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Home > Cats > Can Cats Lose Hair from Stress? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Can Cats Lose Hair from Stress? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Humans aren’t the only species that deal with stress. Stress can cause all sorts of medical problems in humans, such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, and even diabetes. But what about our feline companions? Can cats lose their hair from stress?

Unfortunately, cats can lose their hair due to stress. This condition is called psychogenic alopecia, and it occurs from excessive licking and scratching.1 Read on to learn more about this condition and how you can help your cat become stress-free.


What Causes Psychogenic Alopecia in Cats?

Psychogenic alopecia is basically self-trauma brought on by your cat itself. Psychogenic means that an emotional or mental issue or conflict brings on the problem. Psychogenic alopecia is best described as a compulsive behavior where a cat cannot stop grooming itself. Types of issues that could trigger the condition are moving into a new home, introducing a new pet, fighting for the litter box or food, or a neighboring cat or other animal appearing continually in your cat’s view, such as a window. All of these events can cause stress in your cat, which in turn can cause over-grooming. Over-grooming is excessive licking and scratching, making the hair fall out prematurely.

Is Psychogenic Alopecia Curable?

The only way to prevent psychogenic alopecia related to stress is by removing the problems that are causing your cat stress. For starters, take your cat to your veterinarian for an examination if you notice bald spots or irritation. Your vet can determine if the condition is stress-related or caused by some medical issue, which we’ll get into in a bit.

Keeping your cat calm is vital in treating the condition. Try giving your cat regular massages (if he’ll let you) and avoid situations that cause your cat stress. You can try keeping your cat away from busy areas of the home, such as loud children or energetic dogs, and ensure your cat has somewhere to retreat to that is high up. Cats like to look down on their environment, and providing a cat condo is an excellent way to give your cat privacy and protection if need be.

Boredom can also bring on stress, so ensure you have plenty of cat toys for both mental and physical stimulation, which is vital to having a happy kitty. In some cases, veterinarians may prescribe medications to help treat the condition.

tabby cat licking her paw
Image By: SJ Duran, Shutterstock

Is Alopecia in Cats Serious?

Alopecia is not always a serious problem, but excessive and compulsive grooming can cause complications, such as irritation, which could lead to an infection. The best thing to do if you notice your cat excessively grooming himself is to take him to the vet to rule out a possible medical issue.

What Medical Conditions Can Cause Alopecia?

Psychogenic alopecia is not the only reason a cat can lose hair. As we’ve mentioned, medical conditions can cause alopecia, and it’s critical to get to the root of the problem for the health and safety of your cat. Possible medical conditions could involve the following:

  • Infections
  • Allergies due to a food allergy, fleas, or their environment
  • Certain cancers, such as lymphoma, bile duct carcinoma, thymoma, and pancreatic carcinoma
  • Inflammation of the bladder, gastrointestinal system, kidneys, or anal sacs
  • Hyperthyroidism or Cushing’s disease (rare in cats)

Tips for Keeping Your Cat Healthy, Safe, and Stress-Free

Keep your cat entertained with physical and mental stimulation by providing scratching posts, a cat condo, and toys. Ensure you have enough litter boxes in the home, especially if you have more than one cat. A rule of thumb is to have an extra litter box; for example, if you have two cats, you’ll need three litter boxes to prevent a fight and to keep your cats from bullying each other.

Remove any stress triggers and try to keep your cat calm and relaxed. Giving massages is an excellent way to bond with our cat and reduce stress.

Feed your cat high-quality cat food that provides all the necessary nutrition your cat needs to thrive and be healthy. Ensure you keep your cat at a healthy weight to avoid obesity, which can cause various health problems. Consult your veterinarian for suggestions about what to feed your cat for optimal health.


Final Thoughts

Hair loss is a common problem due to stress in cats. It’s not always a serious problem but getting to the root of the problem is vital in treating the condition. Always consult your veterinarian if you notice bald spots or irritation and remove stress triggers for your kitty. Spend time with your kitty, such as playing with toys and giving lots of love. Ensure to provide both physical and mental stimulation to keep boredom at bay, which can also bring on stress.

Featured Image Credit: Kittisak Chysree, Shutterstock

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