Cats are fastidious groomers – they spend a great deal of their time taking care of their coats. Despite all this care, bald spots are fairly common on cats and can appear on any part of the body. Depending on the cause, you might see them developing along the back, hind legs, or tip of the tail. This hair loss can be unsightly, and a real cause for concern for their human caretakers.
If your cat starts losing hair on the tip of her tail (or anywhere else), you will naturally be looking for explanations and possible treatments. These are discussed in detail below, so keep reading to learn more.
Cat losing hair on tip of tail – common causes
By far the most common cause of feline hair loss on the tip of the tail is psychological. This means that your feline friend is likely struggling with a mental or emotional conflict, leading to excessive chewing or biting of the tip of her tail. These issues are further explained below:
Some cats chase and bite their tails out of boredom, and unfortunately, excessive biting can cause some of the fur to fall off. To prevent having a bored cat, make sure you provide an environment full of activities, such as toys, cat towers, and scratching posts. Adding a window bed or perch for bird-watching is also a great idea to enrich your cat’s day.
Cats are meticulous groomers by nature. They are always on a mission to keep their fur neat and shiny and spend most of their waking time maintaining themselves. Sometimes, however, this grooming habit can take a turn towards excessive licking, to the point of causing skin sores and hair loss. In extreme cases, the cat might even bite her tail and injure her skin.
This impulsive licking behavior can be caused by stress, boredom, parasites, and certain medical conditions. Some cat breeds are also predisposed to overgrooming, such as the Siamese and Abyssinian. However, all cats, regardless of the breed, can resort to overgrooming as a relief mechanism.
3. Psychogenic alopecia
Psychogenic alopecia is a condition wherein the cat grooms excessively and compulsively to the point of harming herself. Although there may sometimes be medical causes, psychogenic alopecia or self-trauma is often linked to behavioral issues. Exposure to stressful events, such as changes in the cat’s environment or routines, can trigger anxiety or depression, leading to intense licking and pulling of the hair, especially on the tip of the tail.
In the beginning, you might notice your cat’s skin becoming inflamed or irritated after too much scratching, chewing, or biting. Eventually, bald spots and skin injuries become apparent over time. Some cat owners might not even witness their cats overgrooming because they only do it when alone. However, the condition becomes more evident through skin injuries and hair loss.
It is likely that your cat is struggling from anxiety or depression if you notice any of the behavioral changes below:
- Change in appetite
- Longer sleeping hours
- Frequent hiding
- Loss of interest in any activities
- Becoming more withdrawn from family members
- Acting strangely
Non-behavioral causes of hair loss in cats
If you notice bald spots not just on the tip of your cat’s tail, but also along the back, hind legs, butt area, and other body parts, this hair loss might be caused by one of the numerous medical conditions. Some are mild and easily treatable, while others could involve a serious underlying issue. These are some of the common causes:
1. Flea infestation
Fleas can make your cat’s life miserable in many ways. These quick-moving, tiny creatures happily take up residence in your cat’s fur, and especially enjoy areas like the neck and the base of the tail. As they feast on your cat’s blood, their bites can become unbearably itchy, causing your cat to scratch like crazy. You will also start to notice skin irritations, scabs, and bald spots on your cat’s itchiest areas.
It is also possible for cats to develop flea allergic dermatitis, which can inflame the skin and cause the fur to lose its natural shine. So, if you notice those pesky bugs bouncing off your cat’s fur, you might need to prepare yourself for war!
There are many treatments available to eliminate fleas, such as Advantage II for cats, but you can always consult your vet to determine the best option for your feline friend. You will also need to do a full house clean to completely get rid of the bugs and prevent any re-infestations.
2. Ringworm infection
Ringworm is a common fungal infection in cats that causes raised skin lesions on the infection areas. Fungal spores feed on the skin’s keratin and weaken the hair shafts and follicles. As a result, the hair on the infected skin becomes fragile and falls off. Although cats can have ringworm on any part of their bodies, the infection is quite common along the back, chest, and front legs. If left untreated for a long time, it can cause severe hair loss and scarring and can spread to other parts of the body.
Cats can suffer from various different allergies, including to food, inhalants (such as strong fragrances, dust, molds, and pollen), and fleas. While each of these allergies has some unique symptoms, they all share one common sign – excessive itchiness and inflammation. Due to the discomfort, your cat might overgroom to soothe herself.
4. Supracaudal gland hyperplasia
If your furry friend is losing hair exclusively on the base of the tail, it is possible that she has supracaudal gland hyperplasia. Also known as stud tail, this condition is caused by hypersecretion from the supracaudal gland found at the base of the tail.
It was once believed that stud tails could only affect unneutered male cats; however, it appears that the condition can affect any cat, male or female, intact or not. However, certain longhaired breeds are more prone to developing supracaudal gland hyperplasia, including Persians, Rexes, and Siamese cats.
Stud tail is not only unpleasant to look at; without proper treatment, it can develop into secondary bacterial folliculitis. The base of the tail can also become severely matted and lead to other problems like the formation of pustules, bald spots, and a rancid smell due to the decomposition of sebum or oils.
5. Urinary tract disorders
Problems in the urinary tract can cause cats to over-groom their genital areas and back legs. This means they will likely lose some of the furs around the base of their tail as a result of excessive licking. Apart from the bald spots, there are other ways to know if your cat has contracted a urinary disorder.
If your cat starts visiting her litter box more than usual, followed by straining and crying as she urinates, it is likely that she is struggling with a urinary tract infection. You might also notice blood-tinged urine in her litter box.
Just like the other medical problems mentioned here, cats might cope with discomfort and pain through excessive licking. A cat’s tongue contains small hooks or spines capable of picking up dirt, fur, and debris, and in the case of overgrooming, this rough texture can also pull off a lot of hair, resulting in bald patches.
Cat hair loss remedies and treatments
As mentioned above, hair loss from the tip of the tail can be triggered by many factors. While some of the causes might be health-related, it is evident that most cases are behavioral. Try to get to the bottom of this so that you have a better idea of how to help your furry friend. Your vet will likely need detailed information about your cat’s symptoms and history as well so that she can be diagnosed and treated appropriately.
If the main culprit is stress or anxiety, then the best thing you can do is try to remove or minimize your cat’s stressors.
Pheromone sprays like Feliway are also useful to soothe your cat in stressful situations. For example, you can use this synthetic spray as a relaxing aid if you are traveling with your cat or if you have recently moved to a new residence.
Your vet might also prescribe some antihistamine sprays, over-the-counter medications, or shampoos to combat allergies or itchiness.
Lastly, it is also recommended to place an Elizabethan collar on your cat to protect the injured skin from scratching, pawing, and licking while treatment is ongoing.
Ways to prevent hair loss in cats
Once you have determined the culprit behind your cat’s hair loss, it will be easier to come up with a specific treatment plan to combat the issue. Depending on the underlying condition, you can prevent hair loss on your pet by following these tips:
- Provide a calm but stimulating environment for your cat. Remove potential stressors to keep your furry friend happy and relaxed.
- Consider a regular flea treatment, especially if you own multiple pets.
- If your cat suffers from allergies, try to reduce her exposure to specific allergens. For example, if she is allergic to dust and pollen, it may be best to keep her indoors. Cleaning the house regularly will also help remove the triggers.
- Feed your cat a nutritious diet. Keep in mind that her overall health will be reflected in her coat.
One thing most of us appreciate about cats is that they take meticulous care of their coats. So, when you notice that your cat is losing hair, from the tip of her tail or elsewhere, it is obvious that something is not right.
Seeing those bald spots on your pet’s tail can be both frustrating and worrisome. Hence, a trip to the vet should be your first step so that your cat can receive the appropriate medical care. With proper treatments, nourishment, and patience, Fluffy is sure to regain her healthy, glossy coat in a very short time!
Image: istockphoto.com / JIRANAN WONSILAKIJ