The Case of the Missing Fur
May 28, 2008 8:36 AM   Subscribe

My cat has been losing some of her fur and I'm curious about the cause.

She's a 9-year-old black DSH, indoor & outdoor depending on her mood. I give her periodic flea treatments so I doubt that's the problem. She seems happy and healthy in every respect, save one: several months ago the fur began disappearing from her inner thighs and belly. She doesn't seem to groom excessively or obsessively. She doesn't gnaw at it. There are no raw patches or bald spots, it's all just gone down to the level of peach fuzz. Still, I know it's probably from her licking it. Now it seems to be happening on the back of her ear so that can't be licking. Again, it isn't raw and there are no odd spots or marks on the skin.

My friend mentioned the possibility of food allergies causing it. Does that sound possible? I feed her tuna for wet food, and her dry food is Iams chicken-flavor "original" in the orange bag.

Normally I'd take her to the vet at the first sign of oddity, but I'm on unemployment at the moment so I need to know if this is something truly important and worth the money. Many thanks.
posted by ktoad to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
Oh, extra info: she's been eating these same foods for years with no problems.
posted by ktoad at 8:38 AM on May 28, 2008

My Siamese has had a naked belly for two years now - as near as I can tell, she's kinda neurotic and overgrooms. If I go out of town, she gets "hotspots" in her armpits (or whatever the correct term for a feline armpit is.) It doesn't seem to bother her, and she doesn't hack up more hairballs than before, so I just kinda roll with it. It's all pink and cute, anyway :)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:44 AM on May 28, 2008

One of my cats has this. My vet told me not to worry about it, it's fairly common. If it gets significantly worse (as in raw spots or wounds) I'd take her, but otherwise don't stress.
posted by miss tea at 8:52 AM on May 28, 2008

My Aunt's cat, slowly, over a few years, went almost bald. Many many vets, including some of the country's top veterinary experts on feline hair loss, couldn't work out why. Mostly likely explanation was that she was stressed, but she didn't seem stressed, and no one could work out why she was stressed.

Then one day, another neighbourhood kitty suddenly, with no provocation, and no prior history of bad behaviour towards humans, attacked my aunt so badly she needed medical treatment. The evil!psycho!kitty was removed from the neighbourhood (may even have been put down, the attack was that bad), and quite quickly, my Aunt's cat's behaviour changed (they hadn't noticed it before, as this had gone on for years, they just assumed she was a laidback, lounge on the bed all day cat - she wasn't), and over time her fur grew back. Other neighbourhood cats also started appearing a lot happier.

My Aunt's cat lived to 21.

So it might be stress, from something you are not aware off, like a new cat in the neighbourhood or a you changing your habits...
posted by Helga-woo at 9:03 AM on May 28, 2008

My boy has is as he recovers from an infected case of feline acne. Poor kitty. Everything bad happens to him.
It is most certainly from stress, internal or external (that is, sometimes cats do it when they feel ill), and is usually named on the chart as psychogenic alopecia.
Next time you are at the vet, bring it up. If it is worrisome, they might give kitty a shot of steroids-- tends to get the cat to stop licking for a month or so, and sometimes that is enough time to get rid of the stressor/break the cat's habit for licking.
posted by oflinkey at 9:14 AM on May 28, 2008

She's 9. It happens and is generally nothing to worry about. As cats get older, they sometimes get a bit lick happy and will groom themselves to hairlessness in spots (even if you aren't seeing her do it). As long as it isn't going beyond bald patches (sores, etc) it shouldn't be anything to worry about. Or at least, so says my vet.

Diet can sometimes play into it, so if it really concerns you, you could try a different food, but that can lead to other complications (cat not eating, urinary tract crystals) so it might not be worth it. If you do decide to experiment with food, I'd suggest not doing it all-or-nothing. Mix the new food with a bit of the stuff she is used to for a couple of days, it will make the transition smoother.
posted by quin at 9:26 AM on May 28, 2008

My cat lost a lot of fur on his inner front legs and belly shortly after coming home for the first time (he was about one year old). It grew back patchy after a few months, and he's back to being fully fuzzy. My vet said it was most likely stress and was pretty normal.
posted by sian at 9:30 AM on May 28, 2008

My grandmother's cat did this, mostly on his tummy but some other patches as well, by overgrooming himself. The vet said it was due to stress. (What does a cat have to be stressed about?!) After she got him a companion cat, he stopped entirely and the fur grew back - not saying that would help your cat, but it worked for him.
posted by LolaGeek at 9:36 AM on May 28, 2008

This could be caused by any one of a number of things, from a hormonal imbalance to a stress response. It is important to rule out physical causes first, which will only be possible with a visit to the vet and likely, a blood panel too. I'd get her checked out by the vet to rule out the alopecia not being a symptom of something serious (and ultimately seriously expensive both to her wellbeing and your wallet)
posted by Arqa at 1:25 PM on May 28, 2008

I don't know where you are but in the UK (certainly in Glasgow) there are some vets/pet hospitals which will give a free check-up if you're on unemployment benefits. Could be worth looking into.
posted by Happycat79 at 4:35 AM on May 29, 2008

My first reaction was that it was something to do with her diet, and then you mentioned that her only wet food is tuna, which sort of confirms it for me.

So I'm no expert, but I've recently been reading a lot of stuff that says that tuna is BAD for cats because, even though they go nuts for it, it lacks some of the essential nutrients they need (I think taurine may be one of them?). And that an extended diet of nothing-but-tuna can and will kill them.

The dry food has probably rounded out her diet somewhat, but she may only just now be suffering from a general lack of nutrients. Switch to a good quality wet food and supplement it with some fatty-acid goo that you can get from your vet or Petsmart. See if there's any change in three weeks or so.
posted by GardenGal at 7:36 AM on May 29, 2008

Both my cats are black DSH and my vet says this is not uncommon for this color/breed and says his own cat has it. Only one of my cats (the younger, 1.5 yrs) has this condition. I wouldn't worry too much unless she is over-grooming or scratching.
posted by desjardins at 8:56 AM on May 29, 2008

I am not an actual cat owner, but I am a hopeful cat owner who's spent the past few months researching cat foods for my hypothetical kitty, and I've heard a LOT of pet owners I trust mention that tuna is not very good for cats and should only be used to get them to eat meds (it's fatty and smells good to them, but isn't nutritious).

Some links:
Cat Food reviews
About.Com's Cat Food pages
An earlier ask.mefi on cat food

My aunt's cat recently had a hair loss problem and spontaneously started growing it back before she could take her to the vet - we suspect it was just stress. I suspect if you try and eliminate any stress factors in your kitty's lifestyle (if that's possible) and consider the possibility of improving her diet, she'll start doing better.
posted by bettafish at 4:43 PM on May 30, 2008

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