Why Do Cats Lose Their Hair?

By Kathy Blumenstock, Animal Planet

Not-so-newsflash: Cats shed! Year-round, nonstop, long- and short-haired cats alike lose dead fur in an ongoing process that lets them deposit cat hair on their ownersí clean laundry, furniture and office attire. Itís healthy for the cat and an opportunity for vacuum cleaner companies to market pet hair-friendly models. But while shedding is normal, feline hair loss, or cat alopecia, is not. Youíre absolutely right to pay serious attention to a balding cat, because a variety of causes could be thinning his hair.

Causes of Losing Hair

Just as humans do, cats can have allergic reactions to medications, pollen, dust, mold or ingredients in food. Allergies to materials, including rubber, plastic, wool, dyes or chemicals in carpet deodorizers may affect cats. Diabetes and hyperthyroidism — which causes cats to lose weight, stop grooming and become excessively thirsty — are other reasons for feline hair loss. Fleas, ringworm or mange may be other culprits. Have you switched cat foods, swapping the name brand for a less expensive label? Its lower cost may also mean lower nutritional value, and poor feline nutrition results in hair loss. A cat may also react adversely to a topical antibiotic, or the site of an injection, and the itchiness will prompt him to repeatedly lick and bite the area.

If your cat is afflicted with illness or allergy, his coat tells the tale. His own routine grooming will not cause hair to come out in clumps, no matter how often he washes. But small reddish spots usually suggest allergies, and these can spread and become irritated or infected as the cat scratches or chews at them.

Thin patches on the back end of your cat indicate his reaction to mange (caused by mites on his skin) or flea bites. If heís allergic to flea saliva, the catís skin may become red, and youíll see him scratching and biting furiously, literally tearing his hair out in search of relief.

Ringworm, a fungal infection that humans can also contract, results in hair loss around the catís feet, face and ears. (You’ll see red circles with a white center.) If the cat has arthritis, hair loss around his joint areas is common. Much less common are glandular disorders, including Cushingís disease, that cause cats to lose hair along the sides of their bodies.

What to Do

Because so many variables could cause your catís hair to come out, it’s better to take him to the vet for an exam rather than trying to fix the dilemma through randomly changing the catís food or administering more flea treatment. If mites or other parasites appear to be present, your vet will do a skin scraping to pinpoint the kind of mites to battle. Depending on the overall diagnosis, be it illness, allergy or parasite, your vet may prescribe a different flea preventative, medication or other course of treatment to reverse Kittyís hair loss.

A food allergy requires an overhaul to the catís diet. Your vet may recommend a shift from dye- and additive-laden dry food to a canned variety with fewer, simpler ingredients, or from a fish-based menu to poultry. This change could alleviate the problem in a few short weeks. If tests show that your cat is sensitive to the fabric or dyes in his bedding, or to chemicals in your carpet cleaner, a new hypoallergenic bed or a greener cleaner will restore your feline to his full-coated glory.

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Diane Johnston
Diane Sullivan3 years ago

My daughter's cat is always coughing up hairballs, but it was getting worse. So, she took her cat to the Vet and found out that her cat ate a rock which her toddler put in the cats food dish. My daughter was shocked that her cat ate the rock as she tried to remove all the rocks from the cats feeding dish. Now, the rock has been grown over inside her cat. It'll cost $1,000 - $4,000 to have the rock removed by a specialist, which she can't afford with 2 small children and one on the way. Her cat Lilly still coughs up hair balls containing some food particles. This cat has long hair that gets very matted and her Vet has to cut off the matted fur.

Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance3 years ago

My cat who passed away 4 years ago had a beautiful soft white furry tummy which became beautiful soft pink bald tummy. The vet said alapecia but we had to chalk it up to anxiety. His fur was otherwise very good. The three cats I have now are nowhere near bald. I groom them regularly, brush and nails, and other than my chicken breakfast which they think is really theirs, they get a bit of fruit (favourites are bananas, peaches, apples and applesauce but also like strawberries and oranges), they eat Royal Canin Dental Formula for Cats. They have extremely shiny coats that wows their vet, and very healthy teeth and gums. Although they weigh 20.5 lbs, 23.5 lbs and 24.5 lbs, they are not overweight and are active. These three show none of the anxiety of their much older brother.

Margie B.
Past Member 3 years ago


Victoria M.
Past Member 4 years ago


Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons4 years ago

OMG my cat was allergic to fleas and was losing his fur he is better now thanks to flea meds.

Veronica Bastidas


Serena Alonzi
4 years ago


Sheri P.
Sheri P.4 years ago

Ringworm...ugh! I can attest to the fact that humans can contract that awful disorder!!!

Megan B.
Megan Beery4 years ago

thanks for the info!