man, I really wish a vet had lanced that thing because I can't un-see it.

You can probably wait until Monday to see the vet with no ill effect, but yeah, see a vet. I almost always err on the side of "see a vet" because pets can't tell you they feel.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:06 PM on March 7, 2008

I agree - take him to the vet a soon as you can but it doesn't seem to be any kind of emergency.
I had a cat that had a fatty cyst in the exact place you describe. He had it for years (he lived to be 20 years old) and it got bigger and bigger(started out the size of a BB and ended up as big as a marble) and I had it looked at every year at his physical but it was harmless.
I had another cat that had an allergy to grass and it would cause his hair to fall out and if he had too much exposure it would cause his hair to fall out and a sore to form. Maybe your kitty has some sort of allergy.
I also wouldn't assume that he had a full work up at the shelter.

Good Luck
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 1:15 PM on March 7, 2008

They do not do extensive testing at a shelter like the Humane Society, as far as I remember from my volunteer days. Furthermore, unless the hair loss was really serious when he was there they probably wouldn't have noticed it. Also, it may be the case that the hair loss and the mass are not related to one another.

Personally, I would wait until Monday if he doesn't seem to be in any distress, but it also depends on how much distress you are in. If your piece of mind is worth the extra dollars, by all means do it. If it turns out not to be serious, then at least you would have given the on-duty vet a break from the normal grind of emergency cases (speaking as someone who has a very good friend who is a vet in an emergency clinic).
posted by moonbiter at 1:16 PM on March 7, 2008

Yes vet. I would guess he's OK until Monday if he's happy and eating and pooping. Is he microchipped? The location of the lump makes me wonder if it could be his chip.

Good luck and please post an update after the vet visit.
posted by Mavri at 1:16 PM on March 7, 2008

Some cats shed quite a bit when stressed, so hair loss at a shelter, in the absence of other symptoms, probably would not be a cause for concern. (IANAVet, but my mother has volunteered at shelters for 20+ years. This is her opinoin.)
posted by anastasiav at 1:53 PM on March 7, 2008

The hair loss might be due to fleas, if he has them - flea saliva can trigger allergies resulting in fur loss. Nothing life-threatening.

Seconding the allergies. My cat has this at the moment. My guess would be the cyst is unrelated, but IANAV and when in doubt take to the vet obviously.
posted by rooftop secrets at 3:32 PM on March 7, 2008

My cat growing up had hair loss and some skin masses at a certain point. I forget exactly what it was, but I think it may have been some sort of fungal infection. Medicine combined with a different cat food cleared it up. Sounds like it may be different from what your cat has (the growths were more like dry skin, less like fatty cysts) but just wanted to testify that cats can lose hair for a variety of reasons.

If your cat is eating, playing and pooping like normal, I'd wait the weekend out, BUT call the vet *first thing* on Monday morning. I know you're broke, but think of how horrible you'd feel if you didn't take him and he got worse.
posted by lunasol at 8:33 PM on March 7, 2008

Don't freak out. But do take the kitten to the vet.

The lump at the bottom of his neck sounds like a harmless tissue reaction to the vaccinations. It's quite common for these to form and they do eventually go away on their own. If you notice the lump getting larger, changing in texture, reddening of the skin or any kind of scab formation then this indicates an immediate visit to the vet. Rarely, and I mean rarely, a form of sarcoma can form at vaccination sites, but this is not common.

The hairloss/overgrooming could be a flea infestation, a flea allergy, a response to an anti flea product, a fungal infection or it could be a stress response. The rule is, establish if there is a physical cause of the problem first, if not, then look at it as a behavioural issue - this could be caused by the environment, the cats interation with other household members including other animals or it could be a transitional adaptation issue as the cat gets used to its new home

Shelter life can be very traumatic for animals, likewise so can the transition period for the animal when it reaches its new home. Despite everyones best intentions, animals can be stressed by things we don't even notice.

Get the kitten checked out by the vet to rule out any physical cause for the hair loss, and if none can be found, get some Feliway diffusers set up around your home. Feliway is a mimic of the pheromone your kitten leaves behind when he rubs his face on you and the furniture. It will make him more relaxed by making everything smell more of him. You won't be able to smell it.

For furture potential freakouts, get hold of a good cat care book with a clear troubleshooting guide so you can make informed, confident decisions about when to take your cat to the vet. Try and get a book which has a section on cat behaviour too, your vet will be able to recommend a good one.

Good luck!
posted by Arqa at 4:36 AM on March 8, 2008

Definitely to the vet with him.

As to health checking in shelters: it really varies, but I can tell you that I know for a fact that some shelters do nothing more than the most cursory examinations (sending an animal to a new home as "healthy and adoptable" when it has massive, obvious, debilitating and expensive to fix problems is just one of the MANY examples I have seen over the last few months).
posted by biscotti at 4:29 PM on March 8, 2008

Response by poster: I have an appointment Monday at 2PM. You guys really made me feel better and not freak out as much. I will definitely post a follow-up when I find something out, but thank you so much for calming me down!
posted by starbaby at 6:23 PM on March 9, 2008

Response by poster: The little one has ear mites, which is causing him to scratch the hair off around his ears. The vet is also doing a hair test to check for more wide-spread conditions, and I won't hear the results of that one for about a week. She also thinks the lump is an injection site, but I am supposed to contact her if it gets any worse or doesn't get better.

Thanks again for all the help!
posted by starbaby at 1:09 PM on March 10, 2008

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