A cat licking its fur is a normal sight for cat owners. Adult cats spend up to half of their waking hours grooming. Aside from taking comfort in self-cleaning, cats lick their own fur to stimulate blood flow. But sometimes this behavior can turn into excessive grooming.
Overgrooming happens when a feline starts to lick its fur so much that it causes skin inflammation, sores or hair loss. In extreme cases, a cat might even start to bite areas of skin. You will notice damage to the skin or a patchy coat. It is all the more alarming when you observe your pet losing weight along with pulling out so much fur.
Reasons why cats pull out fur and lose weight
Most common reasons why your cat may start to pull out fur and lose weight include the following:
1. Medical Issues
There are a number of diseases in cats that result in losing weight and pulling out fur such as:
- Hyperthyroidism – It is a condition of the endocrine system that produces excessive amounts of thyroxine and triodothyronine. Usually caused by the presence of a noncancerous tumor in the thyroid gland, this problem typically arises in cats 13 years of age and older. This condition increases metabolism that makes the cat lose weight even if it’s eating more. Many hyperthyroid cats also experience patch sections of hair loss.
- Cancer and heart disease – Cancer is a disease that transforms healthy cells into abnormal ones. Cats can experience many symptoms such as loss of appetite, possible hair loss, vomiting and diarrhea. Heart disease can cause weight loss, coughing and shortness of breath.
- Diabetes – More common in older and overweight cats, this disease is when the pancreas of your pet cannot produce enough insulin, a hormone used by the body to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. The imbalance in your cat’s body can cause unexplained weight loss, poor coat condition, frequent urination, increased tiredness and frequent infections.
Some cats are allergic to food, insects, inhalants and many others. Their reaction to allergens usually manifest in itching of the skin that leads to hair loss. Other symptoms include coughing, sneezing, vomiting and diarrhea. Cats might also lose appetite so weight loss can also happen.
3. Skin Parasites
Fleas, ticks, mites – these parasites can cause your cat excessive itching and biting in areas they infect. Your cat will strive to remove them by itching but unfortunately also affect their fur. There could be loss in appetite also caused by stress.
4. Environmental factors
Being ultimate control freaks, cats thrive on consistency and predictability. Any deviations from their normal routine might trigger stress. Situations like long absence of their owner, arrival of a new family member or conflict with other cats are significant and troubling for cats. As a result, they pull their hair out, feign sleep, avoid contact with people or other cats and reduce eating.
5. Breed of Cat
Certain breeds of cat are more likely to pull out their fur than others. These include pure-breed oriental cats, like Burmese and Siamese, along with more recent breeds such as Bengal cats. It is known that these breeds may be genetically predisposed to the behavior.
What to do with the issue
No matter what the cause, when you observe your cat pulling its hair out and losing weight, have it examined by a vet. The vet will be asking for background information about the behavior, so it’s better to be prepared to give as much information as you can. Look out for these things:
Where is the cat pulling its fur out?
When responding to itchy skin, a symmetrical pattern of baldness or damaged hair can be seen on areas that cats can comfortably reach on both sides. Hair pulling in response to pain, whether due to injury or disease, is usually unilateral or focused on one area where the pain is felt.
Is there a pattern to the behavior?
Does the behavior only happen during spring or appears only during winter? Pulling out fur in hotter seasons can indicate allergy to pollen, trees or plants while in colder seasons might indicate frustration or boredom.
Providing your veterinarian with as much detailed information as possible will speed up the process of finding a diagnosis for your pet.
Tips in keeping your pet healthy
Pulling out fur and losing weight are both usually a result of health issues. Some tips to prevent these include the following:
Feed your pet a balanced diet
For healthy hair, skin and body, your cat needs a diet with a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Also check if some meals provoke allergic reactions. You can check with your vet for recommendations.
Groom your cat daily
Brushing your cat every day can help you detect issues earlier – preventing fleas and ticks and keeping infections away. Aside from removing dead hair, it also stimulates new growth and brings your cat’s natural oils to their skin. You become more familiar with the marks on your cat’s skin as you groom so you will quickly notice any changes or abnormalities.
Introduce changes slowly and steadily
Make transitions smooth for your pet. Cats are incredibly sensitive to their environment so changes can be dramatic and stressful for them. Although they accept change, they don’t like it to happen abruptly. As you introduce change, you can:
- Start small – Take small steps and don’t make too many changes at once. Enjoin familiar things as much as possible.
- Watch for signs of stress – It can include loss of appetite, overgrooming or change in litter box habits. Take a few steps back if you observe these and move more slowly with the changes.